Fasting is a common practice across many world religions and traditions. In my own culture, I have witnessed my elders fast once a week as an internal practice in devotion to God. I too was guided by a wise source and began fasting on Mondays - a favorite day of the great teacher Lord Shiva, the destroyer of impurities and restorer of faith through transformative powers. Since keeping up with this observance, I must admit I have never felt so good in my body than I do right now.
Nature of Fasting
Fasting is observed when the body does not require food and as a way to aid overall wellbeing. The physiology of fasting is very beneficial, improves hormonal health, gut healing, cellular renewal, and eliminates inflammation in the body. Fasting does not harm the body in any way; it can improve specific conditions quite easily. Please note that fasting is voluntary for total health purposes and it is not starvation - a condition arising out of circumstances where either one lacks access to get food or refusal to take in food, which are external and beyond the control of the individual and can lead to serious decline of one’s health (supervision by specialized medical doctor and therapist is necessary).
The Two Types
There are two types of fasting - one that yields an external result, to go without food through refraining for certain times and days for personal triumphs and desire to control an aspect of one’s body or for certain medical conditions. The other type is internal fasting - which also includes taking a pause from food for certain times and days to cleanse the body but it is spiritual in nature - to focus the energy towards higher consciousness or pure awareness. Fasting when done with clear intention and right actions, sharpens the intellect as well as the body.
Fasting as Upavasa
In Eastern Spirituality and specifically Ayurvedic (knowledge of life) science, fasting is an internal practice known as Upavasa - (Upa) means to sit near and uplift to higher self and wisdom, (vasa) means align and dwell with greater will and power. Upavasa is observed through specific devotional practices, discipline and self study as a way to abide in one’s true nature, remove toxic thoughts and impurities, and to purify the mind body to a higher level of conscious living. Upavasa is traditionally followed during the cycles of the moon and in observance of holidays where one is devoting efforts to illuminate goodness, peace, prosperity, and best of health for all beings.
Spiritual Fasting or Upavasa is the full prescription of health and well-being; it constitutes mental, physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual intelligence. Upavasa protocol is determined according to one’s constitution which helps to identify the duration - days/timing of fast, number of meals/water intake, rest, and supportive routines to follow during the fasting period. Upavasa followed properly with a positive mindset is designed to help with external concerns such as minor skin conditions, aches/pain, and weight concerns to list a few. The internal process during Upavasa greatly improves functioning of all bodily systems, mental alertness, mood regulation, lightness in the body, improved sleep, and overall feeling of well-being.
Looking and Feeling Sharp
A doctor friend of mine had done a 3 and 5 days water only fast with a group of colleagues for optimal health purposes and when she shared that with me, I thought well since I fast for 1 day weekly anyways, let me try 3 days. I wanted to fast for both health and spiritual purposes - addressing hormonal symptoms and to feel free from my limited ego beliefs (getting stuck in my story/narrative) and tap into a higher source for clarity over my life. Our ego will have us believe that it is always the external stimuli that is the source of our happiness or misery - person, place, or thing (object), but the reality is that happiness or misery is a reflection within each of us, from our own doing. No one has that power over us, unless you give it.
I wanted to strengthen my innate power, and I needed remembrance to sit and align with that source and contemplate on my higher purpose. Once I made up my mindset, I was easily directed to taking real good care of my body; both internally and externally. I prepared myself with daily rituals that I knew would aid the process, checked in with my doctor friend for the full duration of the water only fast. By day 3, I was feeling so good that I continued and finished day 7 (which is the maximum that is recommended unless one is under doctor’s supervision for specific health related concerns).
The first food I took in after my fasting was stewed apples followed a few hours later with kitchari - classic superfood dish made with rice and mung beans to cleanse, nourish, and balance optimal digestion. Fasting is a tolerable challenge, it yields tremendous results when done properly. I have never felt better and my symptoms naturally subsided through the fasting protocol.
I continue my journey and share the timeless wisdom and method, if you are curious please join my upcoming group fasting hosted at Integrative Healing Montclair where I share my tips and support your transformation .
A qualified teacher can guide you through the process. To learn more on this topic and body/mind wellbeing, please schedule a free consult here.