Energy vs. Fatigue; An Ayurvedic Perspective

By Caitlin Rose

200hr E-RYT & Ayurvedic Counselor

Breathe. Be Present. Simplify..jpg

Our society is enamored by this idea of being “high energy.” That it is somehow a sign of strength to take on the world every single day and that if we are stressed or fatigue, it is almost our reward, our confirmation that we are working hard, that we are chasing what is ours to achieve.

When asked what surprised him most about humanity, the Dalai Lama answered, “We sacrifice our health in order to make wealth, then we sacrifice our wealth in order to get back our health.” So we must begin by asking ourselves the following questions, “Do we really need to work harder, or smarter? Should we be fighting our fatigue, or nurturing it? Are my efforts to move forward, holding me back?” Keep reading to discover how you can find balance, energy and health, by increasing your vital energies.

Stop Fighting Fatigue, Nurture it.

According to Ayurveda Fatigue is caused by one of many things, primarily it is in conjunction with a depleted state of Agni (metabolism) or one of the three vital energies; Tejas (that which converts ahara (that which we take in) to energy), Ojas (vitality and immunity) or prana (breath). Tejas, Ojas and Prana are the positive essences of the three doshas, they are in abundance when we are healthy and lacking when the dosha is in excess or we are ill. Generally speaking, when a dosha is in excess, disease is manifesting and when the three vital forces are in excess, health is manifesting. 

As we work with the wisdom of Ayurveda we begin to recognize that we are not low on energy, we are low on something else, something more tangible. This recognition gives us direction.

As you read more about these subtle essences or vital energies, begin to notice what resonates with you, giving you direction towards beginning to demystify fatigue and reconnect to the inherent energy within. 

Agni

Fatigue is a sign from our bodies that a system is not working properly, and in Ayurveda everything starts with our ability to digest or the strength of our metabolism, and this task is completed by our Agni. To better understand the function of Agni, we look at the roll of digestive enzymes in relation to the strength of our metabolism. 

The best path to restore Agni is through an Ayurvedic Cleanse. To maintain a healthy Agni, one can establish an Ayurvedic diet that is personalized to their constitution (unique combination of elements within) along with a balance lifestyle. 

When our Agni is too high or too low, we must look at our current state of imbalance in relation to the three doshas and their subtle essences. To correct the Agni, we must work to rebalance the doshas by increasing the three vital energies; Prana, Tejas and Ojas. 

Prana

Balancing Vata; Cultivating Prana

Vata dosha is comprised of the elements of air and space and is responsible for all movement within the body and the mind. In regards to our Agni, when Vata dosha is in excess our digestion is variable, fluctuating between too high and too low. When the Agni is too high, we are not able to properly break down the food that we consume and assimilate that which we need, loosing the essential nutrients that our body needs to sustain life. When the Agni is too low, we are not able to fully break down and digest the food that we are eating, resulting in accumulation and toxins in the small intestine. Neither is better or worse, both result in the manifestation of disease. To reduce the excess Vata that is causing the variable Agni, one must adhere to a vata pacifying diet and lifestyle and work to increase their Prana. 

Prana is the subtle counterpart of Vata dosha and governs our ability to adapt and grow, it is directly related to our pineal and pituitary glands, which are responsible for the regulation of vital hormones such as melatonin. Increased prana is what provides the enthusiasm, creativity and adaptability that we need to walk down a spiritual path, without becoming depleted. When it is depleted we tend to feel overwhelmed without direction, physically and emotionally uninspired and depleted of any ability to sustain effort. Prana is an essential aspect of the endocrine, nervous and immune system. It is developed primarily through pranayama, meditation emphasizing space and sound as well as a yoga practice that emphasizes calming the mind through breath and concentration. 

Tejas

Balancing Pitta; Cultivating Tejas

Pitta dosha is comprised from the elements of fire and water and is responsible for all transformation and conversion within the body and mind. In regards to ones Agni, when Pitta dosha is in excess, the Agni runs too hot. When the Agni (or metabolism) is running to high, we are not able to properly transform the nutrients from our diet into the energy that we need to sustain life. To reduce the excess Pitta that is causing the Agni to disfunction, one must adhere to a pitta pacifying diet and lifestyle and work to increase their Tejas. 

Tejas is the subtle counterpart of both Agni and pitta dosha, it governs intelligence, discernment, digestion and assimilation (transformation). Tejas is the will to push through when we are challenged or need to exert ourselves. This is the force that enables us to practice tapas and transform ourselves on our spiritual journey. Tejas governs metabolism and digestion and is related directly to our thyroid and pancreas, this is why most deep seated metabolic functions are Tejas in nature. When we are sick, Tejas is activated to burn or destroy the toxins by generating a fever; It is our ability to overcome mild pathogens without disturbances in our lives. When Tejas is depleted, we tend to feel weak, unmotivated, and lack passion. Tejas is developed through Tapas; control of speech, actions and thoughts. Practicing concentration and presence to overcome our weakness, practicing self-inquiry, diligence towards growth on our spiritual path and withholding from wrong speech or actions will increase Tejas and thus balance the Pitta dosha and our Agni. 

Ojas

Balancing Kapha; Cultivating Ojas

Kapha dosha is comprised from the elements of earth and water and is our source for obtaining nourishment, vitality and sustained energy. In regards to Agni, when Kapha dosha is in excess, the Agni does not burn with enough heat. This causes much of what we consume to not be metabolized fully, resulting in undigested matter accumulating in our small intestines. This undigested matter rots and transforms into toxic matter that coats the walls of the GI tract. This further causes lack of absorption from the food that is broken down as well as accumulation of fat, toxins and inorganic matter that our body cannot properly pass. To reduce excess Kapha one must adhere to a Kapha pacifying diet and lifestyle as well as work to increase their Ojas. 

Ojas is the subtle counterpart of Kapha dosha. Ojas is our source of endurance and ability to sustain through all forms of exertion, physical and mental. Ojas is directly related to our adrenals and allows us to handle stress through sustained adrenaline. It is the capacity of the immune system and most directly correlated with our potential to defend ourselves against external pathogens. It provides endurance, resistance and strength to ward off diseases. One can work to increase Ojas through a sattvic diet (consisting of whole grains, seeds and nuts, oils, root vegetables and natural sugars), by reducing external stimulation (mass media and social media) as well as devotion to a higher power, such as the cosmos. Increasing Ojas is the most important focus that we can cultivate, for Ojas is the container for which we are able to obtain and maintain both Tejas and Prana. 

Work Smarter, Not harder.

When we are already under pressure, busy, stressed or fatigued, adhering to a new Ayurvedic Lifestyle can seem like just another thing to add to the list. This is counter productive and should not be thought of as another thing to do, but simply a different way to do what you are already doing. 

As Vata dosha’s primary quality is movement, it is the least stable; the first to go out of balance and also the easiest to bring back into balance. To balance Vata, we turn to prana or the breath. Checking in with the breath is a great way to start your day as well as track your day. When Vata dosha becomes imbalanced, the breath becomes rapid, rigid and lacks depth. This triggers the flight or fight response - also known as our sympathetic nervous system. This activation of the sympathetic nervous system causes stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol to flood the body, further aggravating vata causing agitation, fear, intestinal disturbances and difficulty focusing. As Vata is the “mover” of the doshas, when in excess, it can also cause Pitta and Kapha dosha to go out of balance. Starting your day with deep breaths or a pranayama practice can help to keep the breath balanced throughout your day as life presents itself. Focusing on the breath is also a great way to become present and a simple discipline that you can integrate that will also start to reduce Pitta dosha, by cultivating Tejas. This focus can help us adhere to what matters most in our lives, nourishing our minds and bodies creating sustained vitality and energy, bringing Kapha dosha into balance as well. 

Our goal should not be doing more, it should be trying to find a way to do less so that we can enjoy what we do more. Creating a morning routine can help you find direction for your day. Start your day with 8-15 minutes of meditation and breath work, followed by just 5 minutes of writing down what you want to accomplish with your day, then simply check in with this list two more times throughout your day. Starting to find balance through slowing down, taking a deep breath and identifying our priorities can create the focus that we need to nourish ourselves instead of constantly working towards depletion. 

It is also important to take note of that which is not serving your health and happiness. When we start to become more mindful, it is important to check in with ourselves, often. After everything, whether it be a conversation, experience, meal, meeting or interaction; we should be asking ourselves, “how did that make me feel?” With time this will start to bring clarity on what we want to start omitting from our daily lives. There is a level or responsibility that cultivating health and happiness requires, standing up for yourself so that you can live the best life possible. 

Stop Doing This; So You Can Start Doing That

Overall, reclaiming your inherent health and energy is less about fighting fatigue and more about nourishing your three vital energies. It’s about carving out 30 minutes in your morning to create your balanced day. It’s about honestly checking in and letting go of that which is not serving your ideal life, day in and day out. It is about eating food that is replenishing your tissues, not depleting them and causing harmful toxin build up in your digestive system. Living Ayurvedically will bring you the energy that you are seeking once you realize that it’s not simply about doing more, but doing more of what brings you happiness and health.