Ayurveda 101 // Agni

Image by JanFillem

Image by JanFillem

Agni is an energetic current in the human body, often confused with the element of fire or Pitta dosha. Agni is more subtle than an element, and Pitta dosha is a dosha – a part of the human body. 

Agni references the digestive fire, but is better understood by picturing the dynamic nature and transformative power of fire. It allows to to integrate above with below; to align the image we reflect out with our true self. That’s why we make Agni the centre of treatment in our Adelaide Ayurveda clinic.

The word Agni has the same root as the latin word 'ignis'. Ignis is the seed for the English word ignite, so Agni means that which ignites. Agni depends on fire, but it equally depends on the balance of earth, water, air and ether elements, because all five elements impact the transmission of the igniting energetic current.

Chemically speaking this transmission is called conduction. Let's break that word down.  

Conduction: noun l con-duc-tion
1 : the act of conducting or conveying
2 : transmission through or by means of a conductor
3 : transfer of heat through matter by communication of kinetic energy from particle to particle with no net displacement of the particles 
4 : the transmission of excitation through living tissue and especially nervous tissue
// Merriam-Webster

Agni is the master conductor - it transmits all energetic input through the human body. For as long as Agni is strong disease cannot manifest.

The King Agni resides in the gut, but mythology teaches that Agni functions across three realms. Agni is the Hindu God of fire (earthly or physical realm), the Sun (light or intermediate realm) and thunder (cosmic realm). These realms relate to the doshas, and three corresponding junctions at which we integrate a part of our external environment.

The most contained level (fire) is the earthly or physical plane ruled by Kapha. Here Agni directs the assimilation of food.

The light or intermediate realm (Sun), operates from the pineal gland and is ruled by Pitta. Here agni directs the integration of our impressions; the imprint of our emotional environment and experience.

The  cosmic realm (thunder) is our intuitive centre ruled by Vata. Here Agni directs our ability to hear and heed our instinct.

Agni ripples through every tissue level of the body and is a cornerstone of health. It governs heat; digestion; the experienced outcomes of cellular metabolism such as seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, feeling, thinking, understanding; ability to respond to systemic fluctuations and reinstate balance; and cycles of cell growth, repair and death.

For as long as Agni is strong disease cannot manifest. So how does it become weakened?

Agni gets disrupted when we accumulate food or impressions of the same qualities - foods or impressions that do not serve us. Accumulation never occurs as a once off. It is with repeated exposure from ingrained habits and subconscious patterns that we take in excess. Excess is simply more than your little bod is able to process. 

Ayurveda has a specific term for a disturbance in Agni. In Sanskrit it is Grahini. The English or western medical translation of Grahini is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Weak agni = impaired digestion, of food, emotion and experience. 

That is why, according to Ayurveda, IBS is not just about food or disturbance of the gastrointestinal tract. Yes disorders of agni affect the digestive power of the gut (agni in the earthly realm). But disorders of agni also affect the processing of impressions (light realm) and intuition (cosmic realm). 

Do your symptoms of IBS worsen when you are under some other form of stress? Did your IBS start following a life changing experience or upheaval? Do your gut symptoms make you feel anxious or depressed? You are absolutely not alone, and your body is not playing tricks. 

Disease processes that underlie CNS disease or mental unrest often have enteric manifestations, and signals from disorders within the digestive system can spread to the brain. Said a little more simply, thoughts and emotions affect the gut, and the gut affects thoughts and emotions. The two worlds are one. This is the mind-gut connection.

If you suffer from IBS (or weak agni, in Ayurvedic speak) then you may like to find out your IBS type by taking our Ayurveda IBS type test. Or get yourself some Triphala. It really is Ayurveda’s best.

Learn more about our top tips to improve your Agni.

MA // Modern Ayurvedic TM

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