Understanding of the Vital Source of Life: Agni (Digestive Fire)
According to Ayurveda Sarvam dravyam Panchabhautikam i.e. all creation arises out of five great elements known as mahabhutas. Our body is also formed by the panhca mahabhutas. Within this pancabautika body, various metabolic transformations are going on continuously.
Agni is the term given in Ayurveda for the whole process of energy liberation through digestion at the level of digestive Tract and metabolism at the level of tissues. Digestion, metabolism and assimilation i.e. whole process of biological conversion and utilization of energy is symbolize by the term Agni. Agni is derivative of tejas (fire) mahabhuta it carries metabolic transformations in which the inherent feature is change.
According to Ayurveda there are 13 types of Agni in body:
- Jathragni( Jathar means Gastrium) is the prime Agni that nourishes the other Agnis. Jathragni refers to the whole process of digestion in digestive tract . It is related to the gastro-intestinal tract, converting the gross food particles into smaller particles which are then able to be absorbed.
- Dhatwagni refers to tissue metabolism. The nutrients digested and absorbed by the Jatharagni is then sent to their respective areas. For the Dhatus, these nutrients are not in a stage of absorption so to absorb them properly they have to be digested further with the help of Dhatvagni’s. Each Dhatu that we have seen would have different dhatvagni’s to digest what comes to them thus absorbing the nutrients supplied . The role of Dhatvagni’s is real important when it comes to treating various chronic diseases.
- Bhutagni refers to the final digestion in liver. The whole universe is divided in 5 elements namely called Panchbhutas. The food that we eat would be also Panchamahbhovatic – full with five elements. Thus to digest food into perfect energy, each of us also require respective Panchamahbhoot agni which could digest all elements in the simplest form in our body to provide us the energy and strength.
In Ayurvedic texts these 13 types of Agni are further divided into four types on the basis of function as follows:
- Mandagni(Hypo-metabolism) Due to dominance of Kapha out of tridoshas (Biological Humors) here agni is unable to metabolize even a small quantity of easily digestible food. When Agni is unable to digest food properly it leads to ama (various Toxins in the body). Rasa dhatu formed under such conditions will also produce ama. When the Saam Ras (rasa containing ama) goes into circulation and is unable to enter minute srotas, causing Srotoavrodha (blocking of channels), it accumulates outside of the tissues causing dhatu vridhi (abnormal increase of tissue). Food that contains water and earth elements is heavy, slow and cool in its trait, diminishing the strength of Jathar agni. Heaviness of abdomen / or of whole body, nausea, belching, Edema, obesity, hypertension are the most common conditions associated with hypo-metabolism.
- Tikshnagni (Hyper-metabolism) When Jathar agni is under the influence of Pitta dosha, the hot, sharp and penetrating qualities of pitta intensifies the strength of jather agni. Here, even a very heavily diet is digested with in short span of time which causes hunger. Increased agni burns and cauterizes the nutrients and the rasa dhatu contains very little nutrients and undergos dhatu kshya (tissue degeneration), giving rise to conditions like giddiness, excessive thirst, heating, scorching, perspiration, belching, burning sensation.
- Vishamagni (Irregular metabolism) When action of Agni is erratic and irregular, the predominance of Vata dosha can be called Vishmagni. It is caused by vitiation of Vata. It manifests with pain in abdomen, pricking like pain, non-movement of flatus and excreta, stiffness, fainting etc.
- Samagni (Normal secretion of digestive enzymes/Normal metabolism) State of equilibrium of three doshas can be stated as Samagni. Here, digestion of food (taken timely) absorption and assimilation of food occurs completely without any irregularity and keeps health in hands.
RELATION OF AGNI WITH PRAKRITI (Biological Humor / Dosha Type)
Agni has strong relation with different types of biological humor
- In Vata Prakriti individual Vishamagni (unstable digestive & metabolic power) is very common.
- In person having Pitta Prakriti , Tikshnagni (hyper-metabolism) is very common .
- Mandagni (Hypo-metabolism) is common in Kapha Prakriti individuals.
Malfunctioning of Agni leads to production of Ama (undigested foods that remains in tract and acts as antigens and are responsible for production of various diseases & autoimmune diseases). Production of Ama may be able to occur at the level of Jathragni (improper digestion in digestive tract), Bhutagni (liver dysfunction) or Dhatwagni (disturbed tissue metabolism).
Ama is said to be the root cause of all diseases & can be indicated by lethargy, a coated tongue and foul breath. This undigested substance can be recognized today as high cholesterol, chronic fatigue syndrome, candida, diabetes, constipation, obesity depression, anxiety etc. In Ayurveda we believe that every diseased state arises as a result of ama, whether physical or mental and all ama is the result malfunctioning of agni.
The key to a healthy agni is the intake of easily digested, freshly cooked, saatvic (Pure) & compatible foods eaten consciously at the appropriate times. According to Vedas the ancient texts of India, agni is worshipped in its Divine form as the bringer and sustainer of life. When we honor our agni thus, we become mindful of what we eat and how we accept it in ourselves. Within us arises a desire for metamorphosing – what we eat at our highest consciousness, and manifestation of a balanced state of body, mind & soul.
Meenakshi is an accomplished ayurvedic practitioner, with a degree in Masters of Ayurveda. She was classically trained in India and has been practicing and teaching ayurveda worldwide since 1998. She has natural flair for a life devoted to the study and practice of ancient Indian science. She knows first-hand what a difference it can make on one’s wellness by simply understanding an individual’s unique body type and making small simple changes to one’s diet and lifestyle. Her specialties are wellness counseling , lifestyle management, and Panchakarma therapies (natural detox & rejuvenation).she can be reached at [email protected]