In Ayurveda, strong and balanced Jatharagni or agni (digestive fire) is integral to enjoying overall good health. Agni has the power to transform our mind and body: When agni is strong, we can consume food, emotions, and experiences, metabolize all of them, and eliminate what’s left over without any challenges.
Problems happen when our agni is compromised. When agni becomes weak, sharp, or erratic, our digestion is impacted. This leads to the srotas, or channels of the body, becoming obstructed with ama, or toxins. The stubborn nature of ama causes it to stick to the gastrointestinal tract. It clogs arteries, seeps under the skin, and creeps upwards to the mind’s subtle channels. Trapped ama can eventually lead to disease formation.
Let me share about the four types of agni, and how they affect the mind and body.
Vishama Agni—Irregular Digestion
Have you ever met a person whose hunger is unpredictable? They can skip four meals in a row on some days; on other days, they are ravenous and will go through three bags of potato chips between lunch and teatime. This agni type, vishama agni, is related to Vata dosha and typically shows an imbalance of air and ether elements in the body.
This person often struggles with gas and bloating. Constipation is also commonly seen. Their stomach gurgles after any food intake. Here is the interesting point: In people battling vishama agni, both the appetite and the metabolism tend to be irregular. Even the digestion is variable. A quick ama accumulation test of someone with this type of agni will likely show a brownish-black coating on the tongue. Ayurveda teaches us that the mind-body is connected. Meaning, the type of emotional imbalances that relate to vishama agni will be anxiety, fear, insecurity, flakiness, restlessness, nervousness, spaciness, and fluctuating emotions.
Tikshna Agni—Overactive Digestion
A dear friend of mine is hungry every two hours. Despite her voracious appetite, she has difficulty gaining weight. She has inflammation (skin issues) as well as an autoimmune disease. She often struggles with loose, watery, and burning stool. After eating, she gets a heartburn or acid reflux. She gets “hangry” if her hunger isn’t satisfied. It’s a joke how she rubs her belly every couple of hours: Man, I need some food. Once we were traveling back from India after studying Ayurveda for three weeks. They offered us multiple meals in the aircraft, but as soon as we got out of the plane in Dubai, she went, “Man, I need some food.”
My friend’s over-active metabolism is a classic representation of tikshna agni. This second type of agni type is related to Pitta dosha. It reveals an imbalance of fire and water elements in the body caused by the hot, sharp, and penetrating qualities of Pitta dosha. In individuals with tikshna agni, ama accumulation will show up as a yellowish coating on the tongue. As far as the emotions go, think typical Pitta imbalance: anger, jealousy, frustration, envy, and judgmental tendencies.
Manda Agni—Sluggish Digestion
Do you have a friend, family, member, or colleague who has no problem skipping meals? They have a low appetite yet complain about feeling full. I have a cousin who eats very little yet is extremely overweight. Her digestion is slow, and she has difficulty losing weight. She has clammy hands, needs excessive amounts of sleep, and feels unmotivated to do anything.
Whenever we speak, she sounds congested and depressed. She not only struggles with losing weight but also easily gains weight despite her low food intake. There is a sense of heaviness not only in her body but also in her mood. She is too emotionally attached to people, their actions, and their mistakes. She can’t forgive easily because of her strong Kapha memory. Boredom sets in easily for her. Her bowels tend to be regular, although her stool may sometimes contain mucus or oil.
This metabolic imbalance, or manda agni, is linked to Kapha dosha. It’s caused by an imbalance in water and earth elements in the body. People battling manda agni might also struggle with allergies. How do we test for ama? There is a thick, white coating on the tongue.
Sama Agni—Optimal Digestion
This fourth type of agni isn’t related to any particular dosha. The word “sama” means “even” and reflects the balanced and healthy state of digestive fire. Sama agni occurs when digestive power is optimal—when there are no unwanted symptoms after eating food and all three doshas remain in harmony.
How do you know if you have sama agni? After eating, there is a sense of fulfillment. You feel energetic, and there is vitality in how you show up. You can eat any type of food and not have to worry about side effects like gas, diarrhea, bloating, or a sense of heaviness. With sama agni, not only is metabolism balanced but also bowel movements are regular. Emotions are balanced and overall health is perfect. Individuals accept life situations with equanimity. There is no coating on the tongue, as there is no ama present in the system.
Emotionally and mentally, sama agni represents patience, kindness, clarity, compassion, and calmness. How common is sama agni? Unfortunately, it is quite rare, but if you work with an experienced Ayurvedic professional, it is obtainable through proper diet and lifestyle guidance.
Did you do a self-test at home to determine which kind of agni is showing up for you? You might want to learn how to attain sama agni. It’s good to be inquisitive, but don’t implement that curiosity without consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner first.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your healthcare practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic practitioner, contact Sweta here.