If you have dabbled in Ayurveda even just a bit, you will certainly have come across the terms Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. However, even more primal and subtle than the three doshas are the three cosmic forces or three mental humors—prana tejas ojas.
Prana, tejas, and ojas correspond respectively to Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. They are the subtle parallels to the three doshas.
Dr. David Frawley (2000) defines prana as “energy of life” and “primal breath or life force” (p. 7).
Prana can take on different meanings depending upon the context. This subtle life force can be viewed as a pervasive life energy or universal energy. It is closely linked to Vata dosha. In fact, on a physical level, prana manifests as Vata dosha and governs motion. However, prana is more pure and subtle than Vata dosha. It is the energy behind movement, and though it is carried on the breath, it is beyond the breath.
On the mental plane, prana governs the movement of thought. When prana is balanced, thoughts are clear and coordinated. On an even more subtle level, pranic energy runs through the nadis and chakras, and the heart chakra (anahata chakra) is its home base (Halpern, 2012).
How to Balance Prana
When your prana is balanced, you will feel a healthy sense of joy, enthusiasm, and inspiration for life. When you wake up ready to greet the freshness of the day, that is a reflection of prana. On the other hand, if you experience chronic low energy and a lack of joy in living, this could indicate that there is blockage in the flow of prana.
Fortunately, there are ways to direct and increase prana. In fact, the yogic breathing practices known as pranayama are actually intended to cultivate and steer prana. Furthermore, eating food that is fresh, wholesome, and made with love helps to nourish prana. Also, selfless service, love, and connection to others are some of the best ways to tap into the flow of prana.
Tejas correlates to Pitta on a subtle level. Similar to light or Jyoti, tejas can be likened to the principle of illumination and radiance (Frawley, 2000). On the mental plane, healthy tejas manifests as a strong intellect and the ability to absorb and assimilate ideas and sensory information.
Healthy tejas allows for a clear sense of discrimination. This means that a person is able to make decisions and that they can differentiate between fact and fiction (Halpern, 2012).
How to Balance Tejas
If tejas provides the illumination to comprehend clearly, a lack of tejas manifests as difficulty in making decisions. A person with low tejas may also be challenged with grasping complex concepts. On the other hand, excessive tejas leads to anger, cynicism, and criticism. Furthermore, balanced tejas can be witnessed as a mind that is open and also logical (Halpern, 2012).
Tejas is increased by candle gazing, chanting, contemplation, and heating yogic practices. It is decreased and soothed by herbs, colors, and aromas that are calming and cooling (Halpern, 2012). The sight of water, the color blue, soothing music, and aromas such as lavender and clary sage can help calm excess heat and fire.
Ojas, literally translated as “vigor” is the essential, underlying energy of the immune system. On a very deep level, ojas is the force of cohesion. It corresponds to Kapha dosha, but may be viewed as Kapha dosha in its most pure, refined form.
The ancient sages taught that the most refined form of ojas resides in the heart. However, in addition, ojas pervades every cell of the body. It is our life sap and the nectar of vitality. As Dr. David Frawley (2000) so aptly describes:
“When [ojas] is sufficient, there is health. When it is deficient, there is disease.”
It’s also important to note that Prana and Tejas is rooted in ojas.
How to Balance Ojas
In general, too much ojas is not a problem for people; many people lack adequate ojas. Chronic fatigue, low energy, frequent illness, and hypersensitivity are all signs of compromised ojas.
Ojas is diminished by overwork, excessive stress, drugs and stimulants, excessive sexual activity, and unnatural foods. This special life sap is increased by foods such as milk, ghee, dates, and almonds. Also, rasayanas such as ashwagandha, shatavari, brahmi, guduchi, and the Ayurvedic blend Chyawanprash nourish ojas (Frawley, 2000).
Prana Tejas Ojas—It Takes Three
Just like we all have Vata, Pitta, and Kapha within us, we all possess some level of prana, tejas, and ojas. Since these are subtle, refined substances, we want to increase them over time. However, it is important that the three increase together in a coordinated way.
High prana without enough tejas and ojas would lead to enthusiasm without grounded decision making. High tejas without ojas and prana could look like anger and cynicism. And high ojas without prana and tejas would mean contentment without inspiration or healthy discrimination.
So, when considering prana, tejas, and ojas, remember that these three subtle forces form a powerful triad…and it’s all about balance!
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.
Frawley, D. (2000). Ayurvedic healing: a comprehensive guide. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.
Halpern, M. (2012). Principles of ayurvedic medicine. California College of Ayurveda: Nevada City, CA.