Building Precious Immunity

Hug a tree to build your Ojas, they said.

Photo taken at South Philly Meadows at dusk (A. MacMullan)

My teachers in ‘Ayurveda and Immunity’ at Prema Yoga Institute are sharing ways to retain and build your vigor and resiliency that is the root of our immunity.

Ojas is an Ayurvedic concept and refers to that shield that helps us ward off stress and sickness. When our Ojas is good we have a glowing complexion, a sense of well-being, the ability to endure, and a feeling of lightness in body and mind.

A person with high Ojas

On the other hand, when we have low Ojas, we feel depleted. Signs of low Ojas include:

  • Dry skin
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Heaviness in body and mind
  • Drowsiness or fatigue
  • Tendency to get sick frequently
  • Lack of focus
  • Anxiety
  • Constant negative attitude

“We must guard our Ojas like a savings account,” Ayurvedic practitioner Julia Abramova says, taking care not to withdraw too much and potentially experience depletion and eventually disease. 

So how to you build up your Ojas if it’s depleted?

Recipe by Julia Abramova, Jyoti Yoga and Healing
  • Strengthen your digestive fire (get on a good eating routine, don’t overeat, etc)
  • Eat Ojas-building foods that are sweet, heavy, smooth, cool, stable (avocados, bananas, soaked dates, soaked raisins, fresh figs, sweet potatoes, mung beans, ghee, milk, almonds)
  • Do restorative yoga
  • Rest! All healing begins in rest.
  • Practice Abhyanga or Self-massage with Oils
  • Practice Pratyahara – disconnect from sensory overload
  • Walk in the moonlight
  • Forest bathing

So here’s a suggestion: go stand in nature and put yourself on “receive” mode, taking in the soothing sounds, gentle air, and life force of the beings around you. Drink in the beauty that surrounds you. Build your Ojas!

Sunsets are a marvelous way to drink in Ojas

Resources:

  • Ayurveda and Immunity, Prema Yoga Institute
  • Julia Abramova, E-RYT500, Founder and Program Director of Jyoti Yoga & Healing, Ayurvedic Practitioner, Certified Yoga Therapist (C-IAYT)

The Skinny on Ghee

Over the summer, I took an Ayurveda course as part of my Yoga Therapy certification with Prema Yoga Institute, and was introduced to the concept of ghee, or clarified butter. We needed it to make one of our recipes, so I bought a jar for some astronomical amount, like $13. That first jar was a good investment!

My first batch of homemade ghee, July 2020

Ghee is a staple of the Ayurvedic diet. Some dishes call for one tablespoon of ghee per person! So what is it, and why is it good for you? Is it good for you? Ghee is just butter (use organic, unsalted, grass-fed butter) that is slowly cooked down and strained to remove milk solids and other impurities. After it cools, the result is a beautiful, rich golden color.

Some facts about ghee:

  • It has been used in Indian and Pakistani cultures for thousands of years. 
  • Ghṛta (घृत) is a Sanskrit technical term translating to “ghee” (clarified butter), and is used throughout Ayurvedic literature. The term comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “sprinkled or illumined.”
  • Ghee was created to prevent butter from spoiling during warm weather. Given that its milk solids have been removed, it does not require refrigeration and can be kept at room temperature for several weeks.
  • Ghee and butter are comprised of nearly 100% fat, but ghee may be the better choice for people with lactose or casein sensitivities, since it is free of both.
  • Eating fat-rich foods like ghee can increase the “bioavailability” and absorption of some healthy vitamins and minerals.
  • Ghee is rich in butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid that promotes a positive immune response within the body, to support healing of inflammation and optimal digestion.
  • Its smoke point is 485°F (250°C), which is substantially higher than butter’s smoke point of 350°F (175°C). Therefore, when cooking at very high temperatures, ghee has a distinct advantage over butter.
  • If you’re healthy and looking to add more fat to your diet, ghee may be a fine option; no evidence suggests that it’s healthier than butter overall.
Ghee solidifies when it cools, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

What Ayurveda says about Ghee:

  • Ghee is a digestive. It helps to improve absorption and assimilation. 
  • It nourishes ojas, tejas and prana
  • It is good for improving memory and lubricates the connective tissue. 
  • Ghee makes the body flexible and, in small doses, is tridoshic
  • Ghee is a yogavahi—a catalytic agent that carries the medicinal properties of herbs into the seven dhatus or tissues of the body. 
  • Ghee pacifies pitta and vata and is acceptable, in moderation, for kapha
  • Persons who already have high cholesterol or suffer from obesity should be cautious in using ghee. 
  • Ghee is not to be used when there are high ama (toxic) conditions.
  • If you’re not sure what your dosha is, you can take a Dosha Quiz.
You can’t see it, but ghee is holding this meal together, just like it does your insides.

Personally, I have noticed that I enjoy the preparation and the eating of my food more with ghee in the mix, used in place of vegetable oils to make eggs, stir fry, or spread on bread or crackers – I have even put ghee in hot beverages. I used to ‘say no’ to butter altogether, but why? A little fat is good for you, if you’re healthy! The taste is wonderful, and I feel more oleanated from the inside. I even use ghee on my skin sometimes.

Recipe from Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing, Usha Lad and Dr. Vasant Lad

I made my first homemade batch in July, and now it’s a regular part of my routine and diet. If you want to make your own ghee it’s really easy! Check out Dr. Vasant Lad’s Ghee Recipe. In case you’re wondering, I have not put on any unwanted pounds – in fact, the opposite has occurred, but probably because I have mostly eliminated processed food from my diet, and am consuming more vegetables and fruit.

Bring-Me-Back Kichadi recipe, featuring plenty of ghee, pardon the turmeric-stained page!

If you want yummy recipes and easy-to-understand information on an Ayurvedic diet and perspective, I highly recommend Ali Cramer’s book, Modern Ayurveda: Rituals, Recipes, & Remedies for Balance. I have enjoyed her recipe for hearty, nourishing kichadi/kitchari that uses ghee a few times already!

Final fact: I have to HIDE THE GHEE JAR from my husband.

Sources: