What is Agni?

The sages follow the laws of nature and therefore their bodies are free from strange diseases. They do not lose any of their natural functions and their spirit of life is never exhausted. -Inner Classic

Agni is your digestive fire or strength. It is also associated with metabolism, as we refer to it in modern medicine. While there is a strong emphasis on the digestive system, agni is also related to how you digest life. This makes it important to overall wellbeing, beyond the physical body.

It represents your ability to transform food, thoughts and experiences from your external environment into useful energy or information to support your internal environment.

While agni is the term used to describe digestive capacity in Ayurveda, in Chinese Medicine we use the concept of Spleen and Stomach Qi. These two organs are associated with the Earth element. In Five Element Theory, the Earth element is generated by Fire, so again you see the connection between the element of Fire and digestion. You need some heat to transform energy from one form to another; however, maintaining strong Stomach and Spleen Qi (or agni) without getting too hot or accumulating heat in the body is essential for overall health.

For example, if the Stomach gets too hot, it burns up all the fluids that aid digestion leaving you with gnawing hunger, slight burning pain, possible acid reflux and other associated symptoms. On the other end of the spectrum, if the Stomach has lost it’s flame and is too cold, you lose your appetite, develop nausea or vomiting, as well as pain. So, as you can see, developing a relationship and deeper understanding of your digestive capacity can help prevent potential problems at either end of the spectrum.

You come into this world with a certain constitutional tendency around digestive strength. Luckily it is also highly influenced by decisions you make everyday. There are many simple ways to cultivate a healthy digestive fire. A few of these are:

  • Regular mealtimes
  • Decreasing snacking in between meals
  • Avoiding excessive water or cold beverages with meals
  • Cutting down sugary, greasy or heavy foods (especially at night)
  • Eating slowly and in a relaxed environment

Everyone can benefit from following these simple lifestyle suggestions. I will be sharing more around this topic in my upcoming workshop Yoga for Women’s Wellbeing at One Body Studios. The first class of the series is focused on agni, which I feel is a vital part of women’s health. The class will include pranayama and asana that can be used to balance your digestive energy, as well as discussion around acupressure points and other self-care techniques that you can use at home. It’s not too late to sign up and start to change your digestive health!

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