Fast your way to Health
We can prevent all disorders by nipping the buds of diseases. And this can happen through fasting. Besides, it is really important for us to detox today as we are eating all kinds of chemicals along with the food.
According to Ayurveda, we all have a unique body type or body constitution. It is called Prakrati (the nature of the body). Prakruti is made up of a combination of 3 dosha (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha). This combination is different for each person, for example for one it might be Vata, Pitta, Kapha or Vata-pitta, or kapha-vata etc. Dosha are basically physiological systems that run the body. Because of this different combination of Dosha, each body reacts differently to the external stimuli.
Therefore anything that suits one person might not be equally good for the other. Similarly, the procedure of fasting also cannot be same for everyone. The best for you cannot be general, it has to be unique like the way you are!
Fasting comes under a broad range of Ayurvedic treatment approach called “Langhan”. Langhan is a Sanskrit word which means “the process which makes something light or small”. It is similar to the Sanskrit word “Laghu” or small/light. Langhan is basically used to remove excess fat, mucus, toxins or any undesirable material from the body. Langhan is a wide term, it includes many tools like exercise, internal cleansing, sunbath, use of digestives etc. Fasting is one of the tools used for the process of langhan (detoxfying or lightening the body).
Not too Fast!
This is a general guideline regarding prohibition of fasting. The two sutra to be understood here are –
1). Nothing is good all the time,
2) Any kind of excess is never beneficial.
Following people should avoid fasting without medical supervision.
- Person with severe mental or physical trauma
- Person involved in hard manual labour
- Person involved in active military service
- Person working in night shift
- Weak or debilitated person
- Very old
- Very young (children)
- Person suffering from Vata diseases like joint pain, body pain, migraine etc.
- Pregnant women
- Lactating women
Apart from the above stated people, there are certain conditions in which no should observe zero food / zero water fast–
- During long journeys
- In extremely hot or extremely cold climate
- During medical treatment
- During panchkarma
- During recuperation period
However, once you get habituated to fasting, most of these rules might not be applicable to you.
Fasting from the scratch!
The Fast Observer
If you have never fasted or are uncomfortable with the idea of fasting, you should have a slow graduation from no fast to regular fasting.
Ideally you should start with one meal fast. You can also start with the fruits and milk fast if you are fond of fruits.
The type of fasting depends on your lifestyle as well –
- If you are a person who is involved in work of high manual labour, for example if you are an athlete, you have minimum requirement for fasting. Your body metabolism is fast enough to drive away all the toxins at a break-neck speed. However, regular detox from intermitent fasting is like a provident fund that you use in your later less active years.
- If you are a person with medium manual labour, you can choose any kind of fasting.
- Fasting is excellent for people with low manual work and high mental engagement. Benefits of fasting (link to previous article).
Fasting also depends on your stamina or your body strength –
- If you are a thin, weak or emaciated person, ideally you should not observe zero food fast. However, fruits and milk fasting can help in the case of anorexia (lack of hunger). This kind of fasting will ignite the digestive system and help you to actually gain weight!
- If you are a person with moderate or good stamina, you can go for any kind of fasting. However, you should ensure that your body has enough time to accomodate fasting and gain best benefits from it.
- If you are a person with vata disease, fasting like zero food fasting can actually aggravate the disorders, as fasting increases the Vata dosha.
Fasting: Timing and Cycle
Ideally, you should make a convenient routine of fasting, instead of practicing random fasting. According to this research, Cyclic fasting has the maximum benefits. You can start with one day fast, once in a fortnight and then gradually proceed to the 3 days or 9 days continous fasting.
The best time to fast is the Varsha or the rainy season. The digestive system is at its worst and there are chances of more digestive problems. Fasting during rains helps to prevent severe blows to a weakened digestive system. And therefore, it also prevents the aggravation of diseases. It preserves the natural immunity.
Interestingly, most of the fasting festivals like Parivarjan Parva of Jains, Ramadan, or the Navratri fasting, all are celebrated near to the rainy season! Sharvan somvara or solah somvaar vrata (fasting for 16 Mondays during the 4 months of rainy season) is a traditional Hindu festival that is obersved during the rains. These festivals help to preserve our metabolic balance during seasonal changes.
Best time for zero food fasting
Zero food Fasting should be observed during the spring as it is the season for Kapha prakop or vitiation. Kapha causes excess mucus, congestion, slow digestion, sluggishness and heaviness in the body. This is the season that invites cold and cough, seasonal flu, conjunctivitis, indigestion etc. Cyclic zero food fasting is an excellent preventive measure for this season.
Worst time for zero food fasting
The worst time to fast is the Hemant or the mid-winter season, when it is really chilly. During cold climate, body maintains the body temperature by heat produced during digestion. Digestive fire is the strongest during this time, which if left unfed, will burn down the body tissues. It is important to avoid zero food fasting or any kind of fasting during this time, unless medically advised.
Extreme summer is also not a great time to plan an intensive fasting if you are not habituated to it.
Light fasting on fruits, milk or single meal is ideal for summers. In summer, the body wants to loose heat. Therefore the digestion is slowed in order to prevent the heat production. Once you get used to it, summer is a great time for water based fasting. Infact, eating without hunger is more detrimental during summers and rains than in any other season.
There is a special mango fasting that can help you detox completely – Amrakalpa
For more details on Ritucharya (Ayurvedic protocol of different seasons), please see – Ritucharya for 6 Seasons
In this series, I would soon publish some more articles and videos. Thanks for reading.