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Ayurvedic Practices

Day 19: 6 Ayurveda tips for feeling your best

To help cultivate your ojas, Ayurveda offers these simple yet powerful tips for letting your inner radiance shine through.

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According to Ayurveda—India’s ancient healing art and the sister science of yoga—our inner glow or vitality is fueled by ojas (pronounced oh-jus), a term that refers to the body’s internal energy reserves. Ojas energy is described as the end product of good physical and emotional digestion, the result of fully assimilated nutrients and comprehensively processed life experiences. It’s also said to be the essence of kapha, the stabilizing water–earth element. Like oil in a lamp, ojas sustains our fierier physical and mental energy, our drive and passion. When replenished regularly, ojas manifests outwardly in glowing skin, bright eyes, and silky hair. Inwardly, it helps your reproductive, nervous, and immune systems thrive and promotes peaceful emotions such as gratitude and contentment. Most importantly, ojas supports stable moods and helps us handle stress with grace and ease. To help cultivate your ojas, Ayurveda offers these simple yet powerful tips for letting your inner radiance shine through.

6 Ways to Cultivate Ojas

1. Create a morning ritual.

A typical habit that drains ojas is to begin your day in a worried state, immediately checking email or to-do lists. Rather than hit the ground running, establish a morning ritual that allows you to connect to “the part of you that feels happy to be alive in this human body,” says Ayurvedic expert Niika Quistgard, founder of Create your own a.m. practice—it could be drinking a cup of tea in your favorite comfy chair. Or light a candle and set an intention for your day. Or try spending a few minutes meditating, journaling, moving through Sun Salutations, or simply petting your dog. “The mind doesn’t always have to come first,” says Quistgard. When you start your day with a moment of contentment, you can revisit that sensation later in the day to protect your ojas when stress levels rise.

2. Nourish dry skin with oils.

In Ayurveda, fall and winter are governed by the drying vata dosha, and that can lead to flakey or cracked skin. Oiling dry skin is a good countermeasure, and it replenishes ojas, says Melanie Sachs, author of Ayurvedic Beauty Care: Ageless Techniques to Invoke Natural Beauty. “Oil is the perfect skin food, deeply moisturizing and gently cleansing and protective,” she says. Massaging the skin with oil also helps lymphatic fluids clear the body of cell waste, bacteria, excess fluid, and viruses, says Ayurvedic doctor Pratima Raichur, founder of the Pratima Ayurvedic Skincare Spa Clinic in New York City. And it’s a way of showing yourself kindness, relaxing the body and mind. “Snehana, a common Ayurvedic practice, means ‘to anoint the body with oil,’ and its secondary meaning is ‘love,’” says Sachs.
Choose jojoba or argan oil for the face because they’re light and similar to the skin’s natural sebum, making them less likely to clog pores, says Sachs. For a full-body self-massage, she suggests warm sesame or sunflower oil. And add essential oils to balance your dosha, suggests Raichur. (Don’t know yours? Check out Scents good for vata doshas are sweet or sour: citrus, geranium, or rose oil. Pittas respond best to cooling, sweet scents like sandalwood, rose, and jasmine. Kaphas need stimulating scents like bergamot, rosemary, lavender, and mint.

3. Be mindful of what—and how—you eat.

Conscious eating practices and healthy digestion aid ojas, says Quistgard, and Western research suggests that healthy digestion helps alleviate skin problems like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. So avoid eating on the fly (you know, those mid-errand juices), and instead take time to contemplate and enjoy your food, says Amy Para, owner of Starseed Yoga & Wellness in Verona, New Jersey. Says Para, “Put your food on a beautiful plate and sit. Take a moment of gratitude for the food you’re eating. Ask yourself, ‘Am I really hungry for this?’ If so, appreciate the food—how it looks, smells, and tastes.” While you’re at it, pay attention to the foods that don’t sit well. If you’re suffering from bloating, indigestion, or other signs of digestive distress, keeping a food log can help you avoid the culprits and support plentiful ojas, suggests Quistgard.

4. Eat good-for-you fats and sweets.

Ojas is supported by sweet flavors and fats, but selecting the right fats and natural sugars instead of processed ones is key, says Ayurvedic expert John Douillard. Healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids and mono- and polyunsaturated fats, can revive and moisturize dry, dull hair and skin. And women with higher intake of healthy fats had firmer, smoother skin, reports the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Douillard recommends unprocessed fats like ghee (clarified butter), good-quality olive oil, omega-3–rich fish oil, nuts, and chia or flaxseeds, instead of trans fats such as those in margarines. Processed sugar promotes inflammation, which can lead to poor skin-cell repair, so opt for coconut, figs, raw honey, or dates.

5. Find a little silence.

Relaxation and quiet time replenish ojas, so making time to give your senses a rest can help maintain your vital beauty, says Larissa Hall Carlson, dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. “The practice of silence builds your ability for self-reflection, to start to notice the thoughts and emotions and desires that come up without reacting to them,” she says.

To create a moment of silence anywhere, Douillard suggests closing your eyes for a one-minute breathing practice. Start with 30 seconds of Bellows Breath (or Bhastrika): Relax your shoulders and take a few deep, full breaths from your abdomen, then start a cycle of quick, forceful exhalations and inhalations through your nose, one second per breath. Power your breath from your diaphragm, keeping your head, neck, shoulders, and chest still while your belly moves in and out. (If you feel lightheaded, take a break.) After 30 seconds, sit still, eyes closed, and breathe normally for another 30 seconds, soaking up the silence. “This exercise ramps up the amount of energizing oxygen in the body while calming the mind,” says Douillard.

6. Practice one peaceful pose.

If you don’t have time for a long practice, even one pose—ideally a heart-opener—can ease stress and boost ojas. “The seat of ojas is in the heart center,” explains Para. Try a restorative backbend, such as Reclining Bound Angle Pose, to open and soften your heart. “Focus on the breath and the space of the heart, and you’ll find that everything calms down,” she says.

To open your heart with Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose):

You’ll need: several folded blankets, plus a firm pillow or bolster

  1. Sit at the edge of a stack of folded blankets, a pillow, or bolster. Slowly lower yourself to a reclined position with support under your entire back. Support your head with an extra folded blanket.
  2. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees flop open. Support them with additional folded blankets or pillows.
  3. Lay arms on the floor, with palms up.
  4. Hold for 1 to 5 minutes, breathing deeply.

To come out, bring knees back together and place your feet flat on the floor.

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