Our Indian culture is practicing concept of “Fasting” from ages and it is an integral part of our religion and tradition. e.g. Ekadashi and Ramadan. Fasting is not just a religious act but holds a great science as well. In Sanskrit fasting is called “UPVASAM” which means “To Stay Near God”. It can be termed as “Purification of body, mind and soul”. It is more than just limiting food intake, It involves purification of Antahkaran by staying away from all type of negative thoughts, negative speech, negative scene or any negative act.
There are two main aspects, first we find people taking medicines for minor health complaints like headache or body pain which is not essential and continue food intake inspite of weak digestion in illness. This process leads to intoxication and blood stream gets polluted.
Second, we find people eating low quality junk food which lacks nutrition and they keep overeating due to taste, hence it collapses digestive fire or agni and food left undigested in the system creates “Ama” (toxic material). It starts flowing in the bloodstream and gives birth to various health issues, so the entire concept of food, fasting, digestion is about “Agni and Ama”.
Types of Fasting
Nowadays people (especially those who want weight loss and body shaping) observe fast not just by considering the ‘Time’ factor but also the ‘Calorie’ factor. e.g. Water fasting, Intermittent fasting, Calorie restriction fast, Keto fast etc.
Among all these, traditionally Intermittent Fasting has been practised most in which one needs to refrain from food on a regular time interval with consistency.
Intermittent fasting can be done in following ways :
- 16/8 Pattern :Fasting of 16 hours each day and a gap of 8 hours between two meals. It is the most popular method followed.
- 5/2 Pattern : Fasting for 2 days per week
- Eat-Stop-Eat : Fasting for 24 hours once or twice per week.
- Meal Skipping : It is about skipping meals as and when a person feels to do so.
- Warrior Fast : Fasting during day time and taking meals at night.
- Alternate Day Fasting : One day fast and the next day taking a meal.
Ayurvedic Approach Of Fasting
Ayurveda considers fasting with a very broad view so it treats each individual as unique and suggests fasting guidelines accordingly. The pattern of fasting Is decided by analysingPrakriti (Dosha), Time factor, any chronic disease if a person has, other affecting factor like physical activity as part of routine or nature of work person is doing etc.
Selection of Time: First step is to decide when a person should fast ? Answer is listen to your ‘Body Signal’ !If you are not feeling energetic, having heaviness in stomach, acidity, bloating, burping related problems then the system is giving signal that body needs rest to recharge.
Apart from that, overlapping seasons are highly advisable to follow fast. In overlapping seasons one season gets about to end/finish and the next season is about to arrives e.g spring season – In India end of february and starting of march. Similarly end of summer and starting of winter in the month of august and september.
Prakriti Analysis and Considering Dosha : Ayurveda treats each individual as a unique one. Before commencing fast, one should analyze his/her prakriti and health condition with help of Ayurveda expert whenever needed. Ayurveda prefers short and regular fasting, can be of once a week, once a month like that. Long term fasting is not mostly advised as it may hamper the system of person.
VataDosha: A person with vata dosha should not go for “only water fasting”, as vata increases light and dry qualities in the body. During fast fruit juices like sweet orange juice, grapes juice or a warm herbal tea prepared from ginger, lime, mint leaves, cumin seeds etc. can be taken.
Pitta Dosha : A person with pitta dosha should not fast for a longer period and also should not follow ‘only water’ based fasting as a healthy pitta person has very strong digestion as prolonged fast can adversely affect digestive fire. During fast it is advisable to consume astringent fruit juices like pomegranate, prunes, pears etc. and also juices of leafy green vegetables. They can also follow a very light diet of “soupy khichdi” which will be beneficial for them.
KaphaDosha : A healthy person with kapha dosha usually can go for ‘only water’ based fasting for some extended period compared to pitta and vata person. During fast hot liquids like soup and herbal tea made from using drumstick, ginger, lemon, cinnamon, carom seeds, basil etc. are very beneficial.
Benefits of Fasting
Human body is such a wonderful creation which not only acquires energy from food but from air, water, mind/thoughts and auto-cleansing of the body system as well. Fasting cleans entire blockage and makes smooth functioning of the system.
Very obvious result of keeping fast is having good digestion.
- It speeds up the healing process.
- It gives a strong immune system.
- It calms the mind as well which benefits psychologically. It gives good concentration and focused thought process.
- It is useful for spiritual growth as well as it gives a great support to connect with consciousness.
Cautions To Consider For Good Fasting Experience
- It is very important that the aim of fasting is to recharge the body so if fasting makes you very dull, tired and exhausted, it shows the respective pattern of fast chosen by you is not proper for you and better to discontinue the same.
- Always try to plan your fast in advance and follow the same pattern. E.g If you are following fast on every monday then fix the same day and don’t change the decision day very often. In case of a missing day of fast, one should not compensate with doubling time or days of fast.
- Don’t overwork during fast as purpose of fast is to relax entire system so over work will make you feel weak. Spending time for meditation, reading good books, chanting mantras, etc will enhance the effect of fasting not only on body but mind as well.
Fasting is a lightning activity of the body, so following person should consult prior before observing fast.
- very young or very elder/aged
- women in stage of pregnancy, breastfeeding or menstruation
- Underweight or Malnourished person
- Person with chronic illness.
Not only selecting a best fasting pattern but ending fast is an equally important process. One need to be careful before resuming the entire system as sudden over intake of food may damage the system very badly. Body needs to get prepared for a normal course of action gradually. First, starting with light vegetable soup and thin watery liquid of lentils like moong dal or masoor dal is good.
Gradually include light food like khichdi, boiled and sauteed non-spicy moong, murmura (puffed rice), rice and low fat milk with elaichi, poha (flattened rice) etc.
Once the system adapts with these foods, normal food can be started gradually.
Mahatma Gandhi is very well known for practicing fast in his ashram in the most appropriate way. He believed that fasting is an integral part of maintenance of a valuable human body so he emphasized on it a lot. The way machines need repair and servicing for hurdle free functioning, the human body performs the same repair work during fast. It is an activity of detoxifying, rejuvenating, and ultimate recharging of cells.
A healthy body and mind is a prime requirement for living a happy life so those wishing a disease-free and healthy life should understand the importance of fasting and practice it considering all points mentioned above. Go easy with your fast to ease your body fast
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Dr. Vikram Chauhan (MD-Ayurvedic Medicine) is an Expert Ayurveda Consultant in Chandigarh (India). He has vast experience of herbs and their applied uses. He has successfully treated numerous patients suffering from various ailments, throughout the world. He is CEO and Founder of Krishna Herbal Company and Planet Ayurveda in Chandigarh, India. He researched age old formulas from ancient Ayurvedic text books to restore health and save human beings from the worst side-effects of chemical-based treatments.