Agni, Ama and Ojas
Being able to digest our food and absorb its goodness into our bodies can mirror our ability to digest and absorb experiences too. According to the science of Ayurveda it is Agni - our digestive fire - which helps us to do this. When our agni is weak the food is not broken down and leaves toxins in our body - these toxins are known as Ama in Ayurveda. When our agni is strong and healthy we can easily break down our food, burn the waste and assimilate the good elements and nutrients we need into our bodies. The result of healthy digestion (these elements and nutrients) make up what’s known as Ojas.
Ojas is one of the three vital essences along with Prana and Tejas. Ojas flows through our physical body making us feel in balance, vibrant, alert and happy. Our skin glows and we feel focussed and centred. To put it in a simplistic way, if we think of prana as the life energy we get from the breath, Ojas is the life energy we get from the food we take in.
By having a diet which is full of easily digestible, sattvic foods (like fresh vegetables, honey, organic milk and whole grains) we help our body to produce Ojas. But it’s not just what we eat but also how we eat that makes a difference to our overall health. In the same way that improving the cleanliness of the air we breath and the quality of our breath, both help the flow of prana in the body.
It’s not just what we eat, but also how we eat that makes a difference to our overall health.
Here are a few ideas to try:
These tips help fire up our agni and produce ojas by looking at the way we eat.
- Get grounded - Before eating take time to feel grounded and ready to receive the food. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system, so you're not emotionally distracted. You can do this by taking a few deep breaths, keeping your out-breath the same length, or longer, as your in-breath. Or just having a few moments of silence, doing nothing else, before you eat.
- Notice prana in your food - Consider the energy in your food and how you are taking this into your body. When you make this a habit you might also find you naturally want to make changes to your diet moving towards more whole foods and away from over processed meals.
- Pause and experience gratitude - Love the source of your food and be grateful to the people who prepared it, before the food becomes your body.
- Chew slowly - Notice the taste and the structure of your food and how it changes when it mixes with the physiology of your body. This also helps with digestion, taking some of the work away from the stomach. It also helps with the next tip...
- Don't overeat - Your body needs food and nutrients to stoke the agni, but overloading it can smother the digestive fire leading to bloating and producing more ama.
- Relax after you eat - This goes back to point one - let your food go down and take rest for your body to do its work before you rush off on to the next chore.
These simple points all come down to basically being present and most of all taking the time through the whole process of preparing your food, eating it and then afterwards.
So let go of eating on the go, quickly in the car, in between chores. Especially if you are experiencing digestive issues. This might be just as important or more important than what you eat!!
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For more Ayurveda in the kitchen, try this Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup from Irina Verwer