The Ayurveda Guide: Agni ... You Are Only As Healthy As Your Agni

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The Ayurveda Guide: Agni

Charaka, the ancient seer of Ayurveda, states that “the individual is the epitome of the universe”. This implies that – that which exist in the vast eternal universe also appears within the inward cosmos of the human body. The entire universe is made from and these elements are referred to as “Panchamahabhutas” … translated as ‘The 5 Great Elements’; i.e. ether, air, fire, water and earth.

The Principle Of Transformation:
Fire is radiant energy and is active and changeable. It is the source of all transformative processes in the body and is responsible for digestion, absorption and transformation of food into energy.

Qualities Of Tejas/Fire:
– Hot
– Sharp
– Minute
– Light
– Rough
– Non-slimy

The qualities of hot, dry, penetrating and sharp demonstrate the radiant energy of Fire in the body. Skin complexion, eye luster and intelligence are expressions of the elemental energy of Fire. The liver, stomach and the pancreas are the primary sites of the Fire element. The element of Fire brings the qualities of attention, appreciation, recognition, ambition and competitiveness.

 

 

The ancient Vedic culture has long revered Agni [i.e. Fire] as being the bridge between our normal/ordinary state of mind and the Divine Self [i.e. Para Brahman]. Fire is honored as being sacred as it has provided warmth. light, and the ability to cook which has allowed for the survival of man. Similarly, when we eat ... we should eat in a way to honor the sacred fire within.

 

 

 

 

 

Agni Is [Nearly]   Everything ...

The digestive fire [“Agni”] is thought to be that which gives strength, vitality, and happiness to all human beings. More specifically, Agni is thought to be the digestive fire which governs digestion, absorption and assimilation of all nutrients of the body. It's explained that if Agni is balanced then the individual will be happy, healthy and holy.

 

 

Functions Of Agni:

  • Pakti: digestion, absorption, and assimulation of food
  • Darshana: visual perception
  • Matroshna: maintains normal body temperature
  • Prakruti varna: maintains bodily constitution & complexion
  • Shauryam: gives confidence, courage, and fearlessness
  • Harsha: creates joy, cheerfulness, laughter, and contentment
  • Prasada: provides mental clarity and wholeness
  • Raga: creates affection, interest, enthusiasm
  • Buddhi: reasoning capacity, logical thinking, discrimination
  • Dhairyam: gives patience, stability, and confidence
  • Dirgham: maintains the span of life
  • Prabha: creates a healthy glow and luster
  • Bala: provides strength and vitality

* Above List From: Textbook Of Ayurveda, vol. 1; Dr. Vasant Lad

 

Agni provides our actual capacity to transform the food—and situations, thoughts and emotions—that we take in so that it becomes nourishment. The very best way to support your agni is to give it the proper time and space to do it’s job.

 

 

General Guidelines: 

  • Wait at least 4 hours between meals (with no snacking in between).
  • Drink very little liquid with meals—or even within 1 hour of eating. Small sips of warm soup or tea may aid digestion, but a big glass of icy drink will smother the flame of agni.
  • Eat only during daylight hours. Give the body at least a full 12 hours of night to perform the more subtle aspects of digestion—clearing out the organs and allowing them to rest.
  • Eat only when you feel real hunger. If you don’t know what real hunger feels like, you should experiment a little bit with it (those with irregular or excess agni may often experience “false hunger”).
  • Base your meal frequency and size on your level of activity on a given day. It could be as simple as this: the more physical or mental effort you put out, the more food you need.
  • People with clearly slow agni may choose to fast or to eat very lightly one day a week so that undigested food which is clogging the system may be digested.

 

 

Four Main Types Of Agni ...

 

According to Ayurveda, there are Four Main Types Of Agni. 

  • Balanced [Sama Agni]
  • Irregular/Erractic [Vishama Agni]
  • Sharp [Tikshna Agni]
  • Slow/Dull [Manda Agni]

 

Normal & Balanced Digestion ~ Sama Agni 

When Agni is balanced and digestion, absorption and elimination are all normal then this is considered a state of good health. Such a person who has proper functioning Agni not only has perfect physical health but also possess a calm and serene mind with great clarity and bliss.

Essentially, healthy happy & holy.

 

 

 

Irregular & Erratic Digestion ~ Vishama Agni

Ayurveda explains this type of digestion as being erratic and irregular because at times you may experience diarrhea with lots of gurgling sounds in the intestines. Other times, you you will likely experience abdominal distention, gas, constipation and colicky pain. This type of digestion is commonly associated with Vata types. Vata types often have irregular digestion; meaning very hungry at times and at other times no hunger at all. Vata types are also thought to have a “hard” digestive tract and therefore makes them more vulnerable to experience symptoms of abdominal distention, flatulence, and even develop a nervous appetite.

Vata types can have eyes bigger than thier stomach so the first suggestion would be to consider having smaller yet more regular meals. In fact, these individuals do best with small, unctuous, warm, and regular meals. Generally speaking, vata types benefit most from sweet, sour and salty foods that is somewhat oily and even spiced up to one’s liking.

Other Common Associations:
– dry skin
– cracking and popping of joints
– low back pain and/or sciatica
– insomnia
– excessive worry, fear, and anxiety

 

Improving Digestion:
Keeping in mind that prevention is better than cure your goal should be centered on the maintenance this state of equilibrium. Therefore, consider the following:

  • Allow 4-6 hours for proper digestion
  • Eat only when you’re truly hungry
  • Avoid snacking
  • Drink less water during meals
  • Eat calmly in a soothing environment

 

Sharp Digestion ~ Tikshna Agni 

We can think of this type of digestion and being intense in the beginning but often lacking sustenance to endure the entire process of digestion optimally to completion. More simply, you have the ability to eat large meals, frequently. However, in doing so you will also often experience hyperacidity, and even become vulnerable to having loose stools or diarrhea.

This type of digestion is commonly associated with Pitta types. Pitta types often have a ferocious appetite and are thought to have a sharp and robust digestive ability. These individuals can digest just about anything they eat. Because pitta types have a “sharp” digestion, they can easily become irritable if they suddenly become hungry and there is no food to be had. Therefore, it is important for pitta types to eat on time. Interestingly, pitta types commonly crave hot and spicy food. In fact, “unbalanced” pitta types often have cravings for alcohol, pickles and of course … spices! Therefore, once again, this stresses the importance of pitta types to avoid spicy foods since these individuals are most prone to acid indigestion and heart burn. Therefore, these individuals may want to consider consuming a mildly sour flavor [i.e. buttermilk or even a few drops of lime] to help regulate their hyper secretion of digestive juices. The best flavors to help manage the fiery pitta type? Generally, pitta types do best with sweet, bitter and astringent flavored food which is cool in nature and lightly cooked.

 

Other Common Associations With Sharp And Intense Digestion:
– heart burn
– acid indigestion
– gastritis
– hypoglycemia
– irritability and anger
– critical and judgmental attitude

 

 

Slow/Dull Digestion ~ Manda Agni
You may have wondered at times how in the world can you gain weight simply by taking a small sip of water. Yes, that’s quite an exaggeration. However, it is likely you commonly experience having a slow metabolism, a full sensation in the stomach, and can even go long periods of time without developing a strong appetite. Often, after a meal you may notice a heavy feeling and even feel the need to take a nap. This type of digestion is commonly associated with Kapha types. Kapha types are thought to have the most stable appetite. However, kapha types are also the ones to have a more slower metabolism and digestive capacity. Hands down, kapha types are loving and compassionate. Along the same lines, kapha types enjoy food and if their need for love goes unnoticed, then these individuals are more prone towards “comfort-eating” more so than others.

Kapha types often have less secretion of digestive enzymes and therefore will likely find benefit with bitter and pungent flavors. When kapha types are “unbalanced” they will crave both sweet and oily food. However, flavors most beneficial for kapha types are pungent, bitter and astringent flavored foods which can help maintain optimal health for these types. Likewise, since kapha is “heavy and earthy” in nature, these individuals will find benefit with fasting on a routine but structured basis.

 

Other Common Associations With Dull Metabolism:
– weight gain
– edema
– congestion
– lethargy and excessive sleep
– attachment and possessiveness

 

Disclaimer:
All content included on this website (including, but not limited to,  images, photos, graphics and text) is the property of ‘Healthy Ayurveda’ and ‘Vedic Sage’ and as such is protected by US and international copyright and other intellectual property laws. 

This information is strictly for educational purpose only and not considered medical advice. Always first discuss with your primary care physician before considering any new health regimen.

Resources:

Ayurvedic Perspective On Selected Pathologies, Vasant Lad, BAMS – 2nd Edition Revised
Textbook Of Ayurveda Vol. 2 & 3, Vasant Lad, BAMS


You Are Only As Healthy As Your "Agni"

 

You Are Only As Healthy As Your Agni
Agni is the fire of transformation. It is responsible for the digestion, absorption, assimilation, and transformation of what we take in (food and experiences) into energy. The well-known ayurved Dr. Lad, defines "Agni" as:

Awareness Governing Nutritional Intelligence.
Your agni can be balanced, too low, too high, or irregular.

Ayurvedic Digestive Supplements
You are only as healthy as your digestion!!

What we feed the agni, and as David Frawley says, "Everything in the universe is food", determines how our agni burns. Imbalanced agni can mean weakness, poor digestion, poor elimination, internal coldness, compromised immunity, fatigue, or generally a lack of bright, shiny, vitality. Balanced agni looks like strength, vitality, immunity, clarity of perception and mind, proper digestion and elimination, normal body temperature, and a healthy glow that permeates all parts of your being.

The Ayurvedic Connection Between Agni & Ama

So, what are the things that balance and imbalance Agni?

What balances agni:

  • meal times according to the ayurvedic clock
  • dosha appropriate foods
  • warm, well cooked, well seasoned foods
  • fresh, whole, seasonal foods
  • warm beverages, digestive teas
  • adequate rest
  • healthy energetic/emotional expression
  • spinal twist asana
  • agni sara

 

What imbalances agni:

  • over or undereating
  • eating at the wrong time of day
  • snacking
  • inappropriate food for your dosha
  • incompatible food combining
  • cold beverages
  • toxins, intentional or unintentional (drink, smoke, other)
  • seasonal shifts
  • sleep not aligned with the ayurvedic clock
  • energetic/emotional imbalance

 

Ayurveda is clear, if you're experiencing the symptoms of imbalanced agni, there are many practices available to you to rekindle and balance your fire. Someone versed in ayurveda can help you determine how to best bring your agni back into balance. Make your choices an offering to your fire, swaha!

About The Author
Kara Aubin

Kara Aubin was called to the path of yoga in 1998, and has been a dedicated student and practitioner since. A lifelong lover of movement, she was drawn in by the intention and pranic wisdom of yogic movement, and the profound and challenging nature of yogic stillness. As a ParaYoga Certified teacher and NAMA Certified Ayurvedic Health Counselor based in Kalamazoo, MI and Albuquerque, NM she weaves the teachings of yoga and Ayurveda into group classes, private sessions, workshops, and retreats. Her mission is to guide students toward their bright inherent potential, as well as their right to radical wellness and balance.

Want an Ayurvedic consultation with Kara Aubin? 
Contact her at Kara Aubin 


How To Improve Your Digestion Naturally

 

Improve Your Digestion Naturally
( Agni Tea. Photo by Emma Eckert www.radiantmoonchild.com )

In Ayurveda digestion is referred to as agni. Agni is your digestive fire and it is the first line of defense against illness. So tending to it properly is crucial to overall health. When you first light a fire, you don't smother it with large logs, but slowly add kindling until it starts going. Then when it comes time to put it out, you let it burn out on its own. Digestion works in this same way.

Ayurvedic Supplements For Digestion
Good health depends on strong and efficient digestion.

When you first wake up, you should begin your day with a lighter meal, slowly building up your agni. Then around noon, it should be working at its hottest. This is when you should eat your largest, heaviest meal. For dinner, eat something of moderate substance. If you were getting ready for bed, and putting out the fire, would you place another large log on it? No. That log would not burn completely and wouldn't be consumed until the following day when a new fire is started. That being said, late night snacks and large dinners work in the same way. Your digestion is slowing down for the night, so any foods consumed too late wont be digested properly.

How To Naturally Heal Low Stomach Acid - Dr. Josh Axe 

Top five natural remedies to follow to naturally improve your stomach acid are:
1. Apple Cider Vinegar (Take one tbsp before meals & with digestive bitters for optimal results)
2. Digestive Enzymes (1-2 capsules before meals)
3. HCL with pepsin (only consume with protein in a meal, please advise your physician)
4. Manuka Honey
5. Lifestyle change: chew your food, eat smaller meals, and try intermittent fasting
- Source: Dr. Josh Axe 

 

Four Main Types Of Agni 
There are four types of agni:

  • Tikshna Agni [sharp/strong digestion]
  • Vishama Agni [variable digestion]
  • Manda Agni [slow digestion]
  • Sama Agni [balanced digestion]

 

Tikshna Agni
Tikshna agni is strong digestion. Someone with this type of agni experiences a very strong appetite. Even though it is strong, it isn't beneficial. This type of digestion over processes foods, stripping it of it's nutrients. Due to over processing, people with this type of agni usually suffer from malnutrition. If they skip meals they become irritable and lightheaded. Oily and spicy foods upset their systems and can lead to loose stools. In order to help balance this type of digestion, stick too cooling foods. You can garnish your meals with lime, cilantro and coconut flakes. Usually in Ayurveda snacks are frowned upon, but for this type of agni, snacking is good. Just make sure you're not eating oily nuts. Try cooling cucumbers or other vegetables.

Organic Cooling Pitta Spice Mix
Organic Cooling Pitta Spice Mix features coriander, cardamom and turmeric.

Vishama Agni
Vishama agni is variable digestion. People with this type of digestive fire can skip meals. They'll get wrapped up in an activity and simply forget to eat. When they do eat, they tend towards gas and bloating. The best way to help balance this type of digestion is through a regular eating routine. Don't skip meals. Make sure the food you're eating is well cooked and not raw. Warm foods are best, such as soups. For those of you who really struggle with gas, hingvastak is a great remedy. It's a powder that you can sprinkle on everything you eat, and because it's a carminative, it helps alleviate gas.

Organic Vata Churna Calming Spice Mix
Organic Vata Churna Calming Spice Mix is a blend of seven ingredients, including cumin, ginger and fenugreek.

Manda Agni
Manda agni is slow digestion. This can show up as a slow starting appetite, where true hunger doesn't appear until later in the day. People with manda agni tend to emotionally eat, and may never experience true hunger. After eating they feel tired and sluggish. First and foremost, if you have this type of digestion, only eat when you're hungry, even if that's not until noon. To help kickstart your hunger, try drinking a warm glass of lemon water first thing in the morning. Once you do feel the need to eat, stick to well spiced foods. Avoid sweets, dairy and other cooling foods.

Organic Kapha Churna Stimulating Spice Mix
Includes ginger, coriander and turmeric.

Sama Agni
Sama agni is balanced digestion. These people wake hungry, but don't have an overbearing appetite. They have no issues digesting any kind of food. This is the type of agni we all strive to achieve, and once we get there, we need to keep it in balance.

 

10 Tips To Help Improve Your Digestion:
No matter what type of digestion you have, the following list is important to follow in order to keep your agni healthy.

1. Begin your morning with a glass of room temperature water.
This helps clean out your digestive tract from the day before. Overtime, this will encourage a morning bowel movement. This helps ready your digestion further. If you aren't defecating first thing in the morning just yet, sit on the toilette after drinking your water. This will help train your body to poop before breakfast.

Copper Cup
A real ayurveda classic. Fill the cup with water in the evening, leave it to stand overnight and drink the water the next morning. In ayurveda this water is particularly highly regarded because it is said to have a purifying as well as a balancing influence on Pitta dosha. From a scientific point of view, the water has absorbed pure copper, which in this form is an essential mineral for the body.

2. Only eat when hungry. 
This is crucial. Don't eat until you experience true hunger, even if that isn't until noon. If you dump food onto your digestive fire which isn't burning hot yet, this food wont be digested properly. This undigested food becomes toxic sludge which leads to sickness.

3. Eat slowly and chew your food.
In today’s fast paced world we are prone to rushing threw everything, our meals included. Eating too quickly leads to overeating. Sit down and eat your meals without any distractions. It's also important to fully chew your food. Attempt to chew at least twenty times before swallowing. This allows for easier digestions.

4. Eat without distractions.
No facebook, twitter, instagram or even magazines. If your energy is focused on reading, it wont be focused on digesting.

5. Don't drink too many liquids during your meal.
Drinking too much during a meal dilutes your digestive fire, leading to indigestion. Take small sips while you eat and resume normal liquid intake thirty minutes after you've finished your meal.

6. Avoid iced drinks.
While we're on the topics of drinks, don't drink anything with ice in it! This dulls your agni and makes digestion harder. Stick to room temperature or hot drinks. This includes any liquids throughout the day, not just during meals.

7. Practice proper food combining. 
The list of proper food combinations is long, so we will stick to the most common. For example, don't drink milk with fruit. It's very common to eat fruit with yogurt, don't do it. Fruit should be eaten by itself. Stick to one type of protein at a time. This includes beans as well. So don't go mixing beans with eggs. In fact, beans and eggs shouldn't be eaten with cheese either (sorry all you Mexican food lovers).Nightshades (ie. tomatoes, eggplants and potatoes) shouldn't be eaten with dairy products. And lastly, don't cook with honey. Heating honey makes it toxic. So if you're going to add it to a meal, do it last, and make sure your food is out of the oven and off the stove.

8. Eat melons alone or not at all.
This one is so important it deserves a space of its own. Don't eat melons with anything! So no fruit salads unless it's all melons or no melons.

9. Eat your heaviest meal at lunchtime
As stated above, this is the time of day when your digestive fire is at its strongest. So instead of eating your biggest meal for dinner, as we Americans tend to do, eat it for lunch. Also, lunch is best consumed between eleven and one o'clock.

10. Eat your last meal, or snack, at least four hours before going to bed. 
We talked about this earlier. You don't want to fill your belly up with a lot of food and then go to bed. Your body wont digest it. So try to eat dinner at least four hours before going to bed. Believe it or not, waking up feeling sluggish can be caused by late night eating. If you're like me and tend to get "hungry" right before bedtime, opt for a warm glass of milk. You can spice it if you'd like. Just be sure to avoid nutmeg if you're prone to constipation, as it is a binding agent.

About The Author
Lizzy Straba
Lizzy Straba is based out of Albuquerque New Mexico, and offers Lifestyle Consultations and private Ayuryoga®  instruction. One of Lizzy's main goals is to provide Ayurveda to everyone. Lizzy succinctly explains, "It's super easy to feel like we're not good enough or that we don't fit into a certain mold and in turn deny ourselves something life changing. I want you to know that you don't need to be a yogi or a vegetarian or even a spiritual human being to benefit from the knowledge of Ayurveda. All you need is a willingness to improve your health."

To contact Lizzy Straba please visit her home page: Rogue Ayurveda