78: Ayurveda Series 2 – Rekindling Your Agni/Digestive Fire

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One of the greatest things we can do, not just for our digestion but for our life, is to develop a strong and balanced Digestive Fire, also known in the world of Ayurveda as Agni. In this episode I am going to walk you through some simple tips you can implement right away that will re-balance your digestive fire, forever change the way you relate to food and take your health to the next level!

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P.S. Always listen to your intuition (and your doctor or practitioner) before trying any new health practice.


Transcript

One of the greatest things we can do, for both digestion and life in general, is to develop a strong and balanced Digestive Fire. In the world of Ayurveda, this is known as agni. 

To get the most out of this post, I recommend reviewing my Ayurveda Series 1 (link). There I explain how to understand your unique body type, whether it be Vata, Pitta or Kapha. The following tips are generally tri-doshic, meaning they apply to all doshas, or body types. Utilizing this knowledge will re-balance your digestive fire, forever change the way you relate to food, and take your health to the next level!

There are four different types of agni—Sama agni, Vishama agni, Tikshna agni, and Manda agni. It’s important that we understand these. If you have a Pitta constitution with a tendency for acid reflux, for example, and you start following suggestions to fire up your agni like sipping dry ginger root tea, it could tip you into Tikshna agni, which is too hot and too sharp. The beauty about Ayurveda is that it’s an understanding of YOU. You don’t need anyone to tell you what is right and wrong. You can tap into your intuition and make decisions that feel great for you and your body.

Water is fundamental for life, but be mindful of when you drink it. Imagine you walk over to a fire with some logs and kindling in one hand, and a bucket of cold water in the other. Before you put the logs on you tip half of the water on the fire. The flames die down and then you put the logs on. These logs could have burned beautifully if you had not put the water on, but now the logs have dampened the fire. This is what happens when we drink water before or during a meal. Treat water like a precious commodity. Sip it and enjoy each mouthful. If you guzzle water, not only does your body not know what to do with it, but it dampens your digestive fire.

Does this mean you can’t drink anything during meals? Not at all. Sipping small amounts of warm or hot water throughout a meal can be supportive, and a small pinch of dry ginger root in your hot water can be a great digestive aid during meals if you are more Vata or Kapha. Additionally, warm water thirty minutes before a meal hydrates your tissues in preparation for digestion.

In Ayurveda, the general rule when you eat is that you should dedicate a third of your stomach to food, a third to liquid, and a third to air. Don’t forget that food has liquid in it already, plus you generate liquid by chewing and creating more saliva. To make this simpler, pause eating before you get full, close your eyes, put your hand on your belly, and tune into your feeling of fullness. Once you reach around 80% it’s time to stop. Simple.

Here’s an interesting passage from (SOURCE) with a little advice from Jesus:

“And when you eat, have above you the angel of air, and below you that angel of water. Breathe long and deeply at all your meals, that the angel of air may bless your repasts. And chew well your food with your teeth, that it becomes water, and that the angel of water turns it into blood in your body. And eat slowly, as if it were a prayer you make to the Lord. For I tell you truly, the power of God enters into you if you eat after this manner at his table…”

Don’t you love that? He was talking about food, air and water. Each mouthful should be liquid. That means no lumps. It takes around forty chews or more to get most foods into this state. And what does this do apart from making it slide into your digestion system already pre-digested? It tells your tummy what kind of food is on its way down so it can produce the correct enzymes and hydrochloric acid. It also slows you down. Eating slowly is important, and each meal should take twenty to thirty minutes.

Not only should you eat slowly, but pay attention to portion size. In other words, don’t overeat. Stop at 80%. Fill up your plate or bowl (the latter is great for visualizing the size of your stomach), and don’t go back for seconds. Throwing a bunch of big logs on a small fire will only put it out.

The timing of your meals is also super important. Digestion is weakest in the morning as your body is still waking up. Your morning meal should be light and easy to digest. Your digestive fire has been burning overnight, but as you have been asleep it has gotten dimmer and dimmer. Find ways to gently rekindle your agni in the morning, rather than jumping out of bed and downing a big glass of cold water. Warm water with a squeeze of lemon and pinch of sea salt can do wonders for waking up your digestion.

The three doshas occupy different parts of the day. Between 6:00 am and10:00 am is the Kapha time of day. Kapha is slow and sluggish, so you can see why your breakfast needs to be light.

The PItta time of day is from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm. This when your digestive fire is strongest and why lunch, according to Ayurveda, should be your biggest meal of the day, and also when you eat harder to digest foods such as animal proteins and raw vegetables. There is, however, an exception to this rule. If you don’t have time to eat lunch slowly, you may be better having your bigger meal at dinner so you are in a more relaxed resting and digestive state.

Dinner takes place in the Vata part of the day, from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm. There should be at least three hours between bedtime and your last meal. Everyone has different daily routines, so tweak your eating schedule according to your needs, but do your best to shift your last meal of the day to the earliest time possible.

Dr. Suhas Kshirsagar discusses the Ayurvedic cycles in more depth in his brilliant book, Change Your Schedule, Change Your Life (link). You can also check out his interview on the Melissa Ambrosini Show (link). Ayurvedic cycles are fascinating and I highly recommend taking a closer look.

When was the last time you felt hungry? With an abundance of food these days, snacking is the norm and often endorsed by various diet fads. To support your agni, you should leave four to five hour spaces between meals.

A typical day for me is breakfast at 7:30 am, lunch at 12:00 pm, a snack at 2:30 pm, and dinner at 5:30 pm. Yes, I know what you are thinking—that didn’t add up. But this is where bio-individuality comes into play. My Vata Pitta body type has a metabolism like a rocket burning through rocket fuel. That extra snack at 2:30 pm keeps me in an anabolic state, because my Pitta drive tends to burn out my Vata and leave me in a catabolic state. Most people, even Vata Pittas, do not need to worry about this. Eating three meals at around 7:30 am, 12:30 pm and 5:30 pm is bang on.

Eating consistently at the same time each day, plus waking up and going to bed at the same time, is an amazing way to keep your body on a schedule that will boost and balance your digestive fire. Plus, it gives your body time to clear out Ama, or undigested foods, which is important because in Ayurveda these are the root of all disease.

When you eat, just eat. Don’t eat standing up, don’t work, read, listen to a podcast, watch TV, or scroll through Instagram. Just do one thing: eat.

When you finish eating, try sitting and just letting your body rest and digest for a few minutes. If you can, take a twenty min walk after each meal. This not only boosts your digestive power, but will get you your 10,000 steps a day!

Finally, chill out. Stress is a real agni killer. It goes without saying that meditation is the best way to reduce stress. If you need a little help, check out episode eight of my podcast, Meditation Made Easy (link).

Implementing any one of these simple strategies will help you see a difference. As soon as you have mastered that strategy, implement another, and another. It’s a marathon, not a race, but following these tips will go a long way towards taking your health and life to the next level.

P.S. Always listen to your intuition (and your doctor or practitioner) before trying any new health practice.

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  1. Jane
    June 18, 2018

    I seriously loved this episode. Together with the new single, Always You ( I say this each time, but this HAS to be my favourite!) it made be come alive this morning!
    Cannot wait for the documentary. I am finding the whole Ayurveda subject so fascinating!

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