Agni is the Sanskrit word for fire. It has a very special place in the Vedic culture. One of the five elements in nature - fire is responsible for transformation. As humans are part of nature, Agni is also present within us.
According to Ayurveda there are different types of fires present in the human body which are responsible for transformation on different levels. These include Jatharagni - the digestive fire, the five elemental fires and the fires of the seven tissues of the body (plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, marrow & nerve and reproductive tissue)
Out of these, the digestive fire - "Jatharagni" is the most important. It is responsible for transforming the food we eat into nutrients, providing nourishment for all body tissues and the mind. The condition of your health and well-being literally depend on the proper functioning of the digestive fire. If this fire is impaired, the food you eat will not be digested properly resulting in the formation of Ama - metabolic toxins or undigested food mass. A malfunctioning Agni also hinders the chain of nourishment in the body impacting everything from hormones, skin to your reproductive organs and leaves us feeling dull and heavy with a foggy/cloudy mind. The root cause of almost all physical ailments is the improper functioning of the digestive fire. Even a common cold is an indication of Agni being compromised. Ensuring that Agni is functioning well, ensures that are immune system is strong, that we have sufficient energy and vigour for our daily activities and a clear mind and perception. This is the essence of Ayurvedic healing.
Four main conditions of Agni are recognised in Ayurveda. These are
1) Vishama (irregular)-
- This type of Agni is characterised by it's irregularity and is associated with Vata dosha. Vata types may feel very hungry or have no appetite at all meaning Agni fluctuates between being too high and too low presenting corresponding patterns in elimination fluctuating between constipation and diarrhoea. If Vata types stay hungry for too long, their appetite will just disappear and then they might skip the meal altogether. They also often just forget to eat.
2) Tikshna (hot and fast)
- In this type, Agni - the digestive fire burns too strong making digestion fast and sharp. Associated with Pitta dosha, people with Tikshna Agni might feel hungry a few hours after a full meal and tend to suffer from diarrhoea/loose stools, heartburn or acidity. Pitta types have a strong appetite, do not usually gain excess weight and you definitely do not want to be around them when they are hungry as they tend to get hangry ;)
- Associated with Kapha types, Manda (slow) Agni results in the food being "stuck" in the GI tract for too long causing sluggish digestion and feelings of heaviness and dullness. Kapha types tend to have low albeit constant appetites and tend to hold weight in spite of not eating too much. They also tend to overeat.
- The ideal type, Sama Agni is characterised by regular and moderate appetite with good, smooth digestion and elimination. This state is present when the doshas and the emotional and mental state of the person are balanced. The aim of ayurvedic healing is to achieve a balanced state of Agni. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible for all doshic types to achieve a balanced state of Agni with the above being only a general tendency of the different doshic types.