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What is Āma?

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Often when a practitioner asks you to stick out your tongue they are looking at many things, but one of those things is the coating that may reside there. There are times when that coating can indicate health and other times when the coating can indicate ill health. There are times when a clear tongue can be held to the same standards. So, if you have ever heard that the coating on your tongue is āma, take a moment to gather a bit more information.

What does a coating indicate?

The coating on your tongue is known as a lepa – which means a covering in Sanskrit. After you eat, drink, and even after you sleep, it is likely you will get a light lepa – that may be white-ish or yellow-ish on your tongue that simply indicates that you have gone through the first process of digestion. (There are 3.) The first process takes place in Kapha’s home site of the stomach – called the āmaśaya. This indicates that Kapha is mixing with the uncooked food after you have chewed and swallowed to continue the process of digestion. What you see on your tongue is a residue from that. This residue is generally not thick and can be scraped away with a tongue scraper or the edge of a spoon. This is not considered āma. 

If you are someone with a continuous coating on your tongue that is difficult to scrape away, it can hint at the presence of āma just simply because it indicates that there is excessive action (or inaction) of some kind at the beginning portion of your digestive process. A completely coatless tongue though is not the goal either! A tongue that is always without a lepa can indicate that your digestive fire is too strong and is effectively burning the food and tissues as it goes down. So, like most things, nothing can be judged point-blank, and the middle way is the way of health.

What is Āma Itself?

Āma is defined as many things but most generally it is defined as apakva (uncooked) anna (food) that passes through the āmaśaya (stomach) without being digested. It can also be indicative of improperly “cooked” (digested) food that stays in the stomach (āmaśaya) and creates blockage there. Depending on what the unprocessed food does, and which doshas and tissues it mixes with, this will indicate the problems that next arise. 

One reason that we cannot call that which is on the tongue āma is that āma cannot be scraped away. Another definition is that āma is that which cannot be moved from its place. Āma lodges where it is created, or it mixes with other tissues/substances and they move it around. So, it is unlikely that what you find on your tongue is āma because āma is usually stuck in one place. The properties of lepa on your tongue can certainly lead to more questions that can help determine if āma is present, but it is not definitive alone. 

The way to remove āma – is to cook it! Āma must receive the treatment internally that it did not receive previously which is why it formed. Thus āma is removed with substances that increase/support digestive fire. Examples of this in the kitchen are cumin, black pepper, and ginger powder to name a few. The reason we cook with spices is to aid in the process of removing āma.

How do you accumulate Āma?

  • Eating without hunger
  • Drinking without thirst
  • Drinking while eating
  • Drinking directly before or directly after eating
  • Eating and then sleeping
  • Eating and showering
  • Eating and exercising
  • Eating and drinking incompatible foods and foods that create blockage
  • Eating and drinking without accordance to season, digestive power, age

Engaging with any of these things will lead to the formation of āma. This is another reason why we cook with spices that “burn up” āma (do “pācana”) because these things are very common and very often done!

Some of the most delicious foods are incompatible, so though it is best to avoid them, if you do consume them, it is ideal to know what to do next – ie. eat light, cooked foods – with hunger – made with spices like those listed above for example.

What are Signs of Āma Accumulation?

  • Obstructed channels – like lack of sweat for example
  • Smell to the breath, the sweat, the feces, the urine
  • Feeling of general heaviness, malaise, and loss of “get up and go”
  • Loss of clear hunger and sluggish digestion
  • Phlegminess and increase waste material – often with mucus and smell

What to do!?

  • Visit the blog where I placed information from the previous email and review seasonal eating. 
  • Start noticing what happens after you eat? Do you have gas? bloating? fatigue? nausea? burning indigestion? burping? If yes, then you may be in the process of – or already have – accumulated āma. If this is you, simplify your diet.
  • Notice if you eat away from meal schedules, or participate in any of the above lists
  • Do some research on “viruddha ahara” and “apathyas” to learn what food combinations and activities guarantee āma.
  • Schedule a consultation
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