Agni - the digestive fire

In Ayurveda a special focus is on proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. This is why Ayurveda emphasizes a healthy digestive system as a cornerstone of well-being. Any disease occurring in our body is believed to have its roots in inefficient digestion.

Therefore Agni or the “digestive fire,” is one of the most important principles in the ancient science of Ayurveda. It refers broadly to our ability to process all aspects of life, including food, experiences, memories, and sensory impressions. Agni, or our digestive fire is responsible for absorbing the nutrients and essential elements the body needs (Agni is the root of the English word “ignite”). If our Agni runs low waste materials can not be properly eliminated and accumulate in our system. These waste materials and toxic residues are called “Ama” in Sanskrit. In fact, anger not expressed, long-held sadness, and lingering guilt are more debilitating for most people than problems with physical digestion.

However if our Agni is strong, we’re able to digest food efficiently and easily assimilate our daily experiences.

Those few among us who are blessed with balanced Agni (in Sanskit: sama agni) enjoy a wide range of benefits as a result. Balanced Agni results in happiness, great health, and a calm, clear mind and an open heart. These individuals enjoy balanced digestion, absorption, and elimination, a surplus of Ojas, Tejas, and Prana, strong immunity, and an abiding sense of contentment and satisfaction, even bliss, in their lives.

How to balance agni?

You want a balanced agni that is neither too weak nor too excessive. Overeating is one of the most common ways to slow agni down and repress it over time. Furthermore the quality of Agni varies depending upon one's individual constitution: Vata, Pitta, or Kapha. In Vata and Kapha types, Agni tends to be weak and the digestive system cold or irregular, which can result in mal-absorption disorders, chronic constipation, loose stools, and gas. In Pittas, the fires of Agni can become excessive and cause heartburn, acid reflux, colitis, and other burning sensations.

An easy way to support digestive agni is through the daily use of culinary herbs and spices, used to increase agni before and during meals. In ayurvedic cooking, it is believed that within them lies the medicine of optimal health and long life, aiding digestion and ensuring that more energy and fewer toxins are taken into the body.

Tipp: Include more fresh herbs into your cooking. Spice up any hot meal, salad, pasta, even desserts with fresh herbs or spices for more prana and agni in your being.

A simple ayurvedic practice is to consume a small piece of fresh ginger with a few drops of lemon juice prior to eating a meal. This slowly and gradually awakens the flames of agni, preparing it to digest the main course. In addition to ginger, other aromatic spices that assist digestion include black, long, and cayenne pepper; cardamom; and licorice. They are believed to make foods more digestible by "predigesting" the food during cooking—heat combines and awakens their aromatic qualities, making the nutrients easier to digest once eaten. These spices also stimulate the secretion of saliva and digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines, and the less work agni needs to do while digesting food, the less fatigue one will experience after eating.

Cooking herbs and spices also serve to prevent gas and ama. Undigested food is broken down by fermentation rather than digestion, and fermentation is what produces gas. The intestines can then absorb these gases, which causes the colon to become toxic and spastic. Fennel is an herb commonly consumed in Indian restaurants as a carminative after meals to prevent gas, discomfort, and fatigue. At home, chew on a teaspoon of fennel seeds, then spit out the pulp after swallowing the juice.

Autor: Deddou Burkhard - Yoga Teacher & Founder POP UP YOGA