Why fasting during festive season? It is feasting time actually!!
It is a flood or famine like situation!
Well how do we switch ourselves from fasting to feasting and vice-versa is a matter to be taken care of, besides mindful observance of fast and guilt free indulgence in a feast!
Nature has endowed human beings with eight therapists viz; - Air, Food, Water, Sun, Exercise, Thoughts, Sleep and the eighth being “Fast”. These are important and powerful weapons in our hands to fight health adversities and stay fit. We should try to make the most out of these. Fast is at the base of healthy living. It is one of the dynamic means to conquer disease and forms an inseparable part of 'Naturopathy'.
Benjamin Franklin has rightly said “People dig their graves by their own teeth“. It is a general observation that animals stop eating when they fall ill. Father of Medicine Hippocrates always advocated fasting to his patients.
Through fasting we can achieve sound body, mind & soul!
Religions round the world has incorporated the practice and norms of fasting in their own distinct way yet coherent with laws of nature to alleviate bodily obstacles in the path of spirituality. Religious fasting is as old as religion itself. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Orthodox religions and many others use fasting as a method of purification, personal discipline and orientation towards their God. Prolonged fasting for rejuvenation & longevity celebrated as “Parvadhiraj Paryushan” is an invaluable contribution by Jain religion.
Let us see what does fasting mean. Fasting means abstaining oneself from food for prescribed span of time. Fasting in hindi is “upwas” i.e. living above all the vicious influences that distracts a person from spiritual well being accompanied by meditation(dhyan) and ‘jap’.
Fasting is needed by the body as much as eating food, to cleanse, repair & refresh itself and attain 'metabolic equilibrium'. Simple fasting gives coveted rest to the digestive system which is spoiled by improper & irregular food habits.
Fasting intermittently for a day in a fortnight is indispensable for efficient working of our body and strengthening our digestive system.
Fasting differs from starving. It is an art and science in itself. Fasting is done as a matter of choice and ends in a healthy appetite.
Fruits For Fasting
Fasting curtails the period of recovery from any malady whatsoever- chronic or acute.
More than the actual fast what matters more is the way one starts and ends his fast. At the day’s break it is always twilight and not a sudden bright light. Likewise, there should be a transit phase while starting and ending a fast and assisted with a light and small meal on both the points. Sweetmeats, white floor savouries, fried stuffs etc is strictly forbidden. Famine and flood pattern is not desired.
Fruit juices, herbal decoctions, vegetable stock, moong ka paani, lemon- honey water imparts strength to our digestion. Actually we don’t need food as much as we need to properly digest all that we have eaten. More energy is spent on digestion by our body than most vigorous exercises i.e. swimming.
If our stomach is set free of digestion process, brain works better!
Fasting reduces acidity in our body and sharpens our senses, reduces cholesterol,enlivens our skin, reduces swelling and helps to shed extra kilos off the body.
Physiological effects aside, fasting is more than just the physical act of refraining from food. At its core, fasting is a discipline of broadening and strengthening, not withholding and waning. It is an exercise for our spiritual muscle as well.
Prolonged fasting should be done under the supervision of an experienced personnel or a therapist and should be accompanied by ample rest, sun bath, fresh air, naam jap'.
Avoid dwelling on thoughts of delicacies, watching television, physical exertion and extravagance of the sort! Gandhiji has justly stated “A genuine fast cleanses the body, mind and soul. It crucifies the flesh and, to that extent, sets the soul free.”
As our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrate their High Holiday season, Jains around the world celebrate Paryushan . While many holidays commemorate a person or historical event, Paryushan is a festival honoring the soul. It is an 8-day period of introspection and purification and, similar to Ramadan or Yom Kippur, is most commonly characterized by fasting.
Fasting, as a religious practice,has been a part of human tradition for many, many centuries. It is mentioned in the ‘Bible’, in the ‘Old’ and ‘New Testament’, the ‘Qur'an’, and the ‘Bhagavad Gita’, amongst other religious texts.
In today's increasingly materialistic and gluttonous world, regardless of our individual faith or non-faith traditions, we can all benefit from fasting from time to time.
On a practical level, fasting has many health benefits.
Lemon Water Throughout The Day!
Caloric restriction,within limit, has been shown to detoxify the body and reduce cravings.
Fasting purely for weight loss, however, is not recommended and, taken to an extreme,can lead to severe consequences (i.e., severe malnutrition, growth retardation,heart disease, neurological disorders, and death). Done correctly, and in moderation, fasting is an opportunity to flush out your system and can give you that kick start to introduce new healthy habits.
It helps body to repair the wear and tear within our body which is otherwise not optimally carried out. Fasting gives a punch to our appetite and improves digestion.
Religions add a value system and a dimension of discipline that makes the fast easier to complete. Additionally, most traditions that prescribe fasting have built-in mechanisms to reduce the medical risks of fasting.
During Ramadan observers of the fast consume the Iftar meal after sundown;
many Hindu fasts allow individuals to consume water, milk, and fruit;
Jews abstain from both food and drink but fast for a shorter period of time (25 hours);
and in Jainism, fasting allows the consumption of water between sunrise and sunset.
Physiological effects aside, fasting is more than just the physical act of refraining from food. At its core,fasting is discipline of broadening and strengthening, not withholding and waning. It is an exercise for our spiritual muscle.
If you are particularly ambitious, I encourage stepping outside your own traditions and partaking in the fasting practices of another. Observe Ramadan next year (even just for a day).
Across traditions fasting is a time to turn inward and reflect.
Simply, fasting is a time to think and to make space in our, otherwise unduly loaded, body, mind and spirit as also a chance to discover a bit of newer and better ‘you’ each time you fast!