Lighten Up in the New Year
Chopra Center co-founder Dr. David Simon often observed that one of the best gifts we can give is to leave others feeling lighter and happier after spending time in our company. When we feel centered, balanced, and light-hearted, our energy naturally flows out into the world, uplifting everyone in our immediate sphere of influence and even those beyond. We don’t take ourselves too seriously and are more open, playful, and creative. In this state of receptivity, new insights and solutions spontaneously emerge in our awareness, allowing us to experience deeper levels of fulfillment and express our unique talents. On the other hand, when we are mired in emotional turmoil and feel out of balance, and drained, we may feel like we don’t have enough energy to nourish ourselves, much less give to others.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, the reason why so many of us feel heavy and depleted is the accumulation of toxic or undigested residue in our body, known as ama. There are many causes of ama, including the consumption of toxic foods and substances, weak digestion, emotional stress, recent surgery, chemotherapy, and antibiotic treatment. Ama blocks the flow of vital nutrients and disrupts the functioning of the body’s cells and channels, such as the intestines, arteries and veins, and lymphatic system. People who have stored a significant amount of ama in their body are likely to experience mental fatigue, physical exhaustion, or chronic pain.
Releasing What Weighs Us Down
If we want to experience perfect health, it’s crucial to eliminate the ama or toxins stored in our body and focus on cultivating our essential life energy, referred to in Ayurveda as ojas. A Sanskrit term meaning “vigor,” ojas is the pure and subtle substance that’s extracted from food and experiences that have been completely digested. Ojas circulates throughout the bodily tissues and heart, sustaining the physical self, bringing clarity to the mind, and balancing the emotions. When our body produces ojas, the vital nectar of life, we feel blissful and light. Our cells sing with happiness because both the mind and the body are receiving the nourishment they need.
The following chart will help you determine whether you have healthy ojas or an accumulation of ama in your body. If you’ve been storing toxicity, you can choose now to begin to nourish yourself and enjoy increasing levels of joy, lightness, and wellbeing in your life.
Signs of Ojas
- You feel rested upon awakening.
- Your skin has a healthy glow.
- Your tongue is clear and pink.
- Your body feels light, regardless of your weight.
- You feel centered throughout the day.
- Your digestion is strong without bloating.
- You feel energized and enthusiastic.
- Your mind is clear.
- Your body has a pleasant smell.
- You rarely get sick.
Signs of Ama
- Bad breath
- Coated tongue
- Dull appetite
- Delicate digestion
- Sluggish or irritable elimination
- Generalized pain
- Susceptibility to infection
- Difficulty manifesting intentions
If you realize that you have accumulated a heavy load of toxins, the next essential step is to begin living life more consciously, making choices that nurture the flow of life energy, while minimizing those that deplete it. To eliminate ama and create balance in the body, you need to consider your environment and assess where you may be tolerating toxins. Keep in mind that stored emotional toxicity can be equally if not more destructive than physical toxins.
1. Look at the air you breathe and the water you are drinking. Eliminate tobacco and reduce the alcohol and caffeine you consume.
2. To prevent the buildup of toxins, Ayurveda recommends periodic detoxification regimen, which includes a cleansing diet and daily massage treatments and heat therapies, followed by a gentle eliminative procedure that releases toxins from the digestive tract or nasal passages.
The Chopra Center’s Perfect Health program offers you an opportunity to experience the benefits of a deep detoxification and cleansing guided by the Chopra Center’s staff of medical doctors and master educators. (See the sidebar for more information.)
You can also do a gentle detoxification and “fast” at home by having only liquids or foods that are easy to digest – herbal teas, fruit and vegetable juices, and pureed vegetable soups can all be useful in giving the body time and space to metabolize whatever is left over from the past. If your mind-body type is Kapha, you can do a liquid fast for one day per week; if you are mainly a Pitta type, you can do this detox one day each month. In general, those who are predominantly Vata have more difficulty staying grounded, and fasting is not recommended unless supervised by a medical professional.
3. Another sign of ama is an unpleasant white coating on the tongue, which you may notice when you first wake up. An effective way to remove this ama is with a tongue cleaner – a small metal tool that removes the bacteria that causes bad breath and slows the growth of plaque. Cleansing the tongue also enlivens the taste buds and will improve the taste of the food you eat.
4. You can also reduce ama by rinsing your mouth with aloe vera juice four times a day. Start by swishing about a tablespoon of the juice in your mouth. Then spit it out and drink a tablespoon so that you are receiving four tablespoons internally. Try this for two weeks.
5. A useful detoxifying herb is neem (Azadirachta indica), one of Ayurveda’s most potent blood purifiers. Make a decoction by boiling a tablespoon of neem leaves in a cup of water until the volume is reduced in half. Then gargle and swish your mouth with this bitter but purifying herb.
6. When making decisions in your daily life, ask yourself whether you would encourage someone you love to follow the path you are considering. Consider the example of a conscious, caring mother who only wants her child to eat nourishing food, engage in loving relationships, and avoid situations that create unnecessary distress. If you treat yourself with this same loving intention, you will naturally minimize experiences that disturb your mental peace and physical wellbeing – while favoring those that increase your freedom and joy.
7. Balance your activity with rest by meditating and getting replenishing sleep each night. In the deep rest provided by meditation and sleep, your body engages its self-repair mechanisms and renews itself, so do your best to get abundant restful sleep and meditate on a regular basis.