What Your Digestive Fire is Telling You! Subtypes of Agni Explained
According to Ayurvedic medicine, in order to remain in balance and harmony, healthy agni is key. If you are unfamiliar with the term, agni, it is the Sanskrit word for fire. Being the fire element, agni is associated with pitta dosha and has the qualities of heat, lightness, dryness, sharpness and subtleness. The primary function of agni in the body is digestion, absorption and assimilation, also known as metabolism. The functions of agni do not just help to metabolize food, agni also enables digestion and transformation of all sensory information from the outside world. For example, agni assists the eyes in converting light from the visible world into nerve impulses that the brain can then transform into an image; therefore, enabling the sense of vision. There are 40 main types of agni in the body that influence appetite, body temperature, weight, skin complexion, eye luster and intelligence. Psychologically, agni is responsible for attention, appreciation, recognition, ambition and competitiveness.
The most well-known and discussed type of agni is contained within the stomach and is called jatharagni. Called agni for short, jatharagni is considered the central fire in the digestive system. When jatharagni is functioning optimally, Ayurveda explains that one has sama agni. The Sanskrit word, sama, means balanced; thus, the term ‘sama agni’ literally translates to ‘balanced fire’. Sama agni is present when an individual has a steady appetite, symptom-free digestion, is an appropriate weight for their body type and has little to no signs of ama (toxicity) in the body. In the mind, sama agni feels like a sense of calm, clarity and awareness.
Since the 3 doshas (vata, pitta and kapha) are dynamic rather than stagnant, they have the potential to have an adverse effect on the health of jatharagni. Below we share with you the 3 imbalanced states of jatharagni and explain which dosha (vata, pitta or kapha) has become disturbed in the body and/or mind. We hope that this understanding will give you more insight into the current state of your own digestion.
Vishama Agni (vata aggravated digestion)
Associated with aggravated or imbalanced vata dosha, vishama agni translates to ‘variable fire’. When agni is variable, jatharagni is erratic and unstable due to the cold quality of vata slowing down metabolism while its mobile quality creates irregularity and fluctuations in appetite and the ability to optimally digest food.
Physical symptoms of vishama agni include:
Irregular appetite (sometimes hungry, sometimes not)
Abdominal distention and/or bloating
Non smelly gas
Constipation and/or alternating constipation & diarrhea
Gurgling in the intestines
Mental & emotional symptoms of vishama agni include:
Healing Vishama Agni
In order to heal and balance vishama agni, it is recommended in Ayurveda to follow a vata pacifying protocol that includes:
Vata pacifying foods like root vegetables and healthy fats. Check out our Vata Balancing Foods List!
Vata pacifying digestive spices like ginger, cumin and cinnamon which you can find in our Vata Spice Blend.
Incorporating a vata digestive churna 30 minutes before each meal. Learn about digestive churnas.
Sip on a moisturizing, grounding and nourishing tea like our Hydrate Blend Tea.
Focus on having meals at regular times on a daily basis.
Eat while seated.
Eat with awareness, free from electronic devices, and without distractions.
Slowly chew your food.
Take 3 breaths at the beginning and end of each meal.
Tikshna Agni (pitta aggravated digestion)
Associated with aggravated or imbalanced pitta dosha, tikshna agni translates to ‘sharp fire’. When agni is sharp, jatharagni is too hot, too high and too strong. Furthermore, hypermetabolism is experienced. This is due to the fiery nature contained within pitta.
Physical symptoms of tikshna agni include:
Burning Indigestion and/or Heartburn
Loose Stools and/or Diarrhea
Mental & emotional symptoms of tikshna agni include:
Being overly critical
Healing Tikshna Agni
In order to heal and balance tikshna agni, it is recommended in Ayurveda to follow a pitta pacifying protocol that includes:
Pitta pacifying foods that are cooling, sweet and heavy. Check out our Pitta Balancing Foods List!
Pitta pacifying digestive spices like coriander, fennel and cumin which you can findin our Pitta Spice Blend.
Incorporating a pitta digestive churna 30 minutes before each meal. Learn about digestive churnas.
Sip on a soothing tea like our Cool & Calm Blend Tea.
Say grace before meals.
Have the largest meal at mid-day.
Eat with awareness, free from electronic devices and without distractions.
Eat in a calm environment.
Take time to rest after meals.
Manda Agni (kapha aggravated digestion)
Associated with aggravated or imbalanced kapha dosha, manda agni translates to ‘dull fire’. When agni is dull, jatharagni is low and slow due to the heavy, dense, cool and moist qualities of kapha. In other words, when one is experiencing manda agni, there is simply not enough heat to properly digest, absorb and assimilate foods and nutrients; hence, a person experiences hypometabolism.
Physical symptoms of manda agni include:
Heaviness in the stomach
Excessive mucus accumulation
Constipation due to little peristaltic action
Mucus in the stools
Mental & emotional symptoms of manda agni include:
Healing Manda Agni
In order to heal and balance manda agni, it is recommended in Ayurveda to follow a kapha pacifying protocol that includes:
Kapha pacifying foods that are hot, light and dry. Check out our Kapha Balancing Foods List!
Kapha pacifying digestive spices like pippali, ginger and cinnamon, which you can find in our Kapha Spice Blend.
Incorporating a kapha digestive churna 30 minutes before each meal. Learn about digestive churnas.
Sip on a spicy and light tea like our Rooibos Chai Blend Tea.
Have the largest meal at mid-day.
Skip snacking if possible.
Allow 3-4 hours between meals.
Slowly chew your food.
Eat until 75% full.
Healthy Digestion this Holiday Season & Beyond
As Thanksgiving swiftly approaches, our desire is that you can reflect on the various states of agni and consider how you can incorporate the above-suggested Ayurvedic practices into your daily routine to support your unique needs. After all, as Ayurveda explains, one is only as healthy as one’s agni; thus, let this understanding serve as a jumping-off point to restore the health and harmony of agni within your body and mind.