We utilize energy for all physiological actions and functions in our body. In this process, our tissues are constantly being broken down and rebuilt. They receive needed replenishment for this activity from food, water and air.
When we eat, our body does not utilize all foods in the same manner. Food needs to be transformed into physical form to help in building new tissues. The energy responsible for this discrimination and transformation is called Agni.
An Ayurvedic Definition of Agni
1) Fire, one of the nine substances (Dravya), one of the five elements (Bhoota)
2) Digestive power
Agni and The 5 Elements
Agni is one of the Panchabhutas, or five elements – one of the foundational principles of Ayurvedic philosophy. According to this theory, everything in the universe is made up of these five elements. Agni referred to as the “Teja Mahabhuta” in the body. It governs our life, strength, health, energy, luster, Ojas (fluid of life, responsible for vigor, heartiness, immunity and more) and Tejas (radiance). Agni represents the root of healthy life when balanced. If deranged, it causes disease. Also, Agni keeps us alive. If Agni is extinguished, a person dies.
Functions of Agni in our body
- Digests food
- Nourishes the Doshas (the three energies governing all functions of the body)
- Balanced Vata (Air + Ether) creates energy
- Balanced Pitta (Fire + Water) creates radiance
- Balanced Kapha (Water + Earth) creates strength
- Nourishes Dhatus (tissues of the body)
- Creates Ojas, Tejas and Prana (Subtle Doshas)
- Clears mind, thoughts and ideas
- Maintains life force
Tips for maintaining balanced Agni and metabolism
The choices we make not just daily, but throughout the day influence the status of our Agni. When Agni is strong, we are able to sustainably digest and assimilate what we consume – food, thoughts, actions and ideas. When Agni is weak, we are not able to digest what we intake. We are not what we eat. We are what we digest. Thus, a strong, balanced Agni is crucial to our health!
Each individual will require different lifestyle choices to balance Agni for their unique constitution, though there are general guidelines we can all follow:
- Eat 3 healthy meals a day and according to your unique needs
- Avoid consuming things you know tax your system (such as wheat, dairy, spicy food, raw foods, etc)
- Eat your largest and most diverse meal when digestive fire is strongest: between 10am-2pm
- Ginger tea can stimulate digestion
- Avoid cold beverages – they can extinguish the fire of our Agni
- Don’t overeat – end a meal before the “full” feeling
- When hunger strikes, don’t ignore it – you need fuel to keep the fire going!
- Get plenty of sleep so our system can rest and replenish