A strong immune system helps to counter the inconveniences arising from - whether it’s a cold, a cough, the flu, or something else. But, how do we support a robust immunity? According to Ayurveda, strong immunity is a product of good digestion, strong Agni, quality functioning of the vital organs, and hormonal balance. Immunity is also very much connected to a mysterious substance called Ojas, which in Sanskrit literally means 'vigour'. Ojas is also called the eighth 'Dhatu' or Mahadhatu (superior, or great dhatu) - based on Saptdhatus or the fundamental elements that support the basic structure and functioning of the body. In Ayurveda, Ojas has everything to do with immunity. With the strength of one’s Ojas the factors influencing it can be determined - whether internal or external - and the causes of disease in an individual.
Understanding Ojas and How it Functions
Ojas is the positive subtle essence of Kapha - that which gives the body strength, vigour, vitality, and immunity. It is the superfine essence of all of the bodily tissues and the end product of perfect digestion. As such, it is a direct reflection of the quality of Agni; strong Agni yields healthy Ojas, while impaired Agni hinders the production and quality of Ojas. But Ojas is also affected by past trauma, lifestyle choices, stress levels, the quality of our relationships, and our overall state of consciousness.
Ojas is naturally rich in the soma (the subtlest form of matter), and it eventually becomes consciousness. In fact, healthy Ojas fosters a state of bliss. Ojas is protected when we are able to live in the present moment with pure, detached awareness. On the other hand, it is diminished and dried up when we are overly effortful, stressed, contracted, or selfish. Ojas also protects prana, the vital life force that animates each of us.
Protecting Ojas, Bolstering Immunity
For the most part, therapeutic strategies that protect Ojas support optimal health throughout our systems and are appropriate to undertake at any time. Major life events like wedding, divorce, death of a close one, moving to a new place or a new job, cold and flu season, and unusual stress, sleep deprivation; all affect the stimulation of Ojas. However, with simpler daily ways you can protect Ojas. Here are some of them -
1. Have a good diet - To promote optimal health throughout our systems, it is essential to tend to Agni, which in turn, protects Ojas. Agni is supported by a healthy, whole foods diet that minimizes stimulants, processed foods and refined sugars. Agni is also strengthened when we maintain a regular eating routine and when necessary, follow a Tridosha-balancing diet. If you are not sure of your current state of balance, you can take our Prakriti quiz to know your body type and determine what diet would support your Agni.
2. Prioritize balanced sleep - Sleep is very important to the immune system. Sleep deprivation could lead to a loss of immune function and increases the risk of diseases like cancer. Aim to sleep for about eight hours each night.
3. Minimize stress - Managing stress is extremely detrimental to our immune response because stress hormones very effectively suppress the immune system. Reducing exposure to stressful situations will undoubtedly preserve Ojas and bolster the immune system.
4. Get appropriate exercise - Proper exercises like running, stretching, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, classical dance forms and yoga helps to release accumulated toxins through sweating, move stagnant mental and emotional energy, and improve circulation. It also kindles Agni, improves digestion, bolsters the body’s detoxification mechanisms, encourages proper elimination, promotes relaxation in the body, and supports sound sleep - all of which serve to protect Ojas and support the immune system.
5. Engage in health-supportive practices - It is also worth mentioning that a few mindfulness activities help in cleansing the naadis, digesting toxins, relieving stress, and supporting the quality of Ojas, thus, ultimately supporting the overall immunity. If you haven't practised them before, try doing one thing at a time, starting with the one that appeals you the most.
- Pranayams is one of the simplest, yet a most life-sustaining practice stimulated by breath. It allows the flow of subtle energy in our body, releases tension and pressures and supports the nervous system too. You could select from Tridosha balancing Ujjayi Pranayam for Vata, Sheetali Pranayam for Pitta, and Kapalabhati Pranayam for Kapha as per your choice. If stress is what that keeps you up at night, try Nadi Shodhana or alternate nostril breathing.
- Yoga is another Ojas stimulating practice. It helps to dissipate tension, clears stagnation, and encourages fluidity throughout the tissues.
- Meditation also helps in cultivating a passive awareness and thus, calms our nerves, lowers stress and prepares us for a healthier response to stressful situations.
Common Herbs and Spices That Support Ojas
There are several herbs in Ayurveda that support our immune system. These herbs are often used for specific disorders in the body, and each in their own way helps the proper functioning of the immune system. Here are a few herbs and spices that are useful in shaping the Ojas and ultimately contribute towards immunity.
- Turmeric does a fantastic job in purifying the blood, improving digestion, and eliminating toxins from the digestive tract. Turmeric can be taken mixed with milk or in your daily vegetables.
- Ginger strengthens the immune system by kindling the digestive fire, burns toxins, promotes healthy detoxification, and cleanses the blood and lymph. If you prefer, dried ginger powder can offer similar support to the immune system.
- Tulsi is sattvic in nature and elevates our mental awareness and concentration along with purifying blood. It is helpful in removing excess Kapha from the lungs and respiratory tract and promotes healthy circulation and good digestion.
- Food substances like ghee, sugar, or milk act as carriers that deliver these herbs deeper into body tissues.
Also, Ayurvedic medicines like these can help bolster our immunity -
I-Immune Capsules bolster the body’s natural defences and simultaneously promote overall health and well-being. Made from natural elements like Triphala, Haldi, Trikatu, Mulethi, Papaya Leaves, Shigru, Manjishtha, Ashwagandha, Wheat Grass, and Guduchi Satva that have strong and tested the effect in as a stress buster, metabolism booster, aids digestion and increases overall immunity with the platelet count.
Bronchiofly is a decoction based cough syrup aimed at promoting bronchial comfort. It contains a combination of Vasa, Mulethi, Kantakari, and Khatami that offer powerful bronchial support and a boost for the immune system overall.
Shubh Saanjh Chai contains mint leaves, ajwain and fennel seeds and Shankhpushpi that help release accumulated tension improves digestion and encourages sound sleep. It is important to restore vitality throughout the body and mind.
Ayurveda instructs us that Ojas and strong immunity are the common results of good wellbeing, which relies upon Agni, a sound eating regimen, a strong way of life, and a fair sensory system. This being the situation, supporting the invulnerable framework is more about fundamental self-care than everything else. Our bodies thrive with proper nourishment and sufficient rest; they improve when we focus on managing stress, developing healthy relationships, creating meaningful purposes, and living in-sync with our own bona fide truth. The above teaching will without a doubt support a strong immune system, yet it is similarly significant that we work as our own planning.