Three Practices to Build Soma

Original Date: Nov 4, 2015

In my yoga classes, I have been discussing the concept of Soma.  In Ayurveda and yoga, Soma is the nectar of life- it rejuvenates and restores the body to create a feeling of fullness in Prana – life energy. In some references, Soma is a special plant that offers the elixir of long life.  Amrit- or nectar – is another description of Soma.  Soma is said to be made in the body via the pineal gland, and is related to the upper Chakras (Ajna and Sahasrara).  Soma provides a youthful vigor and sharp mind.  I have been discussing Soma  because it is autumn, the season of Vata.  This is a time of year where the natural world “dries up.” As cold weather moves in, we move indoors and become more susceptible to illness.  To balance out these tendencies, we should engage in practices that will nourish and restore our bodies and our minds.

Luckily, autumn is the time of year where people begin to return to their yoga practices.  As every yoga teacher in New England knows, the summer months can feel a little empty in the yoga studio. Everyone is outside enjoying the beautiful weather, walking, biking, hiking, or just sitting on the porch with a friend or book.   Going to yoga class takes a back seat, and sometimes the entire yoga practice does likewise.  I understand: I too like to be outside in the garden, walking, and hiking.  But yoga practice gives us more energy to engage in those activities.  Our yoga practice improves circulation of water, blood, and lymph, increases synovial fluid in the joints, and creates peace of mind, all of which are important to keeping up our energy and our immune system.  So when I see folks returning in the autumn, I am happy to know that they are attending to their health and well-being, so that they have a better reserve to help them through the cold winter months.

The immune system takes a hit in the winter.  Our immunity according to Ayurveda, is connected to Ojas – our “vigor” or essential life energy.  This is due to several compounding factors: less sun in the Northern Hemisphere, more time indoors where we spread germs, dry air which affects our nasal passages and makes it more likely that we will catch a cold or flu, and the added effort of the body to keep up with the stress of the colder months. Autumn is a transitional season where it becomes important to build our inner reserves of energy, our Ojas, by keeping up our healthy lifestyle practices like yoga and healthy eating, so that we have the reserves to get through the winter months.  We might catch a cold or other sickness, but if we take care with mindful Soma-increasing practices, an illness may be shorter, or we may suffer fewer symptoms, or simply not catch it at all.

We need to engage in Soma-increasing practices often.  We can benefit from these practices at any time of year, and ideally will include them on a daily and or weekly basis.  A deeply engaging, active, or even aggressive yoga practice will build strength, muscle tissue, endurance, and many important qualities.  But if you only practice these heating and active “Yang” types of practice and do not balance that practice with a Soma-inducing practice, you will deplete your energy reserves of Ojas and become more susceptible to stress, illness, and injury.

What are Soma-inducing practices?  Shavasana.  Yoga Nidra.  Yin Yoga.  Restorative Yoga. Mantra Japa (repetition of a mantra). Meditation.  Other practices to increase Soma include sitting in the light of the full moon (said to emit Soma), and eating and drinking certain foods. These practices will rejuvenate and replenish the body through their specific effect on the nervous system, and also through their ability to counter the effects of stress and cortisol in the body.

Three Practices to Build Soma, Restore Ojas, and Prepare For The Cold Season

Here are three Soma practices that will build your reserve of Ojas in the body.  A mantra, a recipe, and a meditation.

1).  The Maha-Mrtiyunjaya Mantra

This Mantra is to the deity Shiva- He is said to be both Agni (the fire) and Soma in one.  Thomas Ashley-Farrand, author of “Healing Mantras” says that this mantra relieves one from death and disease, relieves a wide variety of illnesses, and is a general support for the immune system.  While in India, we chanted this every day and at the beginning of any car trip or journey.

OM Trayumbakam Yajamahe

Sughandhim Pushti Vardanam

Urvar-ukamiva Bandhanan

Mrityor Muksheeya Mamritat

LISTEN HERE FOR AUDIO VERSION

Audio sample with video of Anandamayi Ma

How to practice:  There are many options for mantra practice.  You could simply chant this once a day, in the morning, as a blessing for your day.  You could sit with mala beads, and run through 108 repetitions, with a short meditation after.  If you are in great need to boost health and vitality, try chanting it 108 times both morning and night for at least 40 days.

2).  Recipe:  Ojas Boosting Milk

I like to drink an Ojas boosting formula in the winter.  Try this recipe in the evening and see if it helps you to have a more soothing nights sleep:

1-2 cups Almond milk

2-3 dates (depending on how sweet you like your drink)

a pinch of saffron

a pinch of turmeric and a slice of ginger

2 tsp of coconut oil

Add ingredients to a pot.  Bring to a light boil, 2-3 minutes.  You might strain out the ingredients, or keep them in (I like to keep the dates in, and eat them when the milk is gone!).

3).  Meditation on Body Points

I have been using this meditation in my yoga classes with incredible success.  Students leave feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. It is proof to me that these Soma-inducing practices restore us on a deep level, giving us more energy to do the work we need in our day, and helping us to live healthy wholesome lives. The following meditation is based on the Marma points, Ayurvedic energy points in the body, and was inspired by the teachings of the renown teacher of Ayurveda, David Frawley.

1. Direct your attention to your toes. On inhalation, gather your energy at your toes. On exhalation, release. Feel your toes energized, healed, and relaxed.

2. Move your attention to your ankles. On inhalation, gather your energy at your ankles. On exhalation, release it. Feel your ankles energized, healed, and relaxed.

3. Move your attention to the middle of your calves. The middle of your calves. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Feel the middle of your calves energized, healed, and relaxed.

4. Move your attention to the base of your knees. The base of your knees. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Feel the base of your knees energized, healed, and relaxed.

5. Move your attention to the middle of your knees. The middle of your knees. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Feel your knees energized, healed, and relaxed.

6. Move your energy to the middle of your thighs. On inhalation, gather your energy at the middle of your thighs. On exhalation, release it. Feel your thighs energized, healed, and relaxed.

7. Move your energy to the base of your spine. On inhalation, gather your energy at the base of your spine. On exhalation, release it. Feel this region of your body energized, healed, and relaxed.

8. Move your energy to the middle of your hips. On inhalation, gather your energy at the middle of your hips.  On exhalation, release it. Feel your hips energized, healed, and relaxed.

9. Move your energy to your navel. On inhalation, gather your energy at your navel. On exhalation, release it. Feel this region of your body energized, healed, and relaxed.

10. Move your energy to your heart.  On inhalation, gather your energy at your heart. On exhalation, release it. Feel your heart energized, healed, and relaxed.

11. Move your energy to the root of your throat. The very root of your throat. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release it. Feel your throat energized, healed, and relaxed.

12. Move your attention to the root of your tongue.  On inhalation, gather your energy at the root of your tongue. On exhalation, release it. Feel your tongue energized, healed, and relaxed.

13. Move your attention to the root of your nose, deep at the base of the nose. On inhalation, gather your energy at the root of your nose. On exhalation, release. Feel your nose energized, healed, and relaxed.

15. Move your attention to your eyes. Deep in your eyes. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release. Feel your eyes energized, healed, and relaxed.

16. Move your attention to the point between your brows. On inhalation, gather your energy at the point between your brows. On exhalation, release it. Feel this region of your body energized, healed, and relaxed.

17. Move your attention to the middle of your forehead. The middle of your forehead. On inhalation, gather your energy there. On exhalation, release. Feel your forehead energized, healed, and relaxed.

19. Move your attention to the top of the head. On inhalation, gather your energy at the top of the head. On exhalation, release. Feel the top of your head energized, healed, and relaxed.

20. Spread your attention throughout your whole body. Your whole body.  On inhalation, fill your whole body with energy.  On exhalation, release and soften.  Feel your whole body, energized, healed, and relaxed. Energized, healed, and relaxed.

Download a sound recording of this meditation from CD BABY HERE!