“Fasting controls passion. It checks the emotions. It controls the senses also. It is a great penance. It purifies the mind and the heart. It destroys a multitude of sins. Fasting controls the tongue in particular which is the deadliest enemy of man.” – Swami Sivananda
Fasting has long been a big part of most mainstream religions and spiritual practices. However, I would like to look at it from a holistic point of view and not a religious point of view. In my view, fasting is a way to cleanse and purify both our bodies and minds, and part and parcel of a spiritual discipline. It is a means to better tame our minds and take control over our emotions and senses. Increasingly, fasting is being used and accepted as one of the best ways for both prevention and cure of a multitudes of disease. However, in order to get the benefits of fasting, it is a must that one embark on it with caution and care. There are many different styles and ways of fasting. The focus of this article however is on the water fast, where one eats nothing and drinks only water for the duration of a fast. This can range anywhere from 1 day up to a period of 40 days depending on the reasons and the will of the faster.
Below is a little bit of perspective on a water fast:
First up, let’s talk about the CHALLENGES:
- Hunger – This is obvious but was not so much of a problem for me though I can imagine that it is a little bit harder for most people. However, I believe that it is a lot easier than we think it is if we have never tried it before.
- Irritability / Emotions – Water fasting is tough so you are hungry and you are tired, which means you are a lot more open to your emotions taking control of you. All that pent up anger and frustration will bubble up so be prepared for it.
- Low Energy and Brain Fuzz – So this is obvious as you have no quick fix sugars to give you energy. Water is great but not for energy requirements for your daily work. Brain fuzz is a natural side effect and it will peak and dip during the course of the fast but in general, don’t expect to be doing activities that require brain power and great focus.
- Boredom! – This one was the most challenging for me. I am known to be easily bored even in my normal life but this fasting really took it many steps further. It made me appreciate how food and drink are such a big part of us and the social impact it has on us. Think about it – every day we meet someone over a coffee, or a drink or lunch. You come home and you enjoy the nice meal with your family. Now, you have to get away from food smells and food in general so all of that social activity is gone. You are left to yourself and have to count the hours as they pass by. The other aspect is that you don’t exercise, which is another big part of most people’s lifestyle. Strangely I didn’t miss my yoga so much because my body was not inclined to exercise at all because I had no strength.
BENEFITS : There are more benefits to fasting than I can list down, but here are a few to start with:
- Rest – You are forced to take a break and rest from you usual day to day life. Not only are you resting your digestive system and your organs, but also your bones, muscles, tissues and nerves.
- Detox – Fasting is known to help detoxify the body of all the impurities that we consume knowingly and unknowingly in our day to day life. A white tongue and body odours during a water fast, are a clear sign of body eliminating toxins.
- Weight loss – While I don’t advise fasting as the way to weight loss, it is one of the lovely side effects for those people who are overweight.
- Personal Growth – Fasting teaches you many lessons. It teaches you about your relationship with food, it strengthens your will power, it challenges you and pushes your buttons so you are forced to face some of your “demons”. It brings them to light faster and easier and you can decide what you want to do about them.
- Breaking Patterns – One of the best known cures for breaking addictive patterns is fasting. Not only does it help break addictions to alcohol or smoking, but also aids in breaking some of our deep sub conscious patterns.
- Spiritual Upliftment – This is the main reason I do fasting. It allows me to be closer to God, and I feel like I am making space for Source energy to enter my body and mind and do what it needs to. Since we don’t have any strength whatsoever physically or mentally, we are automatically in a space of complete surrender, which so hard for so many of us. It is a letting go of all effort!
- Body – Fasting makes your body light and supple. If you are a regular yoga practitioner, you will see the immense benefits on your body’s flexibility and stability.
- Skin – Fasting because of the detoxification effect, brings a natural glow and shine to your skin. Give it a few days post your water fast to see that!
IMPORTANT : Please note that due care and medical advice should be taken before embarking on any kind of extended water fast. Please be mindful of your health and well being at all time.