By Dr. Regina Antony
In Ayurveda, the Tridoshas – Vata, Pitta and Kapha have their corresponding subtle forms in the body.
The Tridoshas or the body humours undergo constant change in response to the food we eat, the activities we indulge in, our emotions, thoughts, season, age and various other factors.
Read related – How To Understand Tridosha Easily By Its Functions
Prana, Tejas and Ojas are the subtle forms of Vata, Pitta and Kapha respectively and they have an influence over the mind. The same factors that disturb Tridoshas can also disturb these mental forms.
Prana, Tejas, and Ojas, are present inside us, in our physical and subtle bodies.
According to David Frawley’s book, Yoga and Ayurveda, “These three forces (Ojas, Tejas and Prana) are interrelated. Prana and Tejas are rooted in Ojas and can be regarded as aspects of Ojas.
Ojas is responsible for immunity. There are two types. Para Ojas – the more important one resides in heart. The Apara Ojas – less important one, circulates all over the body.
Tejas is the heat and light energy of Ojas that has an oily quality and sustains it, like ghee can sustain a flame.
Prana is the energy and strength that comes from Ojas after it has been kindled into Tejas. Ojas is the potential, the stamina of the mind and nervous system for holding Tejas and Prana. Ojas has the capacity to turn into Tejas (heat), which has the capacity to turn into Prana (electricity).”
Here we explore Prana, Tejas, and Ojas as they relate to vitality, energy, and radiant health.
Prana is the subtle form of Vata Dosha and can be defined as ‘the life force’ or ‘the breath of life’. It is the factor responsible for life. It is responsible for vitality and energy and functions such as respiration, digestion, circulation, excretion etc.
Prana maintains a state of harmony between the body and the mind and is hence responsible for all the psycho-physical functions in the body. Prana, as the life-force and cosmic breath relates to wind and spirit.
For example, when there is an increase of Prana, it may lead to hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, mood instability, outbursts, impatience, restlessness etc.
When there is a decrease in Prana, one may suffer from lack of mental energy, enthusiasm and curiosity, and inhibited receptivity and creativity. Restricted Prana makes our mind and senses dull, there is lack of motivation, and attitudes can become conservative.
Types, functions of Prana
10 principle types of Prana and their functions
Yoga and Ayurveda mention seven main invisible wheels of energy (chakras) throughout the body, starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head. These invisible wheels of energy keep us alive and healthy. The Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel or disc. These swirling wheels of energy correspond to massive nerve centres in the body. Each of the seven main chakras contains bundles of nerves and major organs as well as our psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being.
The vital life force or Prana flows through these 7 invisible wheels of energy.
Read related – Chakra – Kundalini: Introduction, Meaning, Types, Location, Ayurveda View
Based on the location and functions it carries out at the levels of various Chakras, there results 10 types of Pranas. These are:
1. Prana – located in the heart chakra and responsible for respiratory and circulatory functions
2. Apana – located in the root chakra and is responsible for elimination
3. Samana – located in the solar plexus chakra and is responsible for digestion
4. Udana – located in the throat chakra and is responsible for sound
5. Vyana – located in the sacral chakra and is responsible for movement and circulation throughout the body
6. Naga – responsible for eructation
7. Kurma – responsible for opening eyes
8. Krikara – responsible for hunger and thirst
9. Devadatta – responsible for yawning
10. Dhananjay – responsible for hiccough
Out of these, the first two, i.e. Prana and Apana are the most important.
Yoga has explained various ways in which one can imbibe Prana. Practising breathing techniques like Pranayama, sitting in the lotus pose and a good behavioural conduct also helps balance Prana.
Read related – Types Of Pranayama – Effect on Health – Through An Ayurveda View-Point
Tejas is the subtle form of both Pitta and Agni in the body. It can be defined as ‘inner radiance’ or ‘the fire of the mind’. It is the factor responsible for intelligence, reasoning, inquisitiveness, focus, self-discipline, perception and mental clarity. It also imparts glow or aura, lustre in the eyes, courage and fearlessness. Since it is an essence of fire element in the body (Pitta dosha is predominant in fire element), it is also responsible for digestion and metabolism. Tejas as the power of will and vigour resembles the primal fire.
Tejas can be compared to hormones and amino acids that regulate cellular metabolism.
An increase of Tejas can lead to doubt, anger, irritability and enmity. The person becomes hard to please and short tempered.
When Tejas is decreased in the body, a person may lose his ability to distinguish, unwilling or unable to criticise and loses the power to learn from experience. It makes the person passive and easily influenced and may lead to lack of purpose in life.
Since Tejas is a subtle form of Agni, protecting and nurturing it will help in supporting Tejas.
Read related – Understanding Agni: Concept, Definition, Functions, Types
Ojas is the subtle form of Kapha and can be defined as ‘primal vigour’, the essential vital fluid of the body in subtle form in the mind. Ojas is the essence of Kapha Dosha and all the body tissues. Formation of Ojas is directly related to one’s digestive fire and will either positively or negatively be impacted by it.
As per Yogic science, Ojas promotes mental strength, immunity, stability, endurance, patience, calmness, good memory, sustained concentration, happiness, contentment and bliss. It connects our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being and peace of mind. It is regenerated through meditation. A decrease in Ojas makes us fearful, weak, and worried; we may suffer from lack of confidence, difficulty concentrating, poor memory and mental fatigue. Increased Ojas can cause heaviness and dullness in the mind; complacency and unwillingness to change or grow. High Ojas is much less a problem than excess Prana or Tejas, which are the main factors that result in mental disorders.
Read related – What is Ojas? How To Increase Ojas During Health And Disease?
Ayurveda aims at maintaining equilibrium among the Doshas and preventing its increase or decrease as vitiated Doshas lead to diseases.
The Dosha that is predominant in our constitution tends toward excess and must be balanced through proper diet and lifestyle. For example, a person of Vata body constitution is always more prone to suffer from diseases of Vata origin like joint pains, dry skin etc. Such a person should always follow diet and regimen that can help keep Vata Dosha in check.
The principles of Yoga state that unlike the Doshas, these three forces in an increased state will not lead to disease manifestation as these are purified forms of Doshas and they do not possess the same disease causing capacity. These three vital essences only cause problems if one is increased at the expense of the others. They are basically wholesome energies that aid in renewal and transformation.
Read related – Health Benefits Of Yoga: Mind And Body
If any of these three factors are insufficient, our spiritual growth will be limited.
These same factors increase positive health in both body and mind, and are helpful in treating all diseases, particularly of a chronic nature, including promoting rejuvenation.
Reproductive system relation
Reproductive tissue (Shukra Dhatu) provides support and nourishment for Prana, Tejas and Ojas in the physical body. They can be considered as three aspects of transformed reproductive fluid (Shukra). For this reason, abstinence (celibacy) is given utmost importance in Yoga and Ayurveda.
Ojas provides strength in general and nourishes all the bodily tissues from within. Ojas is the power of endurance and ability to sustain us, in all forms of exertion, both physical and mental.
Tejas is the activated state of reproductive fluid when it is transformed into heat, passion and will power. In yoga, this force is necessary to enable us to perform transformative spiritual practices (tapas).
Prana is the life-creating capacity inherent in the reproductive fluid. This aids in longevity and rejuvenation and stimulates the flow of Prana through the channels, giving a deeper energy to the mind.
Without the proper reserve of reproductive fluid, we will become deficient in Prana, Tejas and Ojas. Wrong or excessive sexual activity depletes all three forces.
Read related – Relationship Between Reproductive System And Doshas
Ojas is the basic capacity of the immune system, the ability of the body to protect ourselves against external pathogens. It provides endurance, resistance and strength to ward off diseases.
Tejas is the immune system which is able to burn and destroy toxins when activated. It is the cause for rise in temperature that the body produces in fever, to destroy the pathogens which attack it. Tejas is our ability to overcome acute diseases, which are generally infectious in nature. Tejas is Ojas converted into heat, warmth and vitality.
Prana is the long-term activation of the immune function when the body is suffering from a chronic disease. It is the adaptability of the immune system and sustains all long-term healing processes.
Read related – Immunity In Ayurveda: Concept, Diet, Herbs, Medicines, Exercise
Prana governs and coordinates nerve impulses. When deranged, it causes hypersensitivity, tremors and imbalances in the nervous system.
Tejas provides acuity of perception and feeling. Deranged Tejas burns out the nervous system, causing inflammation and scarring of the nerve tissue.
Ojas gives endurance and stability to the nervous system. It is responsible for lubrication of the nerve channels. Nervous breakdown or nervous exhaustion occurs due to low Ojas.
Read related – Relationship Between Doshas And Nervous System
The three vital essences are present in the breath. Prana is the energy obtained directly from breath. Tejas is the heat produced by the breath. Ojas is the deeper energy obtained when the breath is absorbed. When Prana is deranged, the breath is shallow or disturbed. When Tejas is deranged, the heat content of the breath is abnormal. When Ojas is deranged, the absorbed energy of the breath is lοw or we are unable to hold and consolidate it.
Prana allows for the equilibrium and coordination of sensory impulses and is predominant in the ears and the skin, the Vata-predominant senses.
Tejas is responsible for acuity of sensory function and our ability to digest sensory impressions. It dominates in the eyes, the Pitta or fire-predominant sense.
Ojas is responsible for stability of the senses, as well as for their lubrication. It is predominant in the tongue and the nose, the Kapha-predominant senses.
Read related – Relation Between Doshas, Sense Organs And Perception
Mind and consciousness
Prana, Teja and Ojas play a very important role over the mind. Prana is that which allows the activities of the mind and keeps it in balance.
Tejas allows it to perceive and to determine, to digest impressions, ideas and emotions.
Ojas gives it patience and endurance, allowing it to resist disturbances.
Read related – Mind – Qualities And Functions As Per Ayurveda
Clinical aspects of disturbances in Prana, Tejas and Ojas
Prana – the breath, the oxygen and the air component
Tejas – the fire component related with intellect, digestion, body temperature and aura
Ojas – the immunity, body’s defence mechanism – these three are the factors that control overall physical and mental health.
If you look at these three factors from an Ayurvedic point of view, these can be approximately correlated with Vata, Pitta and Kapha Doshas.
Disturbances of Prana:
Prana imbalances can lead to many diseases such as
Shwasa (dyspnoea, breathlessness, asthma, and bronchitis),
Pratishyaya (cold, congestion),
Swarabheda (hoarseness of voice),
Kasa (cough) etc.
Read related – Home Remedy For Hiccups, Asthma And Chronic Lung Diseases
It is clear that pathological manifestations and the territory afflicted by vitiated Prana Vayu is respiratory system.
The treatment for this is – Vata balancing measures.
Disturbances of Tejas:
Disturbance of Tejas leads to
weak digestion strength,
lack of motivation,
lack of enthusiasm,
lack of skin lustre etc.
It is treated with correction of Agni – digestive fire and Pitta balancing measures.
Read related – Relationship Between Agni And Pitta
Disturbances of Ojas:
Depletion of Ojas is explained in three stages in Ayurveda (Sushruta Samhita Sutrasthana 15/24) –
Stage 1: Ojo Visramsa: Features are –
Sandhi Vishlesha – multiple joint pain, lack of strength in joints
Gatra Sada – fatigue, malaise
Dosha chyavana – increase of Doshas
Kriya Sannirodha – Lack of normal functioning of body
Stage 2: Ojo vyapat –
Sthabdha guru gatrata – stiffness and heaviness of the body
Vata shopha – oedema due to increase of Vata Dosha
Varna bheda – skin discolouration
Glani – fatigue
Tandra – malaise, improper functioning of sense organs.
Nidra – excess sleepiness
Stage 3: Ojo kshaya –
Murcha – unconsciousness
Mamsa kshaya – lack of muscle mass
Moha – delusion
Pralapa – irrelevant talk
Marana – death.
Read related – What is Ojas? How To Increase Ojas During Health And Disease?