Agni is represented by the digestive fire. That transformative energy that we all need in order to digest anything and everything taken into our bodies (and into our minds!) Agni represents the fire element which manifests as digestive enzymes, governing all metabolic and transformative activities in our bodies! Agni is the flame which, when stoked and fed, keeps us alive, vibrant, and healthy! How else can bulky food stuffs be transformed into nourishing substances for our cells, our tissues, our organs, our entire biological system?
(When someone has ‘fire in their eyes’ they are ready to consume life!)
Ayurveda understands that agni leads to joy, happiness and contentment because when things are appropriately digested, the film (undigested material) or ama is eliminated fully from our bodies and our minds and life become clear.
~ Dr. Lad
How do we know when our agni is low or irregular? How do we know when the fire is not being appropriately stoked and nurtured? It’s when we experience
bloating, constipation, repressed emotions, confusion
Ice cream has dampening qualities
Cold, heavy, sweet (sweet taste = earth and water elements, which is devoid of the fire element!). It also has a smooth quality–but don’t let that fool you in terms of digestibility, though its smooth texture is part of the reason why we love ice cream!
Think of it like this– a nice fire is going in the gut, agni is raging, ready to take on and transform the food into molecules that your body is able to digest, nourishing your system and its tissues. Now take in food that is COLD and HEAVY and put that right on that little raging fire, food that we weren’t really biologically adapted to handle in quantity.
That fire would have to be mighty intense to keep going, to keep processing something that cold and that heavy! Some form of indigestion may follow, manifesting as
acid reflux, not feeling ‘good’, feeling heavy, bad breath
If the vata dosha is prominent in a person they’re likely to experience variable agni which means that their fire is not always strong enough to digest a food that is cold and heavy. And the ice cream will have the tendency to sit in their gut like a cold, damp rock.
Remember that the gut and the head/brain are intricately connected! So low agni will affect the mood too!
How to avoid killing off or suppressing your agni, your life-fire?
Well, the answer is straight forward.
Don’t eat foods which have the qualities of cold and heavy if you have weak digestion. (Yes, yogurt can fall into this category too.)
Oh, and cultivate happiness since balanced agni is expressed in joy.
How do you know that your digestive capacity is strong or your agni balanced?
You will have good energy after eating, not experience bloat or continuous burping, your breath will be pleasant, your tongue will have no thick, white coating and your mood: fine and dandy! You will also be pooing fully at least once a day at the same time and feeling mighty relieved, ready to take on (or digest) all that life throws at you!
Quantity and quality count too!
One bite of organic ice cream verses eating a massive, fast food banana split (bananas don’t digest well with milk anyway!) makes a big difference!
10 ways to increase or balance your digestive fire or agni–keeping it stoked!
Why? Because your digestive fire will increase in preparation for the meal. The body has an intelligence and your metabolic activity will sync with a daily rhythm.
2. Eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day
Why? Because we are a microcosm of the macrocosm, in other words, your digestive fire is the highest when the sun is also high in the sky.
3. Rest to digest
Why? Because any tenseness will constrict functioning of all the muscles in the body and food, digestive juices, etc. won’t move things through efficiently. This is why it’s not good for your digestion to eat while walking or while on the run or (worse) while you’re driving a car! Remember: our bodies have adapted to react to stress by shutting down the digestive process.
4. Eat foods which are appropriately spiced
Why? Because ALL spices contribute to your digestive fire. (Think of it like kindling wood.) Spices like: cinnamon; cardamom; nutmeg; dry ginger or savory spices like: cumin; coriander; fennel; paprika; cayenne pepper; turmeric; black pepper, etc. all help. Get past the salt and pepper and spice it up! But don’t use a lot of super hot spices in the middle of summer or if your pitta is high. Cumin, coriander and fennel will promote good digestion without overheating.
5. Eat foods that look good and smell good
Why? Because your digestive juices will begin to flow before you take the food in, thereby increasing your digestive capacity for that food. When your mouth is watering, your digestive fire is increasing!
6. Eat heavier foods first and follow a meal with a green salad
Why? Because heavy foods, like meats, cheeses, etc. are hard to digest and you’ll want to put them on the fire first. Following a meal with a salad (minus a sweet dressing) will help to push those heavier foods through as salads possess the qualities inherent in bitter (which helps to tone the tissues.)
7. Don’t drink too much before or during meals
Why? Because we don’t want to put the fire out with too much liquid, especially ice cold drinks (which Ayurveda knows creates ama, the glue that inhibits efficient functioning of the entire elimination system.)
8. Cook food before you eat it
Why? Because uncooked food will not release its prana or life force until it is cooked. In other words, raw foods are harder to digest. A cooked carrot has been pre-digested by the fire on the outside (stove) before your body has to ‘cook’ it on in the inside. Some foods like sprouts have their prana readily available for digesting, but most foods need the stimulation of the agni on the outside (fire) to assist the agni on the inside (digestive juices.)
9. Don’t consume a large variety of food in one sitting
Why? Because you don’t want to overload your system. Once overloaded, the fire will not be able to digest fully that which has been taken in and will block your channels, creating ama and eventually lead to disease. (Think of obesity too.)
10. Cook fresh food yourself
Why? Because you never know how long restaurant food has been refrigerated or preserved before it reaches your plate. Old food is hard to digest–the prana or life force is absent. Fresh food has prana and possesses the capacity to deeply nourish your system. Remember that food is more than mere ‘stuffing’ for the body, it is our sustenance, our connection to life itself!Our senses are also part of the digestive process~ we must be able to digest what we see, hear, smell, as well as taste. So pay attention to what you are TAKING IN through the senses.1. Choose pleasant scenes to gaze upon
Why? Because pleasant scenes are easy for the mind to digest.
2. Don’t bombard your senses with a barrage of artificial sounds and sights
Why? Because simple nature sounds or just plain silence is easier to digest.
3. Take news fasts
Why? Because the news that they feed us through the media is generally hard to digest, so take it in bits and take breaks.
4. Spend more time in nature
Why? See #2There you have it.
If you are someone who has a strong digestive fire and can indulge in ice cream any time of day or any time of year and feel balanced and happy, then you are an exception! Or you are a child, running after the ice cream truck in the middle of a hot, summer day and indulging in just one sweet ice cream cone all by itself.With that friends~
May you digest well and may life be just sweet enough for you to enjoy~.