Agni or the “Digestive Fire,” is one of the most important principles in the Ancient science of Ayurveda. It refers broadly to our ability to process all aspects of life, including food, experiences, memories, and sensory impressions. Agni is responsible for absorbing the nutrients and essential elements the body needs while burning off waste products (Agni is the root of the English word “ignite”).
If our Agni is strong, we’re able to digest food efficiently and easily assimilate our daily experiences. On the other hand, if Agni is weak, our body won’t digest well, creating toxic residue or Ama that lodges deep in our cells.
According to Ayurvedic teaching, strong Agni leads to excellent health and well-being, while the accumulation of Ama results in the slow deterioration of the body and—ultimately—disease. The inability to metabolize emotions produces just as much toxic residue as undigested food. In fact, pent-up anger, long-held sadness, and lingering guilt are more debilitating for most people than problems with physical digestion.
Ojas: The Vital Nectar of Life
If we desire perfect health, it’s crucial to eliminate the Ama stored in our body and focus on producing Ojas, which is the Essential Life Energy. A Sanskrit term meaning “vigor,” Ojas is the pure and subtle substance that’s extracted from food that has been completely digested. Ojas circulates throughout the bodily tissues and heart, sustaining the physical self, bringing clarity to the mind and balancing the emotions. In short, when the body produces Ojas, the vital Nectar Of Life, we feel blissful. The cells sing with happiness because both the mind and the body are receiving the nourishment they need.
To promote the creation and flow of Ojas, we need a good diet focused on pure foods, referred to as “Sattvic” in Ayurveda. The body can easily digest Sattvic food and extract its Ojas or Prime Energy. The most Sattvic foods include almonds, sesame, honey, rice, and fruits. It’s not necessary to eat these foods exclusively — just focus on having them on a regular basis.
Some foods are difficult if not impossible for the body to convert into Ojas, including meat, poultry, fish, oily foods, cheese, leftovers, processed food, and items with an excess of sour or salty tastes. Food that has been canned, frozen, or reheated won’t produce as much Ojas as freshly prepared meals. In addition, consuming alcohol and smoking cigarettes destroys Ojas.
The following chart will help you determine whether you have healthy Ojas or an accumulation of Ama in your body. If you’ve been storing toxicity, you can choose now to begin to nourish yourself and enjoy increasing levels of joy and well-being in your life.
|Signs of Ojas||Signs of Ama|
|You feel rested upon awakening||Bad breath|
|Your skin has a healthy glow||Coated tongue|
|Your tongue is clear and pink||Dull appetite|
|Your body feels light, regardless of the number on the scale||Delicate digestion|
|You feel centered throughout the day||Sluggish or irritable elimination|
|Your digestion is strong without bloating||Generalized pain|
|You feel energized & enthusiastic||Fatigue|
|Your mind is clear||Depression|
|Your body has a pleasant smell||Susceptibility to infections|
|You rarely get sick||Difficulty manifesting intentions|
Creating Nurturing Mealtimes
Our experience while we’re eating is just as important as the kinds of foods we’re consuming. If we’re having a fight with our spouse over the dinner table, our stomach cells are aware of the upset and send distressed chemical messages throughout the body. As a result, we’re not able to create Ojas because of the indigestible emotions coursing throughout our cells and organs.
Since Ojas is the by-product of all the signals our body receives, we need to create a nurturing atmosphere for our meals, paying attention to all of the senses — taste, sound, sight, touch, and smell. Here are a few tips for making your body happy while you eat:
- Eat in a settled atmosphere
- Don’t eat when you’re upset.
- Always sit down to eat (don’t eat in front of your computer or TV or while you’re driving).
- Only eat when you’re hungry.
- Dine at a moderate pace. Don’t gulp down your food or eat too slowly.
- Include all six tastes (sweet, sour, astringent, bitter, salty, and pungent) at each meal.
Given the crucial role of Agni to health and well-being, how do we keep our Inner Fire burning brightly?
The essential step is living life more consciously, making choices that nurture the flow of Life Energy, while minimizing those that deplete it.
1. Unconditional Encouragement. A simple way to make more healing choices is to ask yourself whether you would encourage someone you Love unconditionally to have whatever experience you are considering. Follow the example of a conscious, loving mother who only wants her child to eat nourishing food, engage in loving relationships, and avoid situations that create unnecessary distress.
2. Unclutter Your Life. Your Inner Fire is weakened by having too much wood or “stuff” in your life ― too much debt, too many financial commitments, too many complicated, demanding relationships, and too much clutter. Consciously survey your life and ask yourself: What am I carrying with me from the past that is no longer serving me in the present, and what would I like to bring into my life that I have previously neglected?
3. Rest, Exercise, and Meditate. Balance your activity with rest by having a regular meditation practice and getting replenishing sleep each night.
4. Practice conscious eating. Practice conscious eating. Your digestion is affected by the conversations at the table, your environment, and your mood when you eat. If you’re having an argument or watching a violent TV show, your stomach will knot and your digestion will be disturbed. To extract the most nourishment from your food, never eat when you feel upset. Create a settled, peaceful atmosphere for your meals, eat only when you’re hungry, and choose fresh, organic food whenever possible.
5. Get regular detoxification treatments. No matter how consciously we live, modern life exposes us to a variety of toxins that deplete our digestive power – from pollutants in our food, water, and air, to the more subtle toxicity of negative media and the hyper-stimulus of cell phones, Blackberries, and the Internet. To keep Agni’s metabolic power strong, it’s important to get regular detoxification treatments.
*Taken from TheChopraCenter