Come on Baby Light My Fire!...Maybe

July 14, 2013
Katherine Austin Wooley


How's your digestion?

Not usually the most common question asked when we chat with someone, LOL, unless you are in the yoga/ayurveda community!  It's too funny to observe how we yogis talk; it's like we're from another planet.  We are always looking at things as energy and how they affect our body, mind and spirit.

I've been struggling a bit lately with my fire. Fire in the belly is  good for certain people and not so good for others.  For me, being of vata constitution, keeping a fire in the belly is a daily practice.

I grew up thinking that this was just the way I was. Slow digestion, and ok let's just say it, constipation.

Fast forward to higher consciousness and learning about Ayurveda. When I had my first consultation, I learned that like attracts like.  I'm usually cold and dry, so naturally I gravitated to salads, crackers, bread, cold drinks and ice cream.  Not so great when what I really need is the opposite of cold and dry to balance me out. Understand?

See if you DON"T have fire in the belly, putting anything cold and dry down there is like throwing water on a fire.  It stamps it right out. Wow, this made so much sense to me when I heard it the first time.

I consciously have to consider how to create warm and oily meals, sip warm drinks and other foods that will help ease me into balance.  It's also best for me to do a little "fire starter" of some raw ginger with lemon juice (a ginger pickle, in ayurvedic terms) to get the gastric juices going before a meal. And I'm a big fan of an herbal supplement called Vata Digest, heating herbs to help stimulate the digestion process.

When I travel - like all of us! - I can easily get thrown off. Flying at high speeds (vata aggravating) and sitting in dry, cold airplanes always does a number on me.  I try to eat some ghee before and after I fly, do an oil massage and bring my own food, hot water container and Triphala (digestive stimulant) to take before during and after, oiling up from the inside out!

I've been traveling a lot this spring and summer, and I am struggling a bit with getting my fire going. You probably know what it's like: out of your familiar environment, without the ease of your own refrigerator full of the right foods for your constitution. Recently, I ate foods that really weren't right for me and paid the price - less-than-optimal digestive flow. Ugh. And I won't even mention the common problem people have when traveling: unable to truly go to the bathroom.

There's a reason for all this. When you have consistent, strong digestion - when you are AWARE of what your digestive system needs every single day - you can stay on a healthy path. It takes effort, maintenance and awareness to digest with ease and keep a steady input-output flow.

It all starts with knowing your constitution and eating accordingly. Those with too much fire in the belly (pitta)can struggle with IBS, rapid digestion/elimination, ulcers and more. For me, the opposite of pitta, it's another story. Where I need hotter foods and warmth, pitta people need cooling foods and drinks.

And then there's the kapha person. (In Ayurveda, there are only three constitutions, so it's not hard to discover yours!)  "Kapha is heavy, dense, wet, cold and static. If you eat a large bowl of ice cream (heavy, dense wet and cold,) at night (cold) in winter in Vermont (cold, wet), you can be sure that Kapha will increase in your system. The next morning you may find yourself with a cold, having gained a pound or two (the increase of heavy and dense) and less likely to move than ever (static)." - Banyan Botanicals

You've probably noticed I haven't referenced any drug store solution.  Ayurveda is about using food as your pharmacy. Once you learn how to get your self back in balance, it's easy!

So it's back to the ginger pickle and easily digestible foods for me!  It only takes a few days, and I'll be back on track.



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