Activate Your Solar Power
Agni’s home is in the solar plexus. By generating heat and strengthening the muscles in this region, we can “fan the fire” and increase our digestive power. Here’s how.
Get regular aerobic exercise. Ayurveda’s general rule is to exercise daily until sweat forms on the forehead, under the arms, and along the spine.
Strengthen your abs. Do sit-ups, crunches, or leglifts for 5–10 minutes a day.
Practice agni sara. This yogic cleansing practice is the most important exercise for improving digestion and maintaining overall health. (Learn this practice here).
Before You Eat
Do five minutes of diaphragmatic breathing. This activates the body’s rest-and-digest response, relaxing the nervous system and enhancing blood flow to the digestive organs.
Make sure that your right nostril is open. According to the yoga tradition, nostril dominance has subtle effects on our energy and can help or hinder our digestion. When the left nostril is dominant (open), our energy is more “yin”—cool, receptive, and passive. When the right nostril is dominant the energy in our body is more “yang”—hot, aggressive, active, and ideal for digestion.
Hint: If your nostril dominance changes from right to left mid-meal, stop eating. This is a subtle signal that your body has had enough. Also, lying on your left side for five minutes after a meal will stimulate digestion, since it helps to keep the right nostril open.
The Dos & Don’ts of Eating
Ayurvedic physicians believe that it’s not just what you eat, but how you eat that stokes (or chokes) your digestive fire. Here are six tips for effective eating.
• Follow a balanced, vegetarian, whole-foods diet.
• Eat your largest meal around noon, when agni is the strongest.
• Fast daily for at least 12 hours (e.g., 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.).
• Dilute your digestive fire by drinking cold beverages at meals.
• Overwhelm agni by overeating.
• Pollute your system with late-night snacks or junk food.
A Belly Massage
A little tender loving care works wonders on an upset (and previously ignored) stomach. Here’s the recipe: warm up some organic sesame oil, find a quiet room, dim the lights, lie down, and slowly rub the oil on your belly in a clockwise motion for up to five minutes.
This will soothe a gaseous stomach, promote digestion, and help you tune into your body and breath.
Shannon Sexton is the editor at large for Yoga+ Joyful Living
Yoga+ is an award-winning, independent magazine that contemplates the deeper dimensions of spiritual life–exploring the power of yoga practice and philosophy to not only transform our bodies and minds, but inspire meaningful engagement in our society, environment, and the global community.