As spring and winter engage in a dance that teases, antagonizes and frustrates our daily rhythms, I am amazed at the human potential for adaptation and grace. Although many people may be subject to unexpected illnesses like the belly flu or adrenal fatigue when weather fluctuates, it is more often than not that our bodies incline toward balance. The dance of the seasons keep us on our toes…what clothes to wear, what foods to eat, which daily activities we choose to do…often without noticing the deeper rhythms of the autonomic systems. Our bodies are amazing.
Throughout my years of studying yoga, nutrition, Ayurveda and herbalism, I have come across a particular gem of an idea that is at the heart of true health, an idea that threads all of these healing modalities. In Ayurveda, this concept is known as Ojas, and is the ‘essence of vitality.’ In yoga, I have found that this essence finds me, not pumping out poses on the mat until I sweat, but in the early am, when I light the candle on my altar and turn inwards for peace and Self reflection. I also find that this spiritual vitality fills me when I do a practice that supports me at that moment, such as doing a restorative practice when I am tired, even though my mind may want to engage in something more demanding. In my food it is found not by just eating my veggies and staying away from fried foods, but by eating with presence, with focus and being thankful for my food, my company, and the energy of the meal–whether home cooked with love or on the road. It is the gratitude that gives me both physical health and spiritual health, ojas.
In Nature, I find the essence Ojas when I connect, at a heart level, with the plants. My favorite hobby is to take a walk with my dog and find a plant or tree to sit by…and really connect to. The earth and nature embody ancient wisdom and we only need to become still and open to absorb the knowledge. Taking time to rest and connect with the vibrancy of plants replenishes the body and the mind, and removes tired, dull and depleted energies.
The rhythms we create for ourselves go a long way in determining how happy or how unhappy we are, how vital or how depleted. The vital essence Ojas is an amazing concept to me, because it is found whenever we connect our heart to our rhythms and make wise choices based on finding balance. The more we love, nurture and support ourselves, the happier we are and the more health we exude. The more Ojas we have, the more capable we become to support others on their road to balance and vitality.
“The happiness of one’s own heart alone cannot satisfy the soul; one must try to include, as necessary to one’s happiness, the happiness of others.” -Paramahansa Yogananda