Over 70% of Indians suffer from everyday digestion problems such as gas, bloating, stomach pain, constipation, heartburn, and fatigue after eating. Antyodaya Yoga provides simple solutions to these common complaints by considering not only what we eat but how we consume our meals.
For example, how many times have you seen someone munching on a sandwich while driving through traffic? How many times have we caught a bite to eat at our workplace because we could not take the time to have a proper lunch? Our bodies need an uplifting and settled environment in order to process and absorb the nutrients from our meals. If that is not available, then we should at least be sitting down to eat — not standing, walking, or driving our way through a meal.
The act of eating is life-giving. The process of eating, according to Yoga, is something reverent and important for the development of consciousness as well as our physical health. When we sit down to eat, our stomach is in a relaxed posture and our awareness is on the taste, texture, and smell of the food. This helps to improve the digestion. Another way to improve the digestion is to stimulate the Agni, or digestive fire, before we begin eating. Weak digestive Agni may result in fatigue after eating, so Ayurveda recommends eating a one-inch piece of fresh ginger with a few drops of lemon juice and a few pinches of black salt on it before a full meal. This starts to activate the salivary glands, producing the necessary enzymes so that the nutrients in the food are easily absorbed by the body.
Balancing your digestive Agni is a key principle in Yoga & Ayurveda. That’s why it recommends a number of general practices for better digestion. Digestive Agni can be compared to a burning fire. If the flame is very low, then it will take a long time to cook the food. In the same way, if the fire is too big, it can burn the food.
If we put a huge log on a low fire, it will extinguish it. Our digestive fires should be balanced so that we can digest our meals efficiently and smoothly.
The ginger-and-lemon-juice recommendation helps to increase the digestive power.
We recommend avoiding cold drinks at meals and chilled foods in general. This is like putting cold water on the burning logs. Iced water, normally served at restaurants, extinguishes the digestive fire. Even juice or milk right out of the refrigerator is too cold for the digestion. Juice should be taken at room temperature and water without ice.
Once you get into this habit of drinking beverages at room temperature, you will notice a dramatic improvement in your digestion and the way your body feels while eating and after the meal. Cold drinks and foods mixed with warm cooked foods can cause stomach cramps, bloating and general discomfort in the stomach area. Try slightly cool drinks made with rose water, or milk blended with dates or fresh mangos.
Another important thing is time of the day that you eat your meals. Have you ever gone out for a late dinner and found that it was a strain to wake up the next morning, or that it was difficult to be efficient during the following day?
These are often the side effects of improperly-digested food. The best way to avoid these problems is to follow nature’s prescription of suitable times to eat. When the sun is strongest, between 10 and 1 p.m., is when the digestive fire is also strongest. Agni is associated with the sun. This is one of the ways Yoga & Ayurveda seeks to connect our mind and body with the environment.
Lunch is the largest meal of the day, since that is the time the digestive Agni is working at its maximum potency. As the sun goes down, so does our Agni.
Dinner should be lighter than lunch and should ideally be eaten before 7.30 p.m.
Late-night meals interfere with sleep, and after 10:00 p.m. the body is working to burn off toxins and continue to digest food from the day. If you eat after 10:00 p.m., the food may cause toxins to accumulate in the system, and as a result the next day you wake up tired.
If you are not able to wake up fresh and clear, then it is important to analyse the quantity of food and the time of night you are eating dinner.
Another ayurvedic tip for digestion is to drink a fresh yogurt drink after or during the meals before sun sets. Lassi is light and contains lactobacilli, necessary bacteria that lubricate the intestines to help digestion go smoothly. Lassi drinks help to reduce gas and bloating. They also taste delicious and can make a meal more satisfying and nutritious.