Why Happiness Starts in the Stomach
In the 2004 documentary Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock decided to eat a steady diet of fast food for 30 days to see how it would affect his health. Although he and his doctors expected some changes, they were shocked by how quickly his skin turned sallow, his cholesterol levels and blood pressure skyrocketed and his weight shot up 27 pounds. Worse, his mood changed from one of vibrancy to depression.
According to ayurveda, there is not only a direct connection between the food you eat and your health, but food affects your emotions, your happiness, as well. You could even say that health and happiness have a common source found in a single product of digestion called ojas.
“Ojas is the finest and most refined product of digestion and metabolism,” explains Mark Toomey, Ph.D., the director of Maharishi Ayurveda programs and health practitioner at The Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center and Spa. “Ojas production depends directly on how we digest and metabolize our food.”
Another interesting point is that, according to ayurveda, we metabolize the experience of all five senses in our environment and our own thoughts. This is why we are so profoundly affected by stress and its effect upon our emotions. Emotions affect our ability to digest food properly, and the digestion of food affects our emotions. Both feed one another.
Ojas is the physical equivalent of both bliss and immunity. It is what causes the eyes to sparkle, the skin to look radiant and the immunity to be strong. And it’s directly related to digestion.
There is a lot written about ojas in the ayurvedic texts. Ojas is said to be slightly yellow in color, to reside in the heart and to also continually circulate throughout the body. It is cool, soft, sweet, stable, viscous, clear, and pure, and when lively in the body, these qualities can be felt in the pulse during an ayurvedic consultation.
“Ojas is also much related to strong Kapha dosha, called bal kapha,” says Dr. Toomey. “A person with good ojas has a solid build, enthusiasm, strength, knowledge and wisdom.”
Digestion in ayurveda is known as agni, which means fire, and that agni has to be operating perfectly in order to transform food into the most refined product, ojas. Ojas is responsible for all lively energy in our awareness and body.
How to Keep Ojas Lively
So how do you keep your digestion running perfectly and your ojas at a high level?
“One of the main factors for strong immunity and ojas is to keep the srotas, the micro communication channels of our body, clear. With clear srotas, information can flow freely through the body,” says Dr. Toomey. “This is why it’s so important to keep the digestion running smoothly, to keep impurities from building up and blocking the srotas.”
Here are nine ways to keep the srotas clear and ojas flowing freely in the body:
- Eat a balanced, well-cooked and wholesome diet in timely fashion.
- Eat one’s main meal at lunch.
- Eat a light breakfast and light dinner. (Doing so not only helps with better digestion, but results in deeper, more restful sleep.
- Go to bed by 10 p.m. each night and wake with the sunrise.
- Follow the ayurvedic daily and seasonal routines, in tune with the laws of nature, going to bed on time, and eating at the same time every day.
- Practice Transcendental Meditation® or the meditation technique of your choice daily to release stress.
- Take traditional ayurvedic herbal formulas that nourish the body and mind and develop higher states of consciousness.
- Practice behavioral rasayanas. These are the behavioral guidelines that help govern behavior and action in life:
- Be truthful
- Free from anger
- Not exerting to the point of exhaustion
- Practice calmness
- Be sweet-spoken
- Aspire to be stable and steady
- Practice meditation
- Engage in cleanliness
- Be perseverant
- Observe charity
- Practice spirituality or the religion of your choosing
- Be devoted to love and compassion
- Be balanced in sleep and wakefulness
- Behave with propriety according to the time and place
- Be humble in life’s activities
- Keep the company of elders
- Hold a positive outlook
- Practice self-control
- Do not indulge in alcohol or drugs
- Be respectful toward teachers and elders
- Include foods in your diet that increase ojas. Well-cooked organic vegetables and fresh fruits taken according to one’s prakriti (dosha makeup) are always considered best. Whole organic milk, boiled and flavored with ghee or Organic Vata Tea, is a wonderful addition and supports ojas production.
Certain activities may diminish the production of ojas. They are as follows:
- Excessive physical exertion (to the point of exhaustion)
- Rough or inadequate digestion
- Excessive exposure to wind and sun
- Staying up late (inadequate rest)
- Physical or emotional trauma
- Excessive loss of dhatu (blood, mucus or semen)
- Intake of toxic substances (including exposure to environmental pollution)
- Stress overload
By cultivating a strong digestion, a balanced lifestyle and strong ojas, we can improve our health, happiness and immunity. It is never too late to start feeling good.
Remember, it is all about balance…..
The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.