As the weather changes and engages in a dance that teases, antagonizes, and frustrates our daily rhythms, I am amazed at the human potential for adaptation and grace. People are subjected to all manner of unexpected illnesses (such as the ubiquitous belly flu) and stress brought on by lifeʼs bouncing rhythms. At the heart of health, though, is the fact that, with the right kind of awareness-in-action, we can find balance and prevent illness.
When self-care is in action, the spirit of health blossoms and we feel good and filled with love.
So, okay, lifeʼs dance of change may keep us on our toes, but that can be stabilized by attuning to personal rhythms, choices, and attitudes—like what clothes to wear, foods to eat, and activities to engage in. When self-care is in action, the spirit of health blossoms and we feel good and filled with love.
(And who doesn't want to feel good and filled with love?)
Self-care is the wellspring that supports the bodyʼs natural, deeper processes, and these processes help us find our balance, because, the truth is, our fundamentally amazing bodies can be supported by using the most simple yet profound methods.
Throughout my years of studying yoga, ayurveda, and herbalism, I've come across a particular term that embodies the heart of true health, an idea that threads all of these healing modalities together—beyond just the physical—to introduce the oft-forgotten spirit of health. This term is ojas. It's an ayurvedic word that means the "essence of vitality." Ojas is acquired by right practices, right nutrition, love, comfort, and support.
In yoga, I've discovered that this essence finds me—not when I'm blasting out poses on the mat (unless I'm trying to burn through stagnation or boggy tissues)—but in the early a.m., when I light the candle on my altar and turn inward for peace and Self-reflection. It also descends upon me when my practice supports who I am in the moment—like when I choose to do a restorative practice because I'm tired, even though my mind wants to engage in something more demanding.
A super-easy way to pump up the ojas is through our daily requirement of food. Invigorating energy continually revitalizes our bodies, not only when we're munching our veggies and avoiding fried foods, but also when we're eating with presence and offering gratitude for our food and our company. "Healthy living" is not always avoiding and denying! Actively engaging in right choices, and the gratitude that comes from these right choices, brings about abundant, joyful health, too. And this spirit of health builds the immune system, acting as a powerful shield from the blues, the bugs, and the bah-humbugs! This is ojas.
Spending time with nature is also a stellar way to feed our reservoir of essential energy. Whether you're in the city or country, the effect is felt in seconds. Just connect at the heart level to the beautiful variety of plants outside. I love to take a walk with my dog and find a plant or tree to sit by and connect with. The earth and nature embody ancient wisdom. When we become still and listen, we not only absorb new knowledge and new perspectives on life and Self, we heal and become fortified. Taking time to rest and connect with the vibrancy of plants replenishes our body and mind, ridding us of tired, dull, and depleted energies.
The rhythms we create for ourselves go a long way toward determining how happy or unhappy, and how vital or how depleted we are. And the way in which we focus our mental energies and choose the simple things in life can have a huge impact on our wellspring of health. Vital essence compounds whenever we connect our heart to our rhythms and make wise choices based on finding balance.
The rhythms we create for ourselves go a long way toward determining how happy or unhappy, and how vital or how depleted we are.
Take-home message? Ojas increases with self-love and self-care. The more we love, nurture, and support ourselves, the happier we are and the more health we exude. As a result, this treasure of vitality, built and sustained with awareness, allows us to give more of ourselves to our world. We not only feel balanced and strong, but we can radiate that health out to others and support them on their journey toward balance and a healthy spirit.
Really, we all have a lot more going for us than we might think. The simple acts of self-nurturing that we've been taught—eat well, get out in nature, appreciate the people around you and let them love you—are calming, restorative, and rejuvenating. Be kind to yourself and remember, you're a lot more special and resilient than you realize. As poet Whit Leyenberger wrote:
You have whatever it is
That makes the stars
Decide to radiate their tiny
Pins of lights...