How fasting can change your life?
"The Discipline of Fasting breaks you out of the world’s Routine”
For the last 2 years, I have started fasting (Level -5, explained later in the same blog) and it's giving tremendous results. Even my wife started fasting (Level -3) with me and she is enjoying it.
Fasting has got a special position in Yogic Culture. In ashrams, Yoga Guru’s and students used to follow a regular fasting process to improve awareness both physically and mentally.
You might have heard fasting is one of the best medicines for most diseases. Many people have asked questions on how to fast and how it's going to help them. So let’s dig deep into how fasting can change your life.
“Health and Healing will follow Fasting”
Fasting is referred to as Upavasa in the Sanskrit language. When we split this word, we have 2 parts of it as mentioned below,
- Upa - a higher place
- Vasa - to stay.
So Upavasa means to stay at a higher place. To stay at a higher place on a lighter note, doesn’t mean sitting on the top of a hill. Upavasa refers to staying at a higher place in terms of our energy level.
There are two kinds of Upavasa or fasting according to the scriptures.
- Fasting at the level of Intellectual.
- Fasting at the physical level.
Learning is a continuous process and it won't stop till the last breath of our life. Each and every day we learn new things, we consume so much of information that sometimes we get tired. Like any other machine, our mind or brain needs servicing. So, wise people always suggest that at least once in 30 days we should give rest to our mind.
Don’t mistake me, giving rest doesn’t mean sitting idle. Resting here refers to, not learning any new things instead churning what you have learnt in the last 30 days.
Next comes is the fasting at the physical level. In our body, there are some organs that work for us from the mother's womb to the death tomb such as the heart, respiratory system, and digestion system. So fasting here refers to giving rest to our digestive system. Note: Starting from here to the end of this article, we refer to fasting as the rest to our digestive system.
“Our Soul needs Fasting, as much as our Body need Food”
##Why do we have to do fasting?
Now, just try to visualize that you are working from the last 30 days without any break. Ah !! it's hard to even visualize right? Now think of your digestive system which is working continuously from past so many years.
The time required to digest our food depends on the food we take.
Most of us think that the food we ate in the morning gets digested before our next meal but that may not be correct. The food we ate might have not been digested completely and before that we stuff some more food and add an extra load to it. Please note this is the biggest reason for most of our diseases starting from headache to cancer.
According to the philosophy of Yoga the minimum gap between your 2 meals should be 7 - 8 hours. This is because if you are a yogi and practicing yogic diet then the food you have eaten will get digested completely in 7 - 8 hours and comes out of the system.
Most important point is obesity is killing more people than hunger now . We are consuming more than what we need. Results have shown that obesity and diseases that arise as a result are overtaking problems related to hunger on a global scale. The Red Cross estimates that there were 1.5 billion dangerously overweight people worldwide last year, while 925 million were underfed.
Benefits of fasting
Physical Benefits of Fasting :
- High metabolism.
- Kills Radical cells - which are the main reason for Cancer.
- Rejuvenates your entire digestive system.
- Improves your Immunity.
- Complete body cleansing.
- Your breathing shifts towards a natural pattern.
Mental benefits of fasting
- Reduces Mood swings.
- Reduces Anxiety.
- Improves our willpower.
- Increases memory and learning capability.
How to do fasting that can change your life?
Usually, fasting is done for 24 to 36 hours at a stretch.
So if you are planning to fast on Sunday, then your actual fasting starts soon after Saturday dinner and ends either Sunday 12 AM with some fruits or with Sunday morning breakfast.
If you have not done fasting at all then you can follow the below levels. Go one level after another so that your body gets adjusted to the process of fasting.
Level-1: Try to skip a meal, preferably in the night.
This is the first step in your fasting journey. You can try this for a month, where you will skip a meal in the night. Just try doing it once in a week for a month.
Level-2: Try to skip two meals.
One Meal a day - In level 2, you will skip 2 meals i.e lunch and dinner. You will need to do it twice a month , it means once in 15 days.
Level-3: Try to skip all kinds of food and just stay on fruits and water.
Fruit diet - In level 3, you will skip all the meals and just consume fruits (with high water content like watermelon) and water. Please do this once in a month, please do not push yourself
Level-4: Just have water, no food or fruits - water fasting
Water fasting - In level 4, you will be fasting for an entire day without food and you will be consuming only water. Level 4 also, please do it once in a month.
Level -5: No food and no water.
The final stage, s the method that I am following currently. Here you will be fasting for 24 hours without food and water.
Note: We all are fed with information such as, if you skip your meal then you will get headache, acidity and other digestive issues. These problems happen when you skip food without any awareness. But during fasting, we are completely aware and we've skipped food intentionally. So, not to worry of such problems.
But , if you feel any uneasiness which you aren't able to manage, then first consume a glass of warm water and then some fruits.
In the beginning, once you achieve level 4 or 5, try to follow it once in a month, not more than that. Once you are comfortable with once in a month, then slowly push yourself for twice in a month. But this is a hard rule, that you must not do full-day fasting more than twice a month, please be careful.
How to break fasting
Once you reach level 4 and level 5 where you will be fasting for the whole day, you may have a question on how to end fasting? To end your fasting, first drink a glass of lukewarm water and then have some fruits and then slowly get back to your normal diet.
Did you know fasting can prevent CANCER?
Alexis Carrel the Nobel Prize winner - has mentioned a vast explanation about fasting in his book “Man, The Unknown “. According to him, if you start fasting regularly then there won’t be any instances in your life where you have to visit a doctor, you will be healthy till the last breath of your life.
You might even know that in the year 2016, a scientist from Japan Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize for their research on Autophagy.
The basic idea behind autophagy is that in the absence of external sources of food, the body begins to eat itself (auto: self, phage: eat), destroying and recycling its own damaged cell bits and proteins, so that new and healthy versions can be built. Autophagy is believed to be essential for helping protect against diseases like cancer and dementia, among others.
16:8 intermittent fasting
In the last 4 - 5 yrs, this intermittent fasting or alternate day fasting has gained popularity. This is nothing but the Level - 2 fasting which we described in how to do fasting that can change your life section above.
But many people have raised concern on this method as this is done continuously for weeks and sometimes even for months. In this method, we have to be careful, because we may get some instant benefits like weight loss and reduction in belly fat or some time lowers sugar level in blood, but such continuous fasting also weakens us from within. In Yoga, we don't suggest this method as yoga is all about building inner strength and this intermittent fasting does opposite to yoga.
Note: If you are following this intermittent fasting and getting great results physically and mentally that's great, we are not against it, but keep a close watch on the changes that are happening in your body.
Fasting has both benefits physically and spiritually. If you have any desire to go in the path of spirituality then the process of fasting must be a part of your life. Again doing or not doing completely depends on how much you believe in the system of “Upavasa”.
Many scriptures mention that a yoga practitioner should include fasting in their routine but I leave it to you.
The choice of doing it or not doing it is yours !!
Prashanth Let’s make this world a bit more positive through Yoga.