Finding Strength and Inner Resiliency During Times of Change and Uncertainty
When seeking to support our physical health and well-being, there’s no question that Ayurveda offers a deep well of wisdom to turn to. But Ayurveda’s cornucopia of gifts extends far beyond the physical—it offers itself as a reliable system of support even when the imbalance we feel is happening in our environment, our society, and the world at large.
All three of the doshas—vata, pitta, and kapha—exist within and around all of us at all times. These three energies are in a constant state of fluctuation based on what we eat and how we go about our daily life, as well as the influence of seasonal rhythms, weather patterns, and the social and cultural dynamics that affect us.
With this understanding, Ayurveda’s wisdom can help us find inner resiliency even when we are surrounded by upheaval, uncertainty, and change.
Vata Increases in Times of Uncertainty
Vata dosha embodies the energy of movement and change. It is subtle, like the wind, but still so powerful in its own way. When tended to in a healthy way, this dosha reveals itself to us in the form of inspiration, creativity, clarity, communication, and joy.
When vata is out of balance or needing care, the energy of movement becomes heightened within us, more like a windstorm than a perfect breeze. This energy can show up as racing thoughts, anxiousness, indecision, and uncertainty.
This energy is manifesting as a significant amount of change and uncertainty as a result of a global pandemic, climate crisis, and social unrest. As vata increases in the world around us, it is likely to increase within us as well.
We have the opportunity to overcome this challenge and collectively care for vata by inviting in experiences that embody the qualities opposite to that of the mobile, erratic wind—those that are stable and predictable.
Calling On Kapha to Ground Us Amidst Change
In Ayurveda, we utilize a very simple principle: Like increases like, and opposites bring balance.
To honor the collective call to care for vata during this time of so much change, we must first tend to the vata within ourselves by cultivating more stable energy. In other words, focusing on qualities within and around us that are the opposite of quick, light, and mobile vata.
This means incorporating more foods and activities that are soothing, grounding, static, and slow. In other words, things that embody the qualities of earthy, watery kapha dosha.
Think of sipping warm beverages, enjoying nourishing soups, creating cozy spaces, giving time to creative pursuits, adorning your body in herbal oil, soaking in a sensual bath, practicing restorative yoga, and going for long, leisurely walks.
When we can return to balance in this way, giving attention to our own stress and uncertainty without making it worse, we contribute to a greater balance and harmony in our environment as well.
In the right amount, kapha energy invites us to be centered and still amidst chaos. The earth-like qualities of kapha offer us a solid foundation to stand on, while the water-like qualities bring a calm and soothing sense of steadiness.
Now, let’s take this understanding to a deeper level by exploring the more subtle aspects of the doshas.
The Subtle Essences as a Source of Lasting Resilience
Each of the doshas are characterized by their own set of well-known physical and energetic qualities. But they also have lesser-known, more subtle energies that play out in our nervous systems and how we are received by others.
These less tangible energies are called ojas, tejas, and prana, and they are vital to our existence. Ojas is the subtle energy of kapha, tejas is the subtle energy of pitta, and prana is the subtle energy of vata. Just like the doshas, these subtle essences can also fluctuate in and out of balance—they can increase, decrease, or become displaced.
While all of these subtle energies are important, we’ll focus here on strengthening and nourishing ojas. To soothe the uncertainty of change on a cellular and nervous system level, we can tap into ojas as an expression of our deepest resiliency.
Why It’s So Important to Cultivate Healthy Ojas
Ojas is the subtle essence of kapha. It is responsible for our immunity on a cellular level, as well as libido, memory, and endurance. It is said to be related to our vitality, our essential reserve of energy, and our ability to ward off physical imbalance.
Ojas is our spiritual and emotional padding to the world—the thing that enables us to stay motivated and connected even in the most turbulent of times.
Ojas can be compared to honey accumulating in a honeycomb in the way that it nourishes and bolsters the strength and sweetness within our bodies. Or, just like ghee, which is the pure essence of milk, ojas is the pure essence of our bodily tissues.
Ojas is our source of strength and natural resilience, maintaining the health of the tissues, acting as a protective barrier, and creating a cushion to the outside world.
The good news is, we all have ojas within us. We all have the capacity to nourish and support ojas, so that it is available to us when we need it most—which is often when we least expect it!
The energy of change is rough and depleting for our inner reserves of resiliency.
When ojas is low, particularly in moments when vata is heightened by change and uncertainty, you may experience fatigue, burnout, low motivation, poor memory, brain fog, fragile immunity, slow recovery, dehydration, and decreased desire for sexual connection.
During moments of decreased ojas, we are more sensitive to stimulation and to our own emotions. We are more likely to feel overwhelmed and unable to make a clear decision.
Challenges that we may have recovered quickly from in the past tend to linger and deplete our energy in ways that may be surprising. Such situations can include sudden or unusual digestive discomforts, an increasingly intense impact from caffeine, and difficulty bouncing back from a night of poor sleep.
For many of us, low ojas is related to stress and burnout. It is the experience of depletion on a cellular level, which can cause us to feel like we have a low margin for unanticipated circumstances—like the overwhelm of uncertainty and change!
How to Increase Ojas and Resilience with Ayurvedic Practices
The resilience that comes from ojas is robust, sturdy, and supportive. Without it, we tend to feel more fragile and easily worn out. Beyond the vata-soothing practices mentioned earlier, our deepest resilience is cultivated through routine, ritual, and rest.
Eat a nourishing diet: Because there is an element of depletion in low ojas, it is especially important to focus on a deeply nourishing diet of well-spiced and well-cooked brightly colored vegetables, whole grains, and complete proteins.
Soups are especially great. Remember to spice your food with things like cumin, coriander, fennel, ginger, black pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon, and cook with plenty of ghee and coconut oil. These will increase ojas as well as the digestibility and assimilation of your food.
Massage your body with oil: Treating yourself to self-massage with oil is an excellent way to soothe your nervous system, connect to your body, and replenish your ojas. This ancient Ayurvedic practice, known as abhyanga, hydrates the tissues and deeply nourishes the cells of the body, directly benefiting ojas while relieving stress and calming your entire being.
Avoid screens before bed: Screen time and lack of sleep are two important causative factors when it comes to low ojas. Challenge yourself to turn off all screens (yes, even your phone) by 8 p.m. and head to bed before 10 p.m. After 10 p.m., our minds and bodies become active again and it may be more difficult to sleep, so heading to bed before that time helps ensure deep and restful sleep.
Weaving Rest, Ritual, and Resilience into Your Life
These are just a few of Ayurveda’s simple practices for cultivating ojas. By working with the elements and finding cadence with Nature’s rhythms, the goal is to return home to our bodies and our innate wisdom so that we can co-create a world in which everyone thrives.
Reflect on which of the recommended practices calls to you and begin implementing it daily or weekly. Get curious about what rest and ritual look like for you. Which practices enable you to feel deeply replenished in your body and mind?
Remember, when vata is tended to, you will experience greater access to inspiration, creativity, clarity, communication, and joy. When ojas is strong, you will notice more robust immunity, emotional resilience, endurance, and enhanced memory—all of which bring comfort and ease in these transformative times.