Ayurvedic wellness – how your “agni” digestion is a reflection of life

In Ayurveda, we look at the body as a whole being, composed of the body, mind, and spirit. That means we always look at the interconnected relationship of our whole being and we focus on the importance of nourishing ourselves in this way. For example, if you have a headache, Western medicine may have you treat the symptoms acutely with pain relief, but in Ayurveda, we look at a headache as our body’s way of communicating that there is something wrong with our digestion, since our gut is our second brain.

Or alternatively, from the mental aspect, that we’re not processing something emotionally in our lives, so our body is suppressing that emotion and shutting down, resulting in the headache. It’s a fascinating way of seeing the body’s infinite intelligence and ability to communicate and heal!

One of the most essential parts of Ayurvedic philosophy is the concept of “agni”, which in Sanskrit means “fire”. Agni refers to the digestive fire responsible for supporting the digestive process, absorbing and assimilating nutrients, which are then converted into energy and, ultimately, our consciousness.

It’s often said that our gut is our second brain, as it produces 95 per cent of the serotonin in the body, and changes in our serotonin levels affect our gut and brain, and in turn affect our mood. That’s why Ayurveda emphasises having strong agni, not only to digest and absorb nutrients, but because strong digestion also leads to a better attitude and a greater ability to easily digest life experiences. Have you thought about digestion in that way? That it is beyond the food on your plate and also related to your body’s ability to digest life experiences?

With this new perspective, that digestion is the energy available to digest everything we expose ourselves to in life, it’s important to know that exposure happens through our five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell. Ask yourself, how are those five senses in your life right now? If you see that your agni is the capacity to digest food and life and that these facets aren’t separate, you can get a great grasp on your health!

Now that you understand that the body is an apparatus that is constantly communicating, you probably want to know if you have weak agni or excessive agni. Some symptoms of weak agni include: not absorbing nutrients, constipation, lethargy, feeling heavy and bloated, not feeling hungry or feeling physically weak. Emotionally, you may feel depressed, complacent, tired or unmotivated.

Signs of too much agni are the opposite: instead of a lack of energy, you will have too much heat in the body, resulting in symptoms like diarrhoea, acid reflux, heartburn, acne, rosacea and an emotional tendency towards moments of anger and frustration.

Do either of these resonate with you, or do you feel you have balanced agni with a calm and even temperament and good digestion? If you have low agni, some great things to help you boost your digestive fire are to drink warm water instead of cool or cold, add lemon juice to warm water before meals, add more sour, pungent, salty, and bitter flavours to your meals and make sure to eat warm or cooked foods, which are easier to digest.

If you have high agni, make sure to eat cooling and calming foods for your gut, so avoid caffeine, alcohol or spices, and anything that produces heat in the body. Focus on consuming cooling, drying, light and grounding foods. A kitchari cleanse is also a great way to bring your body back into balance, with a simple meal either daily or over a series of days that will help you cool, calm and align the inflammation in your gut.

Ayurveda is basically an energy management system and it’s all about how we process and transmit energy and agni in the body. So, how are you showing up for yourself physically, mentally and spiritually?

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