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When the digestive system is in good functioning order, all is well in the world and we feel happy and balanced. When it’s under par or dysfunctional, misery reigns and we can be subject to mental imbalance and emotional turmoil.

As one of the main elements in the body we can do much to keep the digestive system functioning at its optimal level. This naturally has a positive knock-on effect on the rest of the systems in the body that in turn helps us to feel strong, vibrant and healthy.

Those of us with weak digestion will do well to follow some simple rules to strengthen this system.

In order to do this, imagine that we’re going to build a fire.file1301281803365 

Think of this fire as being inside and just below the navel (belly button). This fire (which we call Agni in yoga) helps to promote good metabolism by extracting the nutrients from our food and absorbing them into the body, discarding the waste (the elimination process) and burning up toxins. You’ll appreciate that this is a very simplistic explanation of a huge process.

If you’ve ever started a fire from scratch you’ll know that the hardest part is the getting the flames going. So we might blow some air on to the kindling to encourage the ignition. For us, this translates as taking part in some aerobic exercise, particularly that which pumps a little air upward in the stomach such as stomach crunches, or bringing knees to chest, or leg raises. I call this solar work.

Another way to fan the fire is by diaphragmatic breathing as follows:

Rest your right hand on your diaphragm little finger resting just above the navel and your left hand just above the right with the left thumb roughly in the middle of your chest. As you breathe in and out in a slow, relaxed, rhythmic, wave-like motion, only your bottom hand should be moving up and down with the exception of a slight almost imperceptible movement in the bottom fingers of your left hand.

For a more detailed training of diaphragmatic breathing, you can find good clear instructions available on the audio program Breathe Easy.

Having kindled the fire, we want to keep it burning and another way to do this is to fast from 7.00pm to 7.00am. So eat a good breakfast and where possible, eat a little earlier in the day to ensure you’ve had your last meal by 7.00pm. Naturally this requires a bit of forethought and planning and needless to say if you’re diabetic this is not a good idea, so take advice from your nutritionist or GP.

A bit tongue in cheek, but if you want to douse the flames, drink cold liquids such as iced water, cold beers and wine with your meals. Ensure that you over-eat and eat late into the night. A regular diet of fatty fast foods processed and refried foods should all have the effect of putting out your digestive fire! When this happens we have to start all over again, trying to drum up the energy from somewhere to build the fire all over again.

Signs that we don’t have a good digestive fire might be bad breath, a poor appetite, a feeling of dullness and lethargy, feeling unwell. Elimination can be inhibited and we may suffer from constipation or other digestive problems. When our fire is low or out we find it difficult to get up and get going it can feel like a real struggle to set and achieve our goals.

Signs that our digestive fire is burning brightly are

Feeling light and buoyant in the body (whatever it’s size). Feeling rested when we awaken. Having a glowing skin. Feeling physically balanced and centred. Having a clear mind and a positive out-look. We will feel on purpose with our goals and will feel healthy and energised.

So much of this is down to the choices we make on a day-to-day, hour-to-hour basis.  Based on the above, scribble down a few notes and make plan of action to start a good fire and keep it burning brightly. Plan your meal times and what you will eat to keep the flames alight.

Wishing you good health and happiness throughout 2016.

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