According to Ayurveda, health is determined by the quality and level of Ojas (OH-jas) stored in the body. Ojas has two meanings; physically, it relates to vigor (energy and strength), and from a spiritual and emotional level, it refers to our expression of consciousness. It governs aging, immunity, the radiance of the skin, energy, mood, sleep, digestion, and spirituality.
Ojas is the most refined and pure by-product of our digestive process. As the food is digested, assimilated, and eliminated, nutrients are absorbed and transformed into the seven Dhatus (tissues) that make up our bodies. At the end of digestion, the purest and most refined Ojas is stored in the reproductive system (to give life) and in the heart.
This lengthy process of producing Ojas works is connected with digestion and works like this; healthy food is ingested, and the first product of digestion is a nutrient fluid called Rasa (sap, juice, or liquid). Rasa is then converted by enzymes (Agni-digestive fire) into the blood (Rakta). This turns into muscle tissue (Mamsa) with the help of blood-based enzymes. The muscle converts into fat (Medha) with the help of muscle enzymes. The fat converts to bone tissue (Asthi), which is then converted to nerve tissue (Majja). The nerve tissue transitions into the reproductive fluid (Shukra), where this life-giving substance is stored in the semen and female egg. Finally, what is called the supreme Ojas is released and stored in the heart, which nourishes the subtle energy in the body, which, in turn, feeds the body's vigor, vitality, and immunity.
In Western thought, Ojas is believed to be the hormone melatonin produced by the brain's pineal gland. This gland produces less and less melatonin as we age, which is directly linked to the importance of the building of vitality and immunity.
According to Ayurveda, excessive activity and stress deplete Ojas, which creates free radicals causing damage. Our health is determined by the body's ability to properly digest not only food but the constant stream of information and stresses that cross our paths each day.
Practices that build Ojas includes love, acceptance, and being of service to others. Having and being light-heartedness and laughing and having a passion for life. Having a personal exercise regime and/or yoga, pranayama, mediation practice that nourishes the body mind and spirit. Spending time in nature, getting proper rest and rejuvenation, and eating fresh, wholesome, and Sattvic foods.
Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas in Yogic and Ayurvedic philosophy are known as Gunas (meaning thread, merit, quality, or attribute). These concepts are firstly associated with the movements of the mind and consciousness. But are also related to the qualities of what we ingest, and ultimately, the production and quality of Ojas. Sattva is understood as purity, positiveness, balance, and enlightenment. Rajasic represents energy, turbulence, activity, and negativity, and finally, Tamasic is characterized by heaviness, dullness, lethargy, and ignorance.
When it comes to food, the gunas have these qualities:
Sattvic foods purify the body, calm the mind, and bring presence and higher consciousness.
Rajasic foods stimulate the body and mind, but excess causes restlessness, irritability, and sleeplessness.
Tamasic foods are dead foods, such as animal proteins, stale, frozen, reheated, processed, or foods with preservatives. These deplete our energy and consciousness and can lead to disease.