Agni: Stoke your fire

Ayurveda teaches that we are made up of more than the triad of body, mind and spirit. Yes, those three are important and must be in balance for true health. However, we are also made up of our environment. All that we see, hear, speak, do and that is done to us, becomes part of who we are. If you’ve ever moved from one area to another, perhaps you’ve observed how your life’s intentions and your actual personality may have undergone a shift to match that of the area in which you live. Imagine, for example, how your personality would shift if you were suddenly moved to Somalia.

The environment that we take in each day, the words and actions of those around us (everyone from your spouse to the traffic you encounter daily), either becomes assimilated into our core or we must digest it. Just like the food and drink that we daily ingest, so, too, we ingest words and action, and so, too, we must digest them. Better have a strong digestion, the fire that is called in both yoga and ayurveda, “agni.” Our agni is our powerful life force, the fire that creates our potential to burn away toxins. It is said in ayurveda that to one with strong agni, all poison becomes an elixir; but to one with weak agni, even an elixir may turn to poison. With spring on the horizon, it is important that we stoke our fire, burn away the heavy debri of winter to release our physical form. In yoga and ayurveda, we do this through cleansing rituals that involve eating lighter, increasing our physical yoga practice, strengthening our pranayama practice. Our yoga and meditation practices also help us become more discerning of what we allow in. As we learn to practice compassion toward our self and to notice the mental and physical cues of discomfort that certain situations or people bring, we can discern better that which we allow into our world, deciding how much of our environment we allow to create us. It is important to take stock of yourself now in a way that allows you to examine all that you can emotionally let go.

February’s new moon arrived with the celebration of Shivaratri; an auspicious celebration in honor of Lord Shiva. One of the mythological stories related to this festival involves Lord Shiva drinking the poison that was about to spill and destroy the Earth (pictured below) while they were “churning the ocean”. As a consequence of drinking this poison, Shiva was terribly intoxicated, but was able to hold the poison in his throat so it did not spread all over his body and kill him. This generated great distress and discomfort until his beloved, Parvati, was able to appease him. As he calmed down, Shiva was able to turn the poison into nectar and then swallow it. This great feat turned into an all night celebration for Shiva’s ability to transform the poison and save the world. (story from teacher, Maria Garre)

Ayurvedic practitioner, Dr. Vasant Lad, reminds that through this story we learn that when poison, challenges, or obstacles present themselves we have the power to transform and digest them in a non-harmful way. With the full moon upon us now, the intentions we set have a greater chance of coming to fruition. Look at what it is in your life that is a poison, the challenges that you can let go of by not holding on to the story of the negative; rather, transforming this poison to your personal elixir and in doing so, strengthening your agni.

It is nearly spring. Prepare yourself by trying a spring cleanse that involves meditation and breathing. Get that inner fire burning. In doing so, you’ll discover a more vibrant body, mind and spirit–one that is able to process and eliminate all that you ingest daily, able to turn poison to elixir and enjoy journeying to a more discerning, compassionate, healthier you!