What is Agni and why should we care about it?
In Ayurveda, we look at our digestion as a marker of our immunity. If we are digesting food and life experiences well, it means that we are reasonably healthy. Our inner digestive fire is known as our Agni, the Sanskrit word for fire; and it is our work in life to keep our Agni balanced, well fired and happy. We can see the signs of good Agni visibly in someone. They generally have a healthy glow and radiance and do not fall ill easily.
Why is maintaining good Agni important especially right now?
Good, balanced Agni helps our body to experience its ultimate state of vitality. We don’t feel depleted, we don’t feel sluggish and we are able to eliminate waste matter efficiently out of our bodies, which helps to keep our immunity functioning at its optimal level, thus allowing us to keep flus and viruses more easily at bay.
How do we keep our Agni happy? Here are a few tips.
- Choose simple, wholesome foods and eat them ideally lightly steamed or cooked. Cooked food is easier on our digestion than raw foods, especially in cold weather aka the flu season.
- Eat diversely and what is in season. Eating what is local and in season is essential to maintaining more harmony with our larger environment, which is what we are trying to do to maintain healthy gut flora.
- Eat unsprayed, organic foods as much as is possible – the toxins in soil and pesticides leaks directly into food grown in this way and right into our bodies. But I know you know this.
- Eat moderately: The Ayurvedic maxim is to eat 1/3 solid food, 1/3 liquid food and to leave 1/3 of your stomach empty so that your Agni has room to function well. i.e. It is not crowded.
- Avoid cold water and especially ice water. This is akin to throwing cold water on a smoldering fire. It will put it out. Instead sip warm water and digestive teas to gain the opposite effect.
- Do not snack all day. This is hard, especially with so many of us at home and close to our pantries and refrigerators. But I want you to understand this point!!! Because it is so so important!!!
When we eat constantly through a day, we add undigested food to digested food already in our stomach, which confuses our body and slows down our metabolic fire, just as if we were adding wet logs (new food) to a burning fire (previously digested food). This creates sluggishness and slows down our digestion.
Our bodies and our bellies love routine; and we learn how to secrete stomach acids according to when we are most used to eating a meal so we prime our body to digest food well.
So the best thing you can do for your digestion right now, whether you are still at home, or venturing out, is to focus on creating a routine and stick to it.
Ideally, eat a light breakfast that lasts you until lunch. Make lunch your most substantial meal. If you are starving at 4 p.m., have a light snack – possibly a handful of nuts or maybe some fruit; and then eat something stewy or soupy at dinner so your body does not have to work too hard at night to digest your food.
- Finally, pay attention to how you feel after eating. Notice if your food gives you a sense of energy and vitality vs. making you feel tired.