From the perspective of yoga’s life science, Ayurveda, our body is comprised of 3 doshas, constitutions:
Vata- Air element
Pitta- Fire element
Kapha- Earth element
People with have a dominance of Vata tend to be fast-moving, governed by the air element that light foods and often gravitate towards salads. Digestion is assimilated quickly and often irregular, and they have a metabolic rate that explains their slim physique. Those with a pitta dominance are intense, they are passionate and can sometimes be aggressive if the fire element is aggravated. They prefer oily, pungent and spicy foods to excite their sense. Their digestion is strong and nutrients are well-absorbed, they have a moderate and symmetrical physique. The last constitution is Kapha, people with dominance in earth element are grounded and slower moving. Digestion is stable and regular but the metabolic rate tends to be low which contributes to sluggish energy. Their food preference is towards heavier starch-based foods as they crave a feeling of fullness, the tend to have heavier body types.
We all have all three elements at play in our bodies, one will naturally dominate and this can remain balanced towards our natural constitution. However, because our tastes perpetuate the dominance this can quickly lead to an imbalance of our doshas. It is important that we stay aware of how our body is reacting and feed it with more foods that supply elements that are lacking. For example, eating heavier foods if you are feeling nervous and have irregular bowel movements- a sign of excess Vata. Or eating more spices if we are feeling lethargic and demotivated a sign of excess kaptha. And eating more lighter foods if we are suffering from heartburn or indigestion, a sign of excess pitta.
In Ayurveda Agni is known as the digestive fire, if this is strong we are able to digest, assimilate and metabolize well, if not we suffer from constipation, diarrhea, and acidity. A strong Agni is reflected in a strong and regular appetite, feeling hungry every 4 hours. Have you noticed whether you feel hungry or just eat because of its lunchtime? When you are hungry are you ready to eat a full meal or you feel slight pangs that you would be satisfied with a small snack? As we age the digestive fire dims that’s why it is recommended for those above 50 to each smaller meal but every 3 hours to decrease the digestive load on the body that has to process at a time.
There are many things in yoga that we do to strengthen our Agni as it governs nutritional absorption and the energy we have available. The following eating guidelines are explained to increase the digestive fire:
- Avoid eating or drinking anything below our body temperature
- Drink water on an empty stomach only
- Don’t mix fruits as the different sugars affect digestive enzymes
The following yoga poses help to strengthen our digestive system
- Boat pose
- Bow pose
- Wind releasing pose
- Spinal twist
- Thunderbolt pose
Breathing and meditation help us discern the motivations behind our behaviors. Are you eating our of an emotional trigger or a genuine physical need? Regular practice of intermittently fasting helps to give the body a break and simplify from all the processing consisted of when we are in the constant cycle of eating and eliminating. It gives the body a chance to repair and the mind a deeper awareness of what we essentially need and what’s behind our cravings.