Agni is essentially the metabolic fire, or in simpler terms the digestive processes that occur within the body. There are over 40 representations of this “fire” within the body but the main fire or Agni is Jathara Agni, this is the central fire that governs the digestion and assimilation of food.
Of course there is no actual physical “fire” within the body but the fire is a representation of the energy that governs the digestive and transformative processes within the body.
Agni is transformation, it is the energy that determines which substances are transformed to nourish our tissues and cells and which substances should be eliminated.
Jathara Agni governs the physical digestion of the food we put in but Agni is also responsible for transforming emotional and intellectual experience into something positive that can help us to transform and grow in this journey.
Thus you can see why in Ayurveda Agni is referred to as the gatekeeper of life, all illness within the body according to Ayurveda can be traced back to an imbalance in Agni. Somewhere along the line something has not been transformed effectively or digested correctly, this refers to physical digestion of food but also digestion of emotions, of life’s experiences.
Some signs of imbalance in Agni include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Heavy sensation after eating
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating or processing emotions
- Irregular appetite
- Sleeping to much or feeling tired upon awakening
- Gas, bloating, cramping
- Food allergies
- A thick coating on the tongue
Here are a few tips to keep your Agni strong and well balanced:
- Ignite your fire! Eat a piece of fresh ginger with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice and a pinch of salt on it 15 minutes before meals. Chew on fennel seeds after meals.
- Eat for the right reason: Avoid eating when not hungry. Avoid eating when previous meal has not been digested, one pretty reliable way to tell is if you burp and you still taste or smell the previous meal you have not digested it yet… charming I know!
- Avoid incompatible food combinations; correct food combining is one of the best ways to improve digestion. One of the simplest rules to follow in terms of food combining is to not eat raw fruit with anything else. Raw fruit should be eaten alone, 20 minutes before meals or two hours after. Particularly avoid eating raw fruit with yogurt or grains. Cooked fruit such as stewed apple is fine to eat with grains (a nice add on to your morning porridge).
- No cold drinks: Ditch the cold smoothies or any cold drinks during this time so as to not destroy the strength of the Agni, only drink room temperature or warm water, sipping on herbal teas (especially ginger tea) will help improve digestion.
- Eat mindfully: this is quite possibly the most important concept in Ayurveda, the energy with which we prepare and eat our meals is so incredibly important and can mean the difference between good and bad health. Cook with love and eat with gratitude, smile and eat slowly, give yourself even a small amount of time to just sit and eat mindfully, no talking, no texting, no tweeting, no instragramming, no selfies, you get the point: be present while you eat.
Avoid those intense conversations while eating, what you focus on while you eat is what you will digest, cook in an angry or resentful mood and that energy will Infiltrate the meal! Eat while having a family feud and that food is sure not be digested well and will have the opposite effect of nourishment.
- Fast: Give your digestive system a break by taking a fast once a week or once a fortnight. You don’t need to do a complete fast but something as simple as only having soup and herbal teas for a day or doing a monotone fast of only eating kitchari for 1 to 3 days (recipe included). An overloaded digestive system can cause a lot of health problems, so let it have a rest every now and then.
- Digest your emotions: Ayurveda believes that one of the biggest causes of illness is undigested emotions and experiences. It may be more convenient to swallow down our feelings at the time but in the long run it will cause more damage than good. Just as undigested food will cause toxicity, so too will undigested emotions. Sit with your emotions, allow yourself to feel them, that doesn’t mean letting then take over and telling everyone what you really think of them! This is more about acknowledging an emotion and then using practices such as medication and yoga to transform these emotions into something more positive, an opportunity to learn and grow… in short stop, breathe, do yoga!!
Ayurveda teaches us to embrace natures cycles, winter is a time of rejuvenation, a time to go inward and nurture ourselves. Warm soup, spices, fires, sipping herbal teas, Ugg boots and of course soaking up the warmth of a beautiful warming Yoga practice.
Lots of love,