Do you know what agni is? If you don’t, you should, it’s really really important. Agni is central in both yoga and Ayurveda. Agni translates from Sanskrit as fire.
Fire, in both systems is considered the vehicle of transformation. In Ayurveda, fire is the element that transforms our food into fuel. It’s called jathara agni. In fact, according to Ayurveda. Most disease originates in the gut due to some kind of imbalance in our jathara agni, or our metabolic fire.
A few years back the gut was being called the “second brain” because scientists where discovering just how connected the mind and digestive system are. Fast forward to now and with even more scientific advances in our understanding of the gut, it’s being called the “first brain”. It’s the home of our immune system and it regulates mood and hormonal functions. A lack of certain gut bacteria can lead to depression and other mood disorders. We used to think the mind signaled the gut, but now we know the gut signals the mind!
There are 4 types of jathara agni that describe how our agni is functioning and they are tied to the three doshas (vata, pitta and kapha):
- Visham agni is variable agni. Sometimes digestion and appetite are strong and at other times it’s weak. This is a function of vata dosha (air & space). There is inconsistency and irregularity in both digestion and elimination.
- Tiksha agni is too hot. This is tied to pitta dosha (fire & water). Imagine a really hot fire blazing powerfully. Put some logs on top and they are incinerated very fast, no time to slow burn and absorb nutrients.
- Mand agni is a low digestive fire. This is tied to kapha dosha (earth & water). The agni isn’t very strong so everything is slowed down and sluggish. It’s easy to gain weight and there is stagnation within the system.
- Sama agni is balanced digestive fire. This fire is just right. One gets hungry, eats just enough and is satiated. The body is able to digest and absorb nutrients without disturbance or problematic symptoms like gas, bloating, acid or constipation.
How is your digestion? Here are some clear signs your digestive fire is off: Irregular appetite, irregular elimination, constipation, loose stools, gas, heartburn, abdominal discomfort, coated tongue or lack of appetite. Learning to adjust diet and intake habits to balance your digestion will have a big effect on your health, immunity and energy levels.
If Ayurveda is interested in agni because it’s directly related to our physical health, yoga emphasizes agni because it relates to our spiritual health. Our spiritual fire is called bhuta agni and it relates to the 5 elements (earth, water, fire, air and space). We want a strong spiritual fire to help us get through the big challenges in life. Everyone faces challenges, some more than others. Life isn’t an easy or straight path. When our spiritual fire is strong and balanced, we turn these challenges into important life lessons that help us grow.
Bhuta agni transforms us and makes us better people. Instead of repeating the same old patterns over and over again, we can learn the lesson and move forward better from the experience. Instead of being at the mercy of turbulence or difficulty, we use it to thrive. We use it to be stronger. We use it to empower not weaken ourselves. We continue to grow, expand and become wiser and more skillful at life.
Signs your spiritual fire is weak: repeating the same mistakes, finding yourself in a new situation but with the same reoccurring problem, feeling stuck, feeling powerless or unable to move forward, feeling like the victim of your circumstances, feeling unmotivated about your own life, lack of self-trust.
Just as Ayurveda provides specific ways to increase or balance your digestive fire, yoga offers advanced practices to increase your spiritual fire. Practices like nauli, agni sara, uddiyana bandha and more. These are special techniques you need to learn from an experienced teacher. They aren’t taught regularly in public classes because they require preparation and deep personal understanding and context. They are better taught one on one with a teacher who can assess ability and preparedness.
If you are interested in these kinds of practices and addressing your whole self, I can help you. My Seasonal Alignment Mentorship Program covers body, breath, mind and diet. Want to find out more? Schedule a free 30 minute call with me here.
May your agni be strong and balanced!
Love & Yoga,