When we improve our digestive strength we improve our overall health, our immunity and mental clarity. This is why Ayurveda and yoga-tantra place great emphasis on proper diet and the maintenance of digestive fire (agni). Doing so prevents and treats disease and develops awareness.
Digestive fire (agni) – the fundamental principle of health
The fundamental principle for creating health and higher consciousness is the maintenance of the digestive fire, agni. The word agni is Sanskrit for ‘fire. It is related to the Latin word ignis, which is the root of the English word ‘ignite’. It exists in the body and mind as the biological fire of metabolism.
In Ayurveda and yoga-tantra agni is described as being an elemental force in Nature (Prakriti) that has the power of transformation. It is the fire that digests food as well as psychological, emotional and spiritual nourishment. Agni digests gross and subtle substances, as well as our experiences so that they become part of us.
Agni is viewed as a sacred element that must be treasured and maintained in the same way that we carefully maintain a fire to cook, not burn, food, and to warm our home.
Agni is the element that keeps our intelligence sharp, clear and bright. It maintains our intelligence by enabling us to digest information from life so that we can know what is good for us and what is not.
Therefore agni also means immunity; our ability to discriminate foods from toxins, to identify harmful bacteria, and so on. With a strong agni we only take in what we need and eliminate excesses and toxins. A weak agni does not know what is good for us and does not have the power to remove toxins and bacteria.
The best way to build a strong agni is to remain self-aware and balanced while eating, to learn what is good for us, and to place foods and substances into our body with care and respect. A good exercise is to imagine that we are feeding a vitally important and sacred part of us.
The importance of good digestion to our health and sense of wellbeing is well known.
Scientific research is proving that there are many truths stored in ancient wisdom.
Ayurveda states that good digestion is the key to health, the proper and proper functioning of the brain and mind, and our intelligence and immunity. And now recent medical research indicates that poor digestion and extra weight in middle age increases our risk of getting dementia in old age (Dr Weilli Xu, Neurology 2011).