By Ram Jain
People have been practicing fasting for many years for religious, spiritual or health reasons. Yogic philosophy also approves of fasting as a way to cleanse the body and to control both mind and body.
When you practice fasting you learn to control the senses and not to react on the tendency to eat food out of habit or routine.
Fasting allows the intestines to take a rest. They always work and because we keep eating, they never get to rest. While fasting, the intestines get the chance to digest all the food, to clean itself and to rest.
Fasting has always been a consistent part my lifestyle and has proven to be very beneficial, both physically and mentally.
Fasting can be done in many different ways. There are differences in length of fasting:
- 1-day fast every week
- 3-day fast every month
- one week fast a few times a year
- 10-day fast once a year or even several week fast
A 1-day fast is the best way for beginners to experience fasting for the first time and to see how the body reacts. Several weeks of fasting should never be done without experience and supervision.
There are also differences in types of fasting:
- water fast (only drinking water)
- juice fast (only drinking 2 glasses of fresh vegetable or fruit juice a day)
- partial fast (excluding certain foods such as wheat, carbohydrates, dairy)
You can choose which type of fasting you want to do, depending on the situation and your experience. It is important that you always listen to your body and that you do it step by step. So don’t start with a 10-day water fast if you have never fasted before!
Remember: All of these fasts have the same goal: to give the body the opportunity to cleanse and detoxify itself.
For those who don’t have experience in fasting, here are four tips on how you can prepare yourself and how you can make your first fast a success:
- Be completely devoted
Fasting will be the most comfortable and beneficial if you are completely devoted to do it. Make sure you know why you want to do it (for health, spiritual or religious reason) and truly believe you are doing something good for your body. Only then your mind will calm down and accept it and you won’t crave for food so much.
- Eat light before you start fasting
Before you fast there should be a transition period where you eat less and light. This transition period is generally half of the fasting period. So if you do a 1-week fast, you should start eating light and less 3.5 days before. This way your body can already prepare itself and the transition from little to no food is easier than if you have a big heavy meal the evening before you start fasting the next day.
- Be prepared for some physical reaction
Each body reacts different to fasting, depending on the constitution of your body, your eating habits, your mental state, etc. Some people might feel weak, tired, get a headache, or have mood swings. Be prepared for some physical reaction but if the reaction is too strong and too uncomfortable, you should slowly stop the fasting and try a lighter form the next time. It is important to always keep listening to your body. The first times are usually the hardest, but it gets easier as your body gets more used to the fasting.
- Limit your physical activities
Try to plan your fasting period so that it fits in your personal lifestyle. Don’t start fasting in a very stressful period where you keep running here and there. If possible don’t do too many physically intensive activities. They can make your body more tired and make you feel weaker and hungrier. Those who are more used to fasting will have less problems with this.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ram Jain, the Founding Director of the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams in India and the Netherlands. Within the last 10 years, the Arhanta Yoga Ashrams have become renowned internationally for their professional yoga teacher training course in India and various other yoga certification and have up to present trained over 4,000 yoga teachers from all over the world.
Born in New Delhi, India, in a traditional and spiritual family, Ram’s yoga and Vedic philosophy education started at the age of eight years as a part of his primary school education. He has in-depth knowledge of various ancient scriptures like Vedas, Bhagavad Gita, Patanjali Yoga Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika as well as anatomy and physiology.
He is also the author of the book Hatha Yoga for Teachers & Practitioners: A Comprehensive Guide to Holistic Sequencing