We practice the art of eating daily, but may frequently forget its true importance. We all innately have an intimate relationship with food, but how aware of it are you? Is your relationship with food positive or negative, conscious or unconscious? Written out are guidelines for healthy eating that can be used as tools to cultivate awareness around the sacred act of consuming.May they help you begin loving the whole act of eating, thus putting a little (or a lot) more love into yourself.
Agni is the force residing in the body that creates digestion - it is your internal fire.Agni transforms everything from one state to another: food to energy, experiences to memories, emotions to expressions. We need healthy agni in order to transform & sustain our bodies. In relation to food, agni is key. If you eat heavy foods with low agni, they transform to Ama (undigested foods resulting in toxic build-up within the system). When agni is too low, variable, or high - we accumulate disease.
You can think of agni like a campfire. Two important factors to maintaining a fire are air and wood. Air is needed to spark and fan the fire, wood is needed to provide fuel. If we fan the fire too much or too little, it will go out. And if we don’t have enough wood to burn or put in too much too soon, it will go out. Our digestive fire is similar; we must have a balanced amount of each in order to sustain it. Food is the fuel, and air is what stokes digestion. When our agni is balanced, we are able to fully digest our food and maintain health in the body.
Tiksnagni = high agni. It may be challenging to feel satiated. This occurs when someone’s digestive fire is too strong. High agni is typical of pitta imbalance. Bring balance through cool, dry, and heavy foods, cooling spices, and consistent routines.
Mandagni = low agni. It may be challenging to digest and metabolize food. This occurs when someone’s digestive fire is too weak. Low agni is typical of kapha imbalance. Bring balance through lower quantities of food, warm and dry foods/spices, and spontaneity.
Vishmagni = variable and weak agni. It may be challenging to have a consistent appetite and metabolism. This occurs when someone’s digestive fire alternates between high and low. Variable agni is typical of vata imbalance. Bring balance through warm food, hot/grounding spices, and consistent routines.
Samagni= balanced agni. Your appetite and metabolism are consistent, you are properly burning all of your food. Congratulations - you are maintaining health in your body!
*If you have a low or variable agni, the last thing you want to do is dampen or weigh it down with overly heavy foods. If you have a high agni, you want to avoid feeding the flame (with warm, hot foods/spices) and burning through nutrients.*
Eat your largest meal at noon - your agni is naturally at its highest when the sun is at its highest.
Eat your last meal three hours before bed- agni begins to diminish towards the end of the day, this allows your body the proper amount of time to digest.
Eat until 75% full in order to not overwhelm your digestive fire.
Drink a small amount of warm water with your meals - large amounts of water, especially cold, will dampen your digestive fire.
Chew your food - this is the first stage of digestion! Saliva helps break down your foods and prepare for the next stage of digestion.
When we eat, we take in stimulation not just through our sense of taste but through all our other senses as well. Ex: if you are eating while watching a violent movie, you are bringing that food into your body in a stressed environment, which will result in confusion and difficulty digesting your food. If you are eating in solitude, a peaceful environment, or in nature, your body will be aware and better prepared for digestion.
As every physical manifestation also has a subtle imprint, it is necessary to dive into mental/emotional/spiritual practices as well.
Cook and consume with love - Infusing your food with love will allow you and those you are feeding to ingest this love, resulting in physical well-being along with emotional.
Create a sacred environment - the environment directly affects us! Clean the kitchen, clear off the table, set out a nice placemat, have flowers next to you; transform the space where you nourish your body into a sacred one.
Give thanks/take three breaths - what you eat is becoming a part of your body and sustaining your life – cherish it! Express gratitude and take three deep breaths to drop into present awareness as well as prepare your body for digestion.
Eliminate distractions while you eat - presence while consuming your food sends awareness to the body’s system that it is time to focus the organs’ energy on digesting. Cutting out all electronics & stimulation helps reign your senses back to your meal.
Rest after your meals to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system - instead of jumping into the next activity, sit with this moment of fulfillment & savor the satisfaction from finishing a delicious meal. This allows your body to stay in the parasympathetic system which helps support your digestion.
Eat seasonally - what seasonally blooms correlates to the weather, location, and our body’s needs. We thrive from different elements, qualities, and nutrients at different times of the year. Observe what is being sold at your local farmer’s market and begin to eat in alignment with the rhythms of nature. Earth’s intelligence provides light, cool foods in Spring/Summer, & grounding, moist foods in Fall/Winter.
Eat local - when certain foods are in peak season, there is a higher supply. This allows you to purchase fresh, locally grown foods at a reasonable price and ensures the produce didn't spend too much travel time. Broaden your culinary tastes and talents by accepting what the earth has to offer in a natural cycle.
Eat whole foods - it is important to eat more whole foods as opposed to processed. When we eat fresh foods, we are in-taking prana (life-force energy) from the food, along with more nutrients. Processed foods generally contain chemicals and preservatives, which enter our system and show up as toxins trying to escape our bodies. Eat in alignment with the Earth to provide the most wholesome meals.