Agni is our digestive fire (metabolism) which is responsible for processing and absorbing the foods we eat. It is similar in its function to Pitta. Pitta contains heat-energy, which helps digestion. This heat-energy is Agni. Pitta and Agni are essentially the same with this subtle difference: Pitta is the container and Agni is the contents.
Depending on the strength of our individual Agni, each person can digest certain foods better than others. So rather than “You are what you eat”, Ayurveda says, “You are what you digest”.
We can eat the best food but if we can’t digest it properly, we will be on the path to getting some sort of imbalance or disease. When Agni is not fuelled properly it can run too hot, or not hot enough. In both cases, malfunctioning Agni creates Ama. Ama is undigested food that turns into toxins and is responsible for most diseases as it clogs channels in the body and mind. Have a look at the Ama questionaire here.
Agni destroys foreign bacteria and toxins in the stomach and small and large intestines when it is functioning properly. In this way, it protects us from harmful bacteria.
Ayurveda states that energy, resistance to diseases, health, longevity and life are based on Agni. Also, courage, growth of body, luster, ojas (immunity), smooth metabolism and life itself are due to Agni.
Agni is more than just the good digestion of food. It plays a role in the metabolism on many levels right down to the cellular level. It is also involved in the “digestion” of thoughts and experiences and therefore plays an important part for the human organism as a whole.
Signs Your Agni is Low
- whitish coating on tongue –> sign of Ama (especially in the morning)
- weak or loss of appetite
- dull complexion
- clouded thinking
- bloating, gas, distension, burping
- lethargy or grogginess (also first thing in the morning)
- heavy stools
- slow digestion
Signs Your Agni is High
- strong belching
- burning feeling in digestive tract
- heavy perspiration
- feeling agitated
Signs Your Agni is Healthy
- pink tongue
- being hungry for the next meal
- having regular bowel movements
- abundant energy
- clear and glowing skin
- clarity of mind
- bright eyes
- good immunity
- good digestion
- no discomfort after eating
- no gas
- pleasant body odour and breath
Tips on Improving Agni
- drink Agni tea (see recipe below).
- avoid overeating, eating too fast or on the run and not paying attention to your meal.
- eat right size meals:
- eat a small breakfast – Agni is low in the morning and a small breakfast will kindle the Agni fire
- eat a large lunch – lunch should be our biggest meal of the day as Agni is strongest at noon.
- eat a small dinner – because Agni relates to the sun, it is low when the sun sets.
- refrain from eating when upset or angry – emotions can disturb our digestion.
- avoid eating old and stale food – fresh is best.
- cook with ghee – small amounts of ghee is great for Agni. You can cook with ghee or add a tsp. of ghee onto your food before you eat.
- use spices for cooking – (use different spices depending on your Ayurvedic constitution).
- drink water between meals – as water will dilute your digestive juices and enzymes it is best to drink between meals and avoid drinking water 30 minutes before or after a meal.
- experience real hunger – eat when you are actually hungry and have digested your previous meal.
- regular Yoga practice – certain Yoga postures can improve the digestion and Agni. For example these Yoga Postures and all Twists in Yoga can be beneficial.
- 1.25l water
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper (not for Pitta type people)
- 2 handfuls minced ginger root
- ½ tsp rock salt (eg Himalayan salt)
- 2 Tbsp honey
- Juice of ½ lemon or lime
Bring all of the above ingredients (except for the honey and lemon juice) to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. Add the lemon or lime juice and the honey. Do not boil the juice and honey. Pour into a thermos and enjoy throughout the day!
I recommend drinking this Agni tea for 2 weeks or until you show signs and symptoms of having a healthy Agni (see above).