Igniting Agni – your body’s digestive fire

The Ayurvedic concept of ‘agni’, or digestive fire, impacts your overall well-being – it’s responsible for the digestion, absorption, assimilation and transformation of food and sensations into energy. A balanced agni is key to living a healthy and fulfilling life. An unstable agni is the root of all disease. It’s really that simple.

Agni is the gatekeeper of life and it’s important to invest your time in understanding what agni is, and how you can keep yours in check. A person with a balanced agni will feel great, they have a glow and complexion that people comment on, they have a healthy body shape, normal blood pressure, stress won’t be an issue – and to top it off they’ll live longer.

Here’s a guide to the four different agni, the signs and symptoms that show up when they are out of balance and what you can do to improve yours:

Sama agni

A balanced agni, or sama agni, is what we’re striving for. People with sama agni will be eating according to their body type, not building up toxins and eliminating and clearing the body with regular bowel movements.

Those lucky enough to have sama agni will feel completely healthy, calm and loving. They won’t get many colds, they can eat almost anything without gaining weight and nothing seems to negatively affect them.

Many children are naturally born with sama agni as they are in tune with their digestion and listen to the subtle messages from their body. Although with so many highly processed foods and fast-paced, stressful lives sama agni is not that common these days.

Vishama agni

Vishama agni, or irregular metabolism, is associated with the element of air. People often feel like they are hardly eating anything, and they are eating all the right foods, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Whatever they eat ends up turning to gas and feeling heavy. Because it’s erratic, it’s not uncommon to swing from feeling ravenous, to not hungry at all. The other common symptoms are feeling bloated, cramping, dry skin, cracking in the joints, sciatica, lower back pain and trouble sleeping.

You might not be used to examining your tongue, but it really can tell you a lot about your agni. If you’ve been feeling a combination of the above, look closely in your mouth - is your tongue dry? Do you have receding gums? These are signs that your agni are out of balance and that digestive toxins are forming.

To get vishama agni under control try increasing warmth and stability in your life. Eat nourishing foods like warm soups and drink herbal teas to help digest the excess air in the system. Avoid raw and dry foods and don’t eat on the run.

Tikshna agni

Tikshna agni is linked with hypermetabolism and the aggregation of heat and fire. Signs of this being out of balance are eating all the time, yet still feeling hungry, not being able to skip meals, acid indigestion, heartburn, hot flashes, vomiting, diarrhoea, pain in the liver and other inflammatory conditions. It can also affect the skin, causing acne, hives and rashes. On an emotional level, tikshna agni tends to trigger frustration, anger and emotional outbursts.

Having a constantly dry mouth, needing to drink lots of water and always feeling thirsty are tell-tale signs of an imbalance. Other symptoms are having a red tongue, burning urine or bowel motions, blisters and ulcers.

To get tikshna agni under control steer clear of spicy, sour and fermented foods; eat cooling foods and avoid exercising in the heat of the day.

Manda agni

Manda agni, or hypometabolism, is linked to the earth element. The problem manifests in a slow metabolism and causes general heaviness, nausea, fluid retention and weight gain. If you’re often congested, suffering from allergies, tiredness or just can’t get going in the day, then the issue might be manda agni. It can also cause hormonal imbalances, diabetes and hypothyroid. Emotionally you might be feeling lethargic, bored, possessive – you might want to hibernate like a bear.

Head back into the mouth for an early point of reference. If you see a white coating over your tongue, with swelling and teeth marks this might be a sign of manda agni.

Diet and exercise play a bigger role in balancing manda agni than the others, because it’s more profoundly affected by these things. To re-kindle a sluggish digestive fire try eating smaller meals and less food, and avoid meat - instead go for warm pungent soups and drink plenty of ginger water.

Conclusion

Most people will identify with at least one of the three varieties of agni – don’t let this discourage you – sama agni is not out of reach. As you start to understand the signs and symptoms you will be able to better see when your agni is out of balance and how you can bring things back into line.A detox is a wonderful way to reignite the digestive fire, see here for details of our next online 28 Day Detox and Restoration Program.

Alternatively, try our seven day detox, you can buy it here, it’s all online with videos and live chats, so you can do it from anywhere. After just seven days, you will have gone a long way to improving your body’s metabolism, and igniting your own body’s innate intelligence to self-regulate.