3 Ayurvedic Secrets to Achieving Optimal Digestion


Let's kick this off first by understanding that agni is our digestive fire. A properly functioning digestive fire is super important because if our digestive fire doesn't function right (too hot, too low, too variable), it can create imbalance in our bodies and minds very easily. In fact, it is said in Ayurveda, 90% of all disease is caused by malfunctioning agni.

Allow me to tell you a story about what agni is and what it does.

Agni is a little fire that burns behind our belly button. It rises and sets with the sun. When we wake up in the morning, Agni is quite small, it's just waking up like we are (it's got its little outstretched arms and it's yawning and it is getting ready for the day). 

For breakfast, it's important to have just a little something to eat. Think about when a fire is small, like a little matchstick. Would you put a log on it? No, because the fire would go out. Would you dump a bunch water on it? No, the fire would go out. It is best to have a small, warm breakfast to kindle agni. The goal is to grow agni because the stronger agni is by noon, the better we're going to digest our food for the entire day.

You see, agni is the fire element and the sun is fire. So, the stronger the sun gets, the higher it gets in the sky and the bigger agni is going to grow (building on our principle 'like increases like').

With a small breakfast and that little bit of kindling, agni gets bigger. Now, raise your hands, how many of you get hungry by around 10 or 10:30 a.m.? Cool. That's because agni has finished digesting breakfast and it's asking for more food. It's like, "Hey, I'm a bigger fire now, I'm ready for more food!"

By 10 or 10:30 a.m. we might want a little snack, fruit is great if you're hungry. If you're not hungry, don't eat.

By noon, we should be hungry for lunch. So check this out: Lunch should be our biggest meal because the fires are all in alignment. We are primed for digesting our food at that time. Agni says, "Thank youuuuu! This gives me a lot to work on."

If we did our job and ate a big enough lunch, we shouldn't be snacky in the afternoon. We just won't feel hungry because agni is busy working on transforming all of the food. Agni turns some food into nutrients and from there it sorts and turns other things into what is waste.

Now let's talk about dinner.  At dinnertime, where's the sun? The sun's starting to go down and because agni is fire, it's starting to get smaller. So by the time we have dinner, agni is not as strong as it was at noon. Therefore, we should have a lighter dinner.

By lighter, I don't necessarily mean salads or just vegetables, I just mean something that is half portion of lunch. A smaller lighter dinner, nothing too heavy. Agni can work on digesting that little bit of food and then we can wake up refreshed and feeling hungry the next day.

Here's where everybody screws up.

Are you ready for the screw up? We do this a lot. I don't judge, I've done it too. Sometimes it still happens.

The screw up is: We end up skipping through lunch 'cause we're so busy in our jobs or we have meetings or we're taking kids places or we've got appointments, we've got errands to run, etc., We do all these things and we're like, "Ah, lunch, not that big of a deal." Either we run out and grab something super fast that's chintzy and kind of small, or we might skip right through it, or we might be in a meeting eating while doing other things.

That puny little lunch is not enough nourishment for agni at that time. It wants food! It wants us to focus on our food, be thankful for our food at lunchtime, while we have the sun's fire power.

So, let's continue with the screw up. We've had a chintzy lunch or we skipped it. Then let's go around, by two or three, we're hungry, we're snacking. We're looking for cookies, we're looking for chai, we're looking for an extra coffee. We want something because we didn't have enough food. Agni's still like, "Yeah, burned that off. Need more. Hellooooo, I'm still here, I'm here. I need more food!"

And then we have to wait until dinner, which is at five, six, seven o'clock or later sometimes and we're starving beyond belief. We're like, "I can't figure out why I'm overeating all the time at dinner?" We eat a lot of food at dinner because we just haven't had anything all day. Well that's why we're eating a lot of food at dinner because we skipped lunch.

And so what does agni say? agni says, "I'm mad at you. You didn't listen to me all day when I was calling for food. So now that's it's dinnertime, you've piled all this work on me and you're going to expect me to go to sleep in two hours. Fine." Agni has a hard time getting through all that food (without the sun's power to help) and the food piles up because the little fire's not as strong as it was at noon.

Think about this metaphor. If you went to work and you're like, "Yeah! I'm ready to work today!" And somebody says, "Ah, just do some of these little things, you can go through some emails and you can maybe organize eight books on my shelf and just hang out." But then when you get home at six o'clock, work knocks on the door, it's like, "Hey, here's a whole bunch of stuff you need to do before you go to bed tonight." You're like, "Are are kidding?! You had all day to ask me to do this. I'm not doing this now."

Agni is the same way. When we eat too much at night we can then, the food sits around and we wake up feeling sluggish, can't get out of bed, we feel weighed down, we might not be hungry for breakfast because agni is still sitting under the pile of food. It needs time to digest it before you eat again. Note: If our body's not hungry it could be because agni's sitting under a lot of extra food and it needs time to catch up. If that happens skip meals and drink ginger tea until hunger comes back. 

So! Takeaways are: 1) big lunch 2) smaller dinner 3) breakfast if you're hungry and breakfast should also be small.

And with that knowledge, go ahead and go forward and keep bringing this Ayurveda to life. Yeah!

Monica B.