Thousands of years before modern medicine provided scientific evidence for the mind-body connection, the sages of India developed Ayurveda. This natural medicinal practice continues to be one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful mind-body wellbeing systems.
The central concept of Ayurvedic medicine is the theory that health exists when there is a balance between three fundamental bodily doshas called Vata, Pitta and Kapha – Vata is the air principle responsible for mobilizing the nervous system, Pita is the fire principle responsible for digestion and metabolizing the venous system, and Kapha is the water principle responsible for carrying nutrients into the arterial system. And, therein lies the secret that your state of health and even longevity are indistinguishably linked to your 'agni'.
This Sanskrit term 'agni' translates as 'digestive fire'. It relates to the power of our digestion and the gut in all aspects of life, including our overall ability to eliminate waste, toxins and all that are not needed. Meaning, on a physical level, we need to digest food to absorb nutrients for energy and release waste products, while on a mental level, we digest experiences in order to assimilate them and release what is not needed.
Ayurveda and digestive fire
According to Ayurveda, strong agni helps us with all processes of digestion and is essential for our overall health. If our digestive fire is strong, we are able to get rid of waste products effectively and produce what is called 'ojas', or 'vital essence'. Ojas help us to develop further strength, immunity and clarity of mind. Should the agni be weak or blocked, then the residue toxins in the body, or 'ama', can lead to slow deterioration and even become a root cause of disease.
There are many ways agni can be weakened. Unhealthy eating habits, insomnia or lack of sleep and dealing with negative thought processes or lack of self-love can adversely affect agni.
These factors, physical and emotional, are all examples of ways that our digestion can be negatively impacted, ama can then build, leading to imbalance and an increased likelihood of disease developing in the body.
Agni is not just related to our physical health, it also impacts our mental state and mood. Depression and anxiety are thought to be linked to weak agni. Nurturing, the qualities of agni has the potential to make you feel more alert, content, stable and may be one of the secrets for a happier and longer life.
Best yoga poses for digestion, bloating and constipation
The good news is that we can help ease bloating, constipation or blocked energy, get rid of bloating or toxins, and strengthen the digestive fire in our body using various yoga poses. Here are 5 techniques that can help you get things moving and make you feel better inside and out in no time:
Breath is an integral part of yoga and no less in easing digestive issues. Kapalabhati is a breathing technique that helps create heat and build agni. Practicing this pose is simple – all you have to do is sit with your hands resting on your abdomen. Take 10 deep breaths in and out through the nose, feeling the movement of the abdomen under your hands. Then, begin to dramatize your breathing – when you inhale, be conscious of your resting hands gently press away as your abdomen releases, and draw strongly back toward the spine when you exhale. Repeat using short, sharp exhalations for about 30 seconds to begin with, then you can build up your time. When you finish, sit tall and breathe normally for another 10 breaths.
Navasana acts like a key to powerfully switch on the inner fire. To do this pose and help strengthen you digestive system naturally, sit with your feet resting on the floor with your knees bent, and try to float your feet off of the floor while keeping your chest lifted. Extend your arms away from you. You can keep the legs bent, or if you feel strong, start to extend them so that the toes are eye level. Hold for 5 breaths, keeping the breath smooth, and then rest the feet back down and round the spine as you hug your knees. Repeat as many times as you like.
3. Side plank
Side plank helps to generate agni – and a good place to begin is in plank pose. From there, swivel the feet, turning your body to the side, raising one arm either up to the ceiling or over the ear to a diagonal. Lift the underneath waist and hold for 5 breaths. Return to plank and either rest the knees on the floor before changing sides or you can swivel straight to the other side without resting. Then finish resting on the knees or in child’s pose.
4. Udiyana bandha
Bandhas are also known as 'body locks', and the Udiyana bandha is the contraction of the abdomen into the rib cage. This pose is also known as Downward dog – once in position, take 10 slow and deep breaths. With each exhalation, feel the movement of the navel drawing back toward the spine. This activates udiyana bandha, igniting the flames, and stimulates the energy around the navel center.
5. Seated twist
Twists massage the abdominal organs, bringing more oxygen and helping to activate the digestive system. From kneeling, sit to the left side of your feet and cross your right foot over the left leg and onto the floor. Wrap your left arm around your right shin and turn to look over your right shoulder. Stay for 5 deep breaths, then change sides.
List of Ayurvedic home remedies to help digestion
There are other helpful, simple and practical natural home remedies that can help you ease digestive issues and strengthen agni. Many people turn to Ayurvedic medicine principles such as:
• Meditation and yoga
• Ginger or herbal tea
• Slow and steady exercise
• Eating warming foods and avoiding cold foods
• Chewing your food slowly and carefully
• Avoid overeating
• Practicing self-love and self-care
Here's to feeling good!