According to Ayurveda, there are four different types of Agni, or digestion. Each one corresponds to and is caused by an imbalance in one of the three doshas, except for the fourth type.
Strong and balanced Jatharagni (digestive fire) is known as the main determinant to one's overall health. Balanced digestive fire is at the very core of our level of wellness. Just as we on planet earth rely on the sun as the giver of life and the key to our existence, agni functions in the same way in our bodies.
“As is the human body, so is the cosmic body.
As is the human mind, so is the cosmic mind.
As is the microcosm, so is the macrocosm.
As is the atom, so is the universe."
When agni is strong, one is able to take in foods (as well as other inputs that come in from outside of us that require mental, emotional and energetic digestion), digest & metabolize them and then eliminate their waste products without any struggle.
Agni is the great transformer within our bodies, and without it, we cannot receive from the earth and transform its gifts of food into the energy and ojas that we need to thrive.
But when the state of agni is either weak, too strong or all over the place, we aren't able to digest properly, the channels of the body get clogged up with blocked energy and with a toxic sludge known as ama.
Trapped ama eventually leads to disease over time.
VISHAMA AGNI: irregular digestion (erratic)
This first type is related to Vata Dosha and results when there is too much air/ether in the body. Common symptoms are gas, bloating, constipation (or vacillation between constipation and diarrhea) and unpredictable elimination, abdominal pain, low back pain, irregular appetite, dry mouth, dry skin, cracking joints, muscular pain, insomnia, etc.
A brownish-black coating will form on the tongue. Emotionally, those with Vishama Agni will experience anxiety, overwhelm, fear, worry, paranoia, restlessness, spaciness, inability to focus, and unpredictable emotions.
TIKSNA AGNI: hyper-metabolism (hot & sharp)
This second type is related to Pitta Dosha and results when there is too much fire/water in the body. Common symptoms are heartburn, indigestion, rapid digestion, burning sensations, inflammation, diarrhe or soft and loose stools, weight loss & difficulty gaining weight, voracious appetites (hangry anyone?), hot flashes, etc.
A yellowish, orange coating will appear on the tongue. Emotionally, Tikshna Agni will lead to heated emotions like anger, impatience, a desire to dominate and control, envy, jealousy and judgement.
MANDA AGNI: hypo-metabolism (slow & heavy)
This third type is related to Kapha Dosha and results when there is too much earth/water in the body. Common symptoms are heaviness, low appetite, slow digestion, slow metabolism, water retention, overweight, difficulty losing weight, lethargy, laziness, mucous in bowel movements, cold and clammy skin, weakness, the desire for excessive sleep, etc. This type will also lead to more frequent colds, coughs and congestion as well as edema, lymph congestion and allergies.
The coating not he tongue will be thick and white. The emotional expression will consist of lethargy, sadness, depression, lack of inspiration, boredom, attachment, jealousy, greed and excessive emotionality.
This fourth type is not related to any particular dosha, but manifests when the doshas are in their balanced state (for the specific individual), and when ama is minimal. 'Sama' means 'even' or 'equal' and reflects the balanced, healthy, functional state of this type. We are all meant to experience Sama Agni.
Sama Agni leads to perfect health, a balanced and calm mind, the ability to handle stressors with ease, and more. Those with this type are able to digest all kind of foods without much difficulty and they transition between seasons fairly seamlessly. Metabolism is healthy, they are able to find and maintain a comfortable weight, elimination happens regularly and without struggle, and their emotions are balanced.
In our modern age, it is fairly rare to find individuals who exhibit truly Sama Agni, but by following the guidance of ayurveda with commitment over time, it is entirely possible to make this your lived experience!
It is entirely possible to experience a combination of two of any of these four types of agni, together at the same time within your digestive system. For example, you could be experiencing digestion that is slow and dull with persistent weight gain, yet your appetite is all over the map. This would be classified as Manda-Tikshna Agni, as it is exhibiting signs of both excessive Kapha and Pitta doshas, simultaneously.
This is why it is so important to work with a trained Ayurvedic professional, especially if your imbalanced digestive symptoms are chronic.