Holistic science of Ayurveda teaches us that our health and welfare depends upon one main factor, and that is how strong our digestive system is. That means the ability to digest everything we take in from the environment. This includes not only tangible substances like our food and drink, but also our capabilities, emotions, and the imprints we take in via our sensory gateways. And this Digestive system depends on “Digestive fire. “
Agni is the Sanskrit term for the “digestive fire” that breaks down the food and other things we ingest from the environs, embracing what is useful, and disregarding the rest. Ayurveda views Agni as the very source of life and teaches us that impaired Agni is at the root of every imbalance and disease.
When our digestive capacity, or Agni, is strong, we digest, eliminate efficiently, and produce a subtle essence called Ojas. Ojas is a Sanskrit word that means strength, vital essence, or our immune system. According to Ayurveda, Ojas is the basis for clarity of awareness, physical asset, and immunity. On the other hand, if our Agni is weak by not eating right, lack of physical activity, negative emotions, or unhealthy daily routine, our digestion will be vulnerable and produce toxins in the body. According to Ayurveda, these toxins are known as ama and is the root cause of all diseases
Ama can be explained, for example, as the result of a disrupted microbiome, which allows undigested food, bacteria, or environmental toxins to enter the bloodstream. Ama can thereby activate the immune system and create inflammation and many different diseases. From Ayurveda view point, a powerful agni is capable of burning ama and is the key to good health. So now we know that to have good health, we must have balanced Agni and to have balanced Agni, we must follow a healthy diet. Now the big question is, what is a healthy diet?
These days, whoever is looking for recommendations for a healthy diet is often challenged with numerous trendy diets and meal plans that are sometimes difficult for the individual to assess.
From its wealth of experience over millennia, the science of Ayurveda can help us better find our way through the jungle of modern nutritional trends.
Ayurveda has always offered tailor-made diet recommendations according to the individual constitution or mind-body type. Based on constitution, as well as the particular season and time of day, Ayurveda also provides valuable tips on how to optimally prepare foods so that it can get digested easily. Temperature, the correct herbs, and different spices also play an important role here.
Here are some Ayurvedic ways to strengthen your Agni:
- Wake up during brahmamuhurta - Brahmamuhurta or Amrit vela—the ambrosial hours—is the morning period an hour and a half before sunrise. After a good night’s sleep, the mind is refreshed, calm, and serene. There is a preponderance of sattva or purity in mind at this time, as well as in the atmosphere. Sleeping during the later than 6:00 a.m. causes the channels of communication to be clogged with impurities, leading to a dull mind, depressed moods and slow communication between heart, soul & mind and ultimately leads to slow digestion.
- Meditate regularly—Studies are increasingly confirming the genetic changes that occur with regular meditation, which can help restore the body’s homeostasis, including the processes controlling digestion. To achieve maximum benefit, meditate for 10 to 15 minutes daily.
- Stay physically active, whether it is a yoga every morning, or a daily walk— Regular exercises like walking and yoga improves circulation and strength. It improves digestion and elimination & induces good sleep. Exercise daily to half of your capacity, which is until sweat forms on the forehead, armpits, nose & spine.
- Don’t overeat—When we overeat, we cannot properly break down the food. That leads to indigestion, which leads to more gas formation, discomfort, or bloating. Ayurveda recommends that we leave one-third of our stomach empty to allow space for our body to digest our meal easily.
- Fasting - Ayurveda depicts fasting as Upavasa. It is characterized as Forbearance from all the four types of food which is consist of chewing of any material, licking off any food, gulping, and drinking. Fasting, without nourishment in the viscera, leads to the important destruction of many metabolic toxins, ignite the digestive fire along with clearance of blockages in the channels. This process helps to combat illness.So Light fasting, properly carried out, helps to stimulate the lower gut microbiome and, from an Ayurvedic perspective, would strengthen and reignite the crucial Agni. And Spring season is the best time to do fasting.
- Lower your stress –Stress and negative emotions impact our digestion. When we are stressed, we may get heartburn, lose our appetite, and it is difficult for us to make lifestyle changes. We often tend to compensate for stress by spoiling ourselves with sweets, alcohol, cigarettes, or spicy foods, or in other word; we indulge ourselves in emotional eating. Ayurveda offers yoga and meditation as alternatives that promote deep rest, relieve stress, purify the mind and consciousness, and pave the way for change.
Ayurveda emphasizes, we are not what we eat, but “we are what we digest.” To make a healthy foundation for good physical health and mental wellbeing, let's follow Ayurveda wisdom to strengthen our digestive system.
Meenakshi Gupta BAMS, MD Ayurveda (Gold Medalist), RMAS, Panchakarma Specialist, International keynote speaker Founder, Director AyurRoots Ayurveda Wellness, Dallas/Fort Worth Area