[Learn Ayurveda] Enhance your Digestion
As promised, I’m kicking off our [Learn Ayurveda] series for February to help us absorb the core techings. I’ll also share my most recent “aha’s” and personal breakthroughs in the hopes of inspiring you. When I first started blogging on Ayurveda, not much was out there on the web. Now, a ton of information is out there. In that light I’ll write in my own voice, with my own stories and perspective. If you like, hit reply and let me know what lands.
Without further ado… let’s [Learn Ayurveda] to Enhance Your Digestion!
Lesson from Dr. Lad
In 2004 I was studying with the revered Dr. Vasant Lad in his hometown Pune, India. Our gurukula had about 12 members. Once a week we’d pack into a few vehicles to drive to a building in the country to watch and occasionally assist him treating the people. Most of what we observed was the prescription of Ayurvedic pharmaceuticals, which are of a whole different variety than we use in the US. While his diagnosis were straight up Ayurvedic pathogenesis 201, the treatment for the peasants was allopathic: a packet of pills.
What I learned from Dr. Lad, more than anything else in our 6 weeks together, was the most foundational teaching of Ayurveda. At its core Ayurveda is about the thrive and vitality that comes from living in alignment with our digestive fire. Disease happens when we don’t.
“I’m allowing my prana to circulate,” he said.
We were driving out to the country. I was in the backseat with Dr. Lad and we made a stop for breakfast and chai. My classmate offered Dr. Lad food. He refused it. “I’m allowing my prana to circulate,” he said. I remember having thought I should probably do the same, but ate something anyway.
Why do I remember this 2 minute blip out of weeks of classroom hours with crystal clarity? Because I hadn’t yet learned how to allow my prana to circulate. Your prana, or lifeforce energy, won’t whirl and swirl giving you a grounded, internal high of being, if you eat too frequently. Calories taken too soon kill the prana buzz. Thanks, old fella.
Maturity with Food + Digestion
My child does not snack. She eats 2-3 times a day. She prepares most of her own food. She turned 9 this week. She first displayed interest in preparing her own food around 14 months. As a laissez-faire parent I didn’t interfere. Somehow, miraculously, she allows her prana to circulate. As a benefit she is hale and hearty 99% of the time.
The yogis and vaidyas of ancient history agreed on the primacy of worshipping the digestive fire, agni, as the bedrock of personal health. Violate your agni and you escort yourself out of the kingdom of thrive. Honor your agni and the world is your oyster.
Anyone raised on social conditioning around eating or emotional eating is set up for failure to thrive. Agni likes to take it’s time. Agni likes to burn hot then take a siesta. Agni works on it’s own schedule, not on your schedule.
I find a dynamic congruence between our modern flexible lifestyles, the convenience of food availability, and own ability to worship our power of digestion effectively. Most of you, dear readers, have control over when you eat. Sure, there are all sorts of social constructs you may perpetuate that make it seem otherwise. But, at the end of the day, if your health, your life, depended on it, you could control when and what you ate 7 days a week.
The Solutions to Enhanced Digestion are Free.
As the old song goes, “The best things in life are free”.
The yogis of yore would be astounded by modern obesity. Of modern chronic inflammation. Of our epidemic levels of immune dysfunction. They would be astounded because the solutions are so easy, so simple. The solutions are free.
Of course, the allopathic and holistic health industries make a mint leading you to believe otherwise. The idea that the solution lies in superfood, a pill, a treatment, a surgery is much more lucrative than you befriending the power of your very own third chakra.
Plunge Your Third Chakra Power Center to Enhance Your Digestion
Your third chakra is at the place you get hungry. If you haven’t been hungry in the last 24 hours, you are not in right relationship with the power of your agni. Unquestionable hunger is a sign of health. Unquestionable means you know when you are hungry.
You are not “maybe hungry”.
You are not “emotionally hungry.”
It doesn’t mean “You could eat something.”
No. You have that crystal clarity of the chicken scratching feeling in your belly. And you can actually feel your belly because you don’t have inches of fat surrounding the organ.
The hard truth of the matter is that to enhance your digestion you must befriend your hunger/satiation cycle.
The hard truth of optimizing your hunger/satiation cycle means you won’t eat more than 1-3 times a day. Way less eating for sport. Way less eating because everyone else is. And, way less eating after 6 pm.
The boring truth of enhanced digestion is like all things yoga, you have to first go within.
You need to plumb the depths of your third chakra. You need to awaken the dragon within, through waiting out your whimsies to insert a morsel into your piehole. Agni is about the size of your thumb, and to be worshipped above all else in the pursuit of personal thrive. Your third chakra is all about your personal power, which precedes the fourth chakra, our interconnected power. First you need to get strong, clear, potent, and powerful in yourself.
Until you do, you invite health issues, weight issues, inflammation issues, immune issues, and body weight issues. How you feel is your choice.
But as you plunge your awareness into the depths of your third chakra, by allowing digestion to rest, by allowing your hunger to build, you will notice your prana is circulating. Your body is metabolizing fat. You are not reactive, you are chill. Your belly is no longer covered in a sheath of excess fat. You are in control, in your power, and food tastes even better.
Build the Habit to Honor Your Agni
” When diet is wrong medicine is of no use.
When diet is correct medicine is of no need.”
[Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb]
“Agni converts food in the form of energy, which is responsible for all the vital functions of our body. Therefore, Ayurveda considers that Dehagni is the cause of life, complexion, strength, health, nourishment, lusture, oja, teja (energy) and prana (life energy). (Cha. Chi. 15/3.)”
… when the Agni of an individual is sama, then that person would be absolutely healthy and would lead a long, happy, healthy life. But, if the Agni of a person is vitiated, the whole metabolism in his body would be disturbed, resulting in ill health and disease. Hence, Agni is said to be the base (mool) of life. (Cha.Chi.15/4.)
Agni enables your digestion to make strong tissue. If you continue to snack between meals, eat after 6, eat more than 3 times a day, overeat, or eat foods that you can’t easily digest, you’ll have crappy tissue. Make a fire that burns strong and clean and your body will be beautiful.
Coming Soon: The Yogi’s Guide to Intermittent Fasting
While I’d love to give you half a dozen tips from Ayurveda on digestive balance, I’ll refrain. For now, if you want to enhance your digestion, get in touch with your hunger, don’t eat after 6 pm. If you are really tired of feeling crappy, eat only along an 8 hour window to feel yourself.
Perhaps that is 8am – 4 pm. Perhaps it’s 10 am to 6 pm. The choice is yours. And only eat 1-3 times in that window. Discover your agni. Plunge the depths of your third chakra. Tap into your deeper power.
I’ll be writing about the yogis soon as the first fans of intermittent fasting. Hold tight. Breathe deep, and feed yourself thoroughly, but infrequently.
Next up in the [Learn Ayurveda] series:
[Learn Ayurveda] Know the Power of YOUR Constitution.