All About Ayurveda
This ancient science helps you reclaim health through harmonizing the body, mind and spirit.
Ayurveda, is an ancient sister science of yoga that was developed in India more than 5,000 years ago. It empowers you to become attuned to your body’s natural rhythms, learn the art of intuitive, seasonal eating, heal from trauma and reclaim radiant health, which is your birthright.
Health, according to Ayurveda, is a dynamic state of balance in terms of your body, mind and the five senses; it works in tandem with yoga to prepare your body and mind to meditate and manifest your life’s deepest purpose.
The primary focus of Ayurveda is to ensure there is a circular flow between your life force (prana), immunity (ojas) and digestion (tejas). These three subtle essences are what combat the aging process, govern all life functions and together, support the nervous, lymphatic, respiratory and musculoskeletal systems.
A Deeper Dive Into the 3 Essences
Prana: Your Vital Essence
In traditional cultures, the capacity for vitality is often directly connected with the breath. This is the case not only in the traditional Ayurvedic texts of India, but also in ancient Greek and Hebrew texts, which all discuss a concept of vitality that has to do with the food you consume, as well as with air you breathe. In the Ayurvedic tradition, prana is the vital life force responsible for:
- Motor and sensory functions
- Functions of the mind, memory, thoughts and emotions
- Physiological function of the heart
- Oxygenation of all bodily tissues and vital organs
In addition to its physiological functions, prana is a spiritual concept in Ayurveda. Prana is closely related to the ether element in Ayurveda, which has the qualities of being clear, light, subtle and expansive. These are the same words used to describe pure consciousness, the soul or awareness in the Vedic spirituality underlying Ayurveda and Yoga.
Ojas: Your Immune Essence
The concept of ojas is that of personal power, strength and natural resistance against disease — so essentially, immunity. Ojas encapsulates the hematopoietic, endocrine, digestive and nervous systems in the same way that modern medicine talks about immunity. Ojas also includes the skeletal and muscular systems. When all of these different systems function optimally, ojas is maintained.
Ojas is highly influenced by the power of your digestion and how well your body assimilates your food into nutrients, blood, muscle, fat, bones, marrow and sexual tissue. There are two kinds of immunity — natural and acquired.
In Ayurveda, immunity is the subtle essence of your sexual tissue, which is why building your acquired immunity (in all-natural ways recommended in ancient Ayurvedic texts) is essential for couples seeking greater fertility. It is also essential to build your ojas as protection against the damaging effects of stress.
The quality of your ojas also depends on:
- How fresh your foods are
- Your daily lifestyle choices
- All-natural spices and herbs you incorporate into your routine
- How much stress you experience
- Past traumas and how you have recovered from them (or not)
- The quality of your relationships
Tejas: Your Metabolic Essence
Tejas is the essence of your body’s intelligence to digest and transform everything you take in: food, liquids, information, emotions and your life experiences (including traumas). The Latin word, ignis, was derived from the ancient Sanskrit word agni, which means the fire of transformation, and is a synonym for tejas. In Ayurveda, digestion is poetically envisioned to be similar to a fire in your GI tract.
Long before the gut microbiome was even discovered, Ayurveda taught people to look to digestion as the key indicator of overall well-being. And well before probiotics became popular, ancient Ayurvedic source texts have given recipes for natural probiotics you can make at home with a few simple ingredients to support your digestion. Tejas manifests physically as amino acids, hormones and enzymes, which provide all the functions of cellular metabolism.
Tejas is what gives you:
- Luster in your eyes
- Cellular intelligence
- Your complexion’s color
- Glowing skin
- Muscle tone
What the System of Ayurveda Can Do For You
By bringing your prana, ojas and tejas into a state of harmony and balance, Ayurveda can specifically empower you to:
1. Understand your body’s unique constitution.
Each human being possesses a unique combination of prana, ojas and tejas in their body, which correspond with your personal composition of the five elements of space, air, fire, water and earth. These elements combine to form three doshas, or Ayurvedic bioforces called vata dosha (space and air elements), pitta dosha (fire and water elements) and kapha dosha (water and earth elements). Prana is the pure essence of vata dosha, tejas is that of pitta dosha and ojas is that of kapha dosha.
Not to overcomplicate things, but... there are actually two different dosha constitutions. One is your prakruti, your natural constitution of doshas at birth. The other is vikruti, your current imbalanced state of doshas. When you work one-on-one with an Ayurveda practitioner (like me), you can learn about both types of doshas you have, and how to keep them in a state of balance for optimal health.
2. Learn the art of intuitive, seasonal eating for your personal constitution.
Ayurveda’s personalized food recommendations are rooted in the rhythms of the seasons. There is a natural buildup, excitation and pacification of the doshas in the universe throughout the course of the year. When you learn the seasonal ‘map’ of the doshas, and possess knowledge of your own natural constitution and imbalanced constitution of doshas, you can develop your own intuition as to what to eat at a given time of year.
Ayurveda empowers you to become attuned to your body’s natural rhythms.
3. Boost (or slow down) your metabolism naturally.
Digestion is considered the root cause of great immunity and overall health in Ayurveda. No matter what kind of ailment you come to an Ayurveda practitioner with, it will all come back to balancing your digestion. For those with a slow metabolism, we will give you time-tested ways to increase the fire element (tejas) in your body with different kinds of foods and spices that will help spark it naturally. Many Ayurveda clients find that simply by boosting their metabolism, weight loss (when desired) naturally occurs. Those with very fast metabolisms (to the extent of being hungry 24/7) are given heavier, more nourishing foods to bring their metabolism into balance.
4. Befriend immunity boosting, adaptogenic, anti-aging foods, herbs and spices.
Ayurveda has a whole host of superfoods, herbs and spices that are now being validated by modern research in terms of their adaptogenic properties (like this study of the popular Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha). There is a whole subdivision of Ayurveda that focuses specifically on rasayana herbs that support you with building your immunity, fertility and mental health, enhancing your skin, slowing down the aging process, regulating menstrual cycles, supporting your digestion and more.
5. Find emotional relief from trauma and greater purpose with ancient spiritual wisdom.
Spirituality and science come together in how Ayurveda utilizes the healing power of flowers like marigolds. The act of smelling these flowers is said to stimulate the quality of sattva (clarity and balance) in your mind, and is recommended therefore for anyone who is experiencing a lot of grief related to trauma. Ayurveda is unique in terms of showing you how to feel all your feelings, while also understanding the deeper lessons each trauma offers us to grow spiritually. This helps you develop greater emotional strength and sovereignty, while also preventing any kind of spiritual bypassing. As a spiritual science, Ayurveda also supports you in navigating how to achieve four universal goals of human life: purpose, abundance, pleasure and spiritual liberation.
About the Author
Ananta Ripa Ajmera is a certified Ayurveda health practitioner and yoga instructor and the Director of Ayurveda at THE WELL. She is also the author of The Ayurveda Way.
Ayurveda, Yoga and their underlying spiritual philosophy of Vedanta are oral traditions, passed down from teachers to students in unbroken lineages since time immemorial. Ananta has studied many of these sources for over a decade and has a personal family lineage of renowned Ayurveda practitioners and yogis. She credits these sciences with helping her overcome eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, insomnia and digestive disturbances.
You can join Ananta at THE WELL New York for an upcoming All About Ayurveda session this summer and/or to book a complimentary 1-1 session to learn more about how Ayurveda and spiritual counseling can support your specific wellness goals.