बलमारोग्यमायुश्च प्राणाश्चाग्नौ प्रतिष्ठिताः|
अन्नपानेन्धनैश्चाग्निर्ज्वलति व्येति चान्यथा ||३४२||
Strength, health, longevity and vital breath are dependent upon the power of digestion including metabolism. When supplied with fuel in the form of food and drinks, this power of digestion is sustained; it dwindles when deprived of it.
Ayurveda emphasises the importance of a healthy digestive system in the maintenance of a healthy body. The food that we ingest needs to be broken down, the energy needs to be absorbed and waste needs to be expelled. This process of digestion in the body is performed by agni (fire). As per Ayurveda, agni is unquantifiable and can be found in each pramanu (cell) of our body. However, there are 13 types of agni specified in Ayurveda - one Jatharagni, five Bhutagnis and seven Dhatvagnis. Jatharagni separates the rasa (taste) and mala (waste) from the ingested food and breaks it down into absorbable forms. The Bhutagnis work on nourishing the five bhutas (senses) of the body and the Dhatvagnis work on nourishing the seven dhatus (tissues) of the body. This entire process results in the separation of Prasad (essence) and Kitta (waste). It also provides the energy that our body requires for proper daily functioning. Agni is so essential that Charaka Samhita mentions that when Agni dies, so does the body. It is, therefore, considered to be the mool (base) of life.
When this agni is in imbalance, that is, either too intense or weak, it can disrupt essential bodily functions. The intensity of agni also changes when we transition from one season to another. For example, our agni is the most intense during Hemanta and Shishir rtu and the weakest during Varsha rtu. Dietary and lifestyle changes can help increase or decrease this digestive fire depending on the requirement of the body in a particular season.
One of these simple lifestyle changes is practicing Yoga hand mudras. Hand mudras or hasta mudra are hand gestures which stimulate different parts of the body and help regulate the flow of energy in the different nadis (channels) of the body. These mudras can be used for different purposes such as achieving restful sleep, calming the mind and most importantly, balancing our digestive fire. Here are some hasta mudras which keep our body’s agni alive and well and promote balance and wellbeing within the body.
Pushan mudra: Pushan mudra is a mudra of nourishment dedicated to the Sun god. With your right hand: join the tips of the middle finger, index finger and the thumb while extending the ring finger and little finger outwards. With your left hand: join the tips of the middle finger, ring finger and the thumb while extending the index finger and the little finger outwards. The right hand depicts receiving and the left hand depicts giving. In this way Pushan mudra symbolizes the two processes of digestion and elimination. It activates absorption of nutrients from food and when practiced after a meal relieves the general sense of fullness one feels. This mudra should not be practiced more than four times a day for over five minutes.
Pushan mudra symbolizes the two processes of digestion and elimination
Agni mudra: As the name suggests Agni mudra has a direct impact on the digestive fire. This mudra is also known as Surya mudra and is associated with the life-giving energy of the Sun. With each hand: fold the ring finger into your palm and use your thumb to gently press on it while extending the other three fingers outwards. Ideally this mudra should be practiced in the morning but it can also be practiced later in the day. Hold the mudra for 10-12 minutes two to three times a day. It fuels the digestive fire and also aids weight loss.
Apan mudra: Apan mudra is known to help stimulate the gallbladder and liver. To practice it, join the tips of the middle finger, ring finger and thumb while extending the other fingers outwards. You can practice this mudra with both your hands. This mudra helps remove toxins and waste from the body and also helps balance the mind. It can be practiced for 5-45 minutes three times a day or for 15 minutes as a course of treatment as per Gertrud Hirschi in her book Mudras: Yoga in Your Hands.
Apan mudra helps stimulate the gallbladder and liver
Mushti mudra: Fold all your fingers inwards and place your thumb over the ring finger, forming a fist. This mudra promotes digestion by activating energies of the stomach and the liver. This also helps cure constipation issues. Hirschi in her book associates this mudra with righteous anger. Anger when not channelled properly within the body can be detrimental. While practicing this mudra envision moments in which you’ve reacted with aggression and fear. Then imagine how you would like to react to these situations. This helps eliminate trigger points in your life so you can react to situations in a more controlled manner and channelize your anger. This mudra can be practiced as needed or for 15 minutes three times a day.
Mushti mudra promotes digestion by activating energies of the stomach
Matangi mudra: Dedicated to Matangi - the god of inner harmony - Matangi mudra has many benefits. It resolves digestive issues, reduces the sense of fullness and helps facilitate the process of elimination of toxins from the body. However, this mudra also strengthens your breathing pattern and activates energies in the solar plexus region. To practice this mudra, fold your hands in front of your stomach with your fingers criss-crossed. Extend your middle fingers upwards and join them together. Stay in this position and focus on your breath. This mudra can be practiced three times a day for four minutes or as needed.
Matangi mudra activates energies in the solar plexus region