Imagine that you are sitting around a campfire. It is burning just right, and every once in a while you feed it a little wood and it gets a little brighter. You’re roasting marshmallows, and everything is perfect. Then you take a gallon of ice water and pour it on the fire.
What?? Wait a minute, why would you do that? Now you can’t cook the marshmallows, or anything else. This is what we do to our digestive fire. We drink huge amounts of iced drinks with our meals, thus greatly hindering our body’s ability to digest food.
Agni is the Sanskrit word for digestive fire. This fire breaks down food and also is responsible for assimilating other things we ingest from our environment, and processing emotions. Our ability to digest is of paramount importance to our overall health. Physical digestion starts in the mouth, with saliva mixing with food as we chew, then the cooking progress begins in earnest in the stomach.
The functions of agni include physical digestion, sense perception, cellular metabolism and mental assimilation. So when agni is balanced and functioning well, your immunity is increased and your skin has a healthy luster. Your emotions are more in balance, as digestion is more than just physical. When agni is not functioning well, everything slows down in the body, and emotions will also be more negative.
Common ways that agni becomes weak are:
- habitually eating the same foods
- eating tasteless foods
- drinking too much water with meals
- staying up late
- eating at irregular times
- not exercising enough.
Ama can be found in all chronic conditions. It develops when food or experience is not completely digested. Over time, the effects of show up in a variety of ways:
- extra weight
- skin problems
- heart disease
- bone problems
- nervous conditions
- degenerative conditions
How do you improve or balance your agni? Classic Ayurvedic texts give guidelines to encourage digestion and prevent the creation of ama:
- Eat when you are hungry.
- Don’t eat when you are not hungry.
- Eat to only 75% full.
- Don’t eat again until previous meal is digested. (3-6 hours)
- Avoid large amounts of liquid before, during, or after meals.
- Make lunch the largest meal of the day.
- Avoid ice-cold food and beverages.
- Chew well
- Avoid large quantities of raw and uncooked food
- Do not eat when you are upset
- Do not eat too quickly or too slowly, and chew well.
That sounds like a lot, especially if you have a busy life, as most of us do. And habits are hard to change! A good starting place is to drink warm or hot liquids instead of cold drinks, and drink very little with or near meals. Sipping hot water all day long is an excellent way to melt away ama, and for additional benefit, spices can be added.
Here’s a thermos recipe for “CCF Tea”:
Place 1 tsp fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, and 1/4 tsp cumin seeds in a tea ball in a thermos of hot water. Drink it throughout the day, finishing by 3 or 4 pm. These three seeds have a host of benefits, the primary one being improved digestion, which leads to detoxification.
Try this for a week, and I think you will see results. Stop putting out the fire!