Spending these past years in Israel, I got to witness all of the similarities in between human beings, cultures and religions more clearly. We are all the same after all. In this blog I would like to focus on one practice that many religions already spoke of its benefits: Fasting.
These days the Jewish people of Israel are getting ready for their yearly 25 hours fast- “Yom-Kippur”, that is meant for purifying their bodies and souls. The practice of fasting is common in many other religions and cultures, and is supported by the western medicine too. I dedicate this blog for this wonderful technique, and for explaining its meaning and benefits according to the world I’m coming from – the world of Yoga.
Fasting simply is an act in which you don’t do anything. Means to NOT eat anything for a certain amount of time, such as 12 to 24 hours. By not eating food, we let our digestive system rest. Just the way we need to sleep every night after working whole day long, in order to relax our body and prepare it for the next day. The same way our internal organs, which keep working all the time, need to rest as well. If our digestive system gets to rest once a week, it’s going to perform better and will be ready to face the challenges we keep giving it, by eating the industrial foods that are ruling our world but weakening our bodies.
Fasting has many benefits on all levels: physical, mental and spiritual.
On the physical level: our digestive system works to observe the important elements from our food, those that our body requires, and to get rid of the unnecessary and toxic elements. When we keep eating continually without giving it any rest, it starts to slow down and gets imbalanced, since it doesn’t have any time to empty the collected toxins. This could cause illnesses, weakness, tiredness, digestion problems and discomfort. Fasting is a natural way to relax and re-energize our internal organs, to take all the toxins out and to clean the whole system, so it can keep up its good work. When our body is on a fasting process, our “Pita” (Fire element) doesn’t need to focus anymore on digestion and can began to burn the toxins that are left in our body and to allow our digestive system to recover.
As for the mental, spiritual and yogic benefits: when one practices fasting, it improves the abilities in all of the Yogic aspects. In the Yoga Asana- it helps to loosen the muscles, increase flexibility, and reduce the risks of breaking any muscle or ligaments easily. It also eases the mind from stress and reduces the tension in the muscles and body, and balances the body’s energies. While practicing fasting, the Fire elements begin to slow down the thought frequencies. As a result: our mind becomes lighter and more relaxed, there’s more gap in between two thoughts, the concentration increases and there are better conditions to practice meditation. The Fire element is solar plexus chakra’s element, that’s responsible to balance this chakra and to active its functions. those functions play a big role in human qualities. One will experience; will power, action, courage and confidence as result of a balanced chakra.
The Yogic way of fasting: Yogis eat to support their physical body, to keep it healthy and in the manner where it helps them to practice yoga and its all aspects, and to reach the final stage of meditation, and then: Samadhi, Moksha (enlightenment). In the yogic way, fasting is a way to control your senses, not to keep providing anything that our senses demand. One of the demands of taste keep you driving toward different tastes and bringing the outer pleasure, that pleasure ego can feed on. In the yogic manner fasting is one of the ways to reduce the ego and to control the senses which are responsible to drive our mind from here to there, making it scattered. If we just fast once a week, it will help us to take control over our senses, Prityahara (the fifth practice in the eight limbs of Yoga).
After all the benefits, there are also few risks about fasting. First of all, it shouldn’t be practiced by people who are suffering from lack of nutrition, pregnant women, small kids, old people (depends on their health, and their life style). Second, the person should be aware and conscious to his/her body, and not to perform difficult physical activities (Yoga Asana, Pranayama and Meditation can be performed, but with awareness to our current limits). While fasting, it’s important to hydrate the body enough with 2.5 to 3 litter water, to help the cleaning process and energize your body; In case any weakness is experienced, you can try to drink some fresh fruit juice, that could give you the energy you need to carry on;
Fasting has more than one benefit, whichever the reason one wants to practice for, he/she will get the results. In the practice of Yoga there are more ways to clean the internal organs, called Kriyas (cleansing processes) such as: jal neti, sutra neti, kunjal, bastra dhoti, and so on, but these practices require a tremendous amount of knowledge and the guidance of an expert, while fasting can easily be performed. Therefore, it’s recommended to try and add this wonderful practice to your life, once a week (short or long fast) if your life style allows.
If any question comes up – feel free to ask
Wish you a good & meaningful fast!