Reducing Ama (toxicity) with Asana and Ayurveda Part 1
The basic qualities of agni are hot, sharp, light, subtle and dry. The very existence of ama is dependent on diminished agni and doshic imbalance. Doshic ama is formed by the qualities of the dosha that counteract agni’s characteristics. Kapha opposes it with dull, cold, heavy, and oily qualities. Pitta with liquid and oily qualities and vata with cold and mobile qualities.
Therefore ama is dependent on Agni. When the body digests food it uses the building blocks of the food to create the seven tissues within the body. When Agni is balanced Ojas is created. When Agni is low or variable ama is created. A yoga practice that affects ama balances agni, removes obstructions in the channels and squeezes ama from the deeper tissues. There are 13 forms of Agni that we can balance. These are:
- JatharAgni- located in the stomach it regulates and contributes a part of itself to the other Agnis and cooks the food to separate the sara (pure nutrients) from the kitta (waste).
- The other twelve Agnis are DhatuAgnis (7) and BhutuAgnis (5), which are related to the tissues and the five subtle elements, respectively.
In order to maintain health throughout these different metabolic centers please avoid the following behaviors:
- Eating at inappropriate times
- Under eating
- Eating cold or heavy foods
- Eating devitalized foods
- Eating before the previous meal has been digested
- Excessive sleep
- Anger, grief, immoral behavior
- Consumption of excess fluids
- Frequent changes in dietary habits.
As each tissue layer relies on channels to connect it to the preceding layers it is important to assess the flow through the channels in order for agni to function. Agni is a fire so it depends on oxygen to burn. Oxygen is delivered through the blood which is moved by Vata/Prana. To build agni it is important for the blood to be clean and pure as it nourishes the other tissue layers. Tuning in to circulation and how heat, energy, and awareness move through the body can be a good indicator of flow. If there is depleted flow you can balance effort and ease in your approach to food and yoga. By not being simultaneously kind an consistent in your relationship to food and your yoga practice ensures your body will get what it needs for a gentle gradual and even increase of agni which will be used to create healthy tissues.
The primary substance that builds the blood is called rasa or plasma. The rasa must be healthy in order to stop ama from accumulating in the blood leading to compromised systemic nutrient absorption and distribution. Rasa is not only the blood plasma it is also considered to be essence, juice and taste. In this regard how we nurture the most foundational tissue determines our essence and in so doing it feeds our beliefs and the perspective with which we see our lives. By building healthy rasa through management of agni and the elimination of ama we can cultivate a perspective that allows us to experience happiness, wisdom and peace. If you do have ama in the tissues these are some of the more serious signs signs:
Blood plasma, rasa
Lymphatic congestion, swelling, enlarged lymph nodes, edema, pallor
Red Blood cells, rakta
Hives, rash, irritation, inflammation, bleeding, itching, burning, hot flashes
Muscle twitching, spasms, pain, fatigue, tumor, fibrocystic growth
Lipoma, obesity, perspiration
Joint pain, cracking, popping, arthritis, osteoporosis
Tingling, lack of sensation, hypertonic, neuralgia, mental disorders
Male reproductive, shukra
Premature ejaculation, low libido
Female reproductive, artava
Although many of these signs are physical indications of imbalances that occur in the tissues because an excess of ama that is clogging the channels it is important to view the body from an energetic perspective.
Yoga primarily works on the energetic body and in the subtle anatomy the ama that we accumulate is associated with our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions as these are subtle vibrations that can begin to affect the body over time. Ultimately the seat of ama is in our mind. When we talk of energy the tissues that have the most conductivity within the body are the fluids such as the blood, lymph, and extracellular fluids. Thus by improving circulation in the body we can effectively remove stagnation of all kinds.
Besides toxicity ama is also considered to be:
- The consequence of poor assimilation of experiences.
- An emotional and energetic toxin that builds up in the subtle channels and prevents our connection with the body’s underlying intelligence.
- Blockages in the channels or in our ability to experience love and happiness.
- Improperly digested experience that is not utilizable by the energetic body as nourishment.
- Excess of any feeling or energetic state that builds up in our bodies.
The subtle body like the physical body that is affected by the nourishment carried in the blood is made of channels called Nadi’s. The fluids of the body where energy is carried in the body. These channels can become congested when the fluids are unhealthy or not flowing. This stagnation is caused by or related to the earth element. The Chinese system of medicine has a method of understanding the channels that is easy to follow. Within this system the meridians associated with Earth are Large Intestine, Stomach, Spleen, Circ/Sex, Triple Warmer, and Kidneys. The primary channel that indicates an earth has been imbalanced is the spleen/stomach. These channels go down the front of the hip and the inside of the leg. This gives us insight into the areas of the body to focus on when re-establishing agni and flow through yoga.
We have identified the area of the body to focus on and we have mentioned the importance of circulation through the channels. To remove ama we use the qualities of agni in our yoga practice. The hot, sharp, light, subtle and dry qualities will liquefy the ama. Although these qualities ae necessary to remove ama be careful not to encourage too much of a good thing as this can be depleting. Through the heat and dynamic movement we wake up the circulation and liquefy the ama. When the ama has been liquefied we focus on the spleen/stomach meridian and remove it from the body through twists and squats.
As ama likes to accumulate in the areas of the body where there is weakness or previous trauma special attention must be paid to releasing ama from these areas. As these are the areas of the body where there tends to be an intersection of many vessels and tissues these joints can be approaches softly before the dynamic movement liquefies the ama. The shoulders and hips are examples of these areas and if there has been injury here movements that do not put stress on the joint but invigorate the tissues can be useful. Postures such as horse stance or coordinated movement of hands and feet can accomplish this.
Ama can also accumulate while we practice yoga in two ways. One is as a response to cool the excess heat (pitta) that is created in the muscles or to splint unstable joints (vata). This corrective mechanism is a natural response to activity. Ama increases when either of these responses are overused. Ama accumulates in the blood and dulls the mind clouding emotional processing and blocking the nourishment of bones, marrow, fascia and organs.
TYPES OF AMA
There are three types of ama and depending on the health of our agni’s and tissues the ama will accumulate in one of three ways.
- Intrinsic ama- ama created when we can’t digest or process something because of weak agni. It is often called common ama as it is produced by Vata and Kapha imbalances and it is non reactive. It does however clog the srotas- the micro and macro circulatory channels that carry nutrition and excrement. This can cause disturbances in any of the doshas and lead to disease. By clogging the channels ama can create hyperactivity in the area involved. Over time this will results in vitiated ama. Detoxification will be required to restore balance and normal function.
- Extrinsic ama- this is a type of reactive ama that is produces when intrinsic ama reacts with substances that we ingest from the environment that we cannot break down such as pesticides, heavy metals, red dye or excessive pharmaceuticals. Most of these chemicals are man-made..
- Vitiated ama- This is when the reactive ama produced by inflammation interacts with the doshas and tissues. The reaction creates a spoiled substance that is a kind of biochemical rot. It creates inflammation in the body and activates destruction of the body in the form of an autoimmune response designed to remove the ama.
- When we are cleansing the intrinsic ama can get activated and it becomes vitiated as it ripens and that can discourage us from staying on the cleanse. This can happen with extrinsic ama as well.
Routines for eliminating ama
- Hot water routine
- Spice waters
- Liquid meal once a week
- Steam or sauna
- Effective strategies for removing v,p,k types of ama
- Pancha karma
- Purification diet
- Castor oil routine
Yoga inherently removes ama as exercise is a powerful therapy for reducing toxicity within our bodies. However, it is important to keep muscular effort to a minimum and to allow the joints to maintain stability and comfort.
Keywords for working with Ama in Yoga
Circulation– the micro and macro circulatory channels must be kept open in order for the pranic ama to be removed
Fluidity– The practice must utilize fluid movement and rhythm in order to prime the ama and to extract it from its location
Warmth– By encouraging heat in the system the ama becomes more liquid and can be removed more simply
Space– As ama tends to accumulate in the joints or in other places where there is a lot of intersecting tissues it is important to keep adequate space in those tissues
Exhale– focus on the exhale and extend the exhale in an organic way.
- CAT COW
- SUN SALUTATION
- TWISTED LUNGE
- TWISTED CHAIR
- TWISTED TRIANGLE
- TWISTED PARSOKONASANA
- Wide leg forward bend
- Wide leg twist
- Twisted horse
- WARRIOR ONE
- WARRIOR TWO
- SUN SALUTATION TO FLOOR
- LOCUST WITH ALTERNATING ARMS
- CHILDS POSE
- CAMEL POSE
- FORWARD BEND
- COW FACE POSE
- FIRE LOG POSE
- BOAT POSE
- HAND TO BIG TOE
- WIND RELIEVING
- SPINAL TWIST
This practice will remove ama from the system and not increase the production of ama within the body. This practice must be supported by following dietary and lifestyle guidelines in order to receive the benefits of the practice.