"The greatest discovery by modern man is the power to rejuvenate himself physically, mentally , and spiritually with rational fasting."
Fasting is considered to be an important medicine in Ayurveda, as long as it is not a long term fast that would deplete the individual. It is natures ancient, universal "remedy" for numerous ailments. It is a way to expel ama (toxic build up) from our digestive system, thus strengthening the immune system.
In our modern time, we are bombarded with many new trends of fasting, juice cleansing, lemon fast, water fast, the list goes on. Its hard to know what is right or not. In Ayurveda, there is no "one sizes fits all" approach to fasting, and some of these popular fast, can actually be detrimental to many, as it is not suited to their unique constitution. A fast that may be good for one person, will not be good for the next. It is important to take you constitution into consideration when choosing a fast.
Fasting in a larger context, means to abstain from that which is toxic to the mind, body, and soul. A way to understand this is that fasting is the elimination of physical, emotional, and mental toxins from our organism, rather then simply cutting down or stopping food intake. Fasting for spiritual purposes usually involves some degree of removal of oneself from worldly responsibilities. It can mean complete silence and social isolation durning the fast which can be a great revival to those of us who have been putting our energy outward.When fasting with a spiritual intent, one withdraws from everything that is toxic to the mind, body and spirit. This allows the mind to become freer, to merge into higher states of spiritual communion and releases ama of the mind and the body.
Ayurvedic fasting is an effective way to kindle the digestive fire and burn away accumulated toxins from the body and mind. It also eliminates gas, makes the body light, improves mental clarity, and preserves overall health. Ayurveda favors regular, short-term fasting over infrequent, long-term fasting. This could entail fasting on the same day each week or setting a few days aside each month to fast, depending on your constitution and cleansing requirements. Ayurveda suggests that a more extended fasting is best at the change of each season. According to Ayurveda, fasting for up to a week can cause metabolic disorders that can take months to bring back to balance.
In determining the appropriate type and length of a fast, it’s important to take into account your constitution, digestive strength, level of ama, and overall vitality. It’s never advised to deplete your energy during a fast. If you’re new to fasting or have a chronic illness, we recommend consulting an Ayurvedic practitioner for specifically tailored guidance.
If you are of vata constitution you should never fast on water or any other severely restricted diet nor should you fast for more then two days. Consuming light foods such as kitchari and kanjee, is a good option for the vata constitution. Vata constitution can fast once a month, or at the change of seasons.
Pitta individuals can fast on liquids, such as, fruit or vegetable juices, broths or lightly cooked vegetables, but never on water alone. Pitta should never skip on quantity. Ideally its good for them to dilute fruit juices, like prunes, grape or pomegranate, or cucumber juice, which is both astringent and bitter in taste, and should avoid strong sour tasting juices. Fast can last 2-3 days and it is best suggested to fast only 4 times a year at the change of the seasons. If you are of vata-pitta constitution please add kitchari to your fast or focus more on grounding vegetable broths.
Kapha individuals can easily do prolonged water fasts if they so chose. Otherwise, they many use raw juices or warm vegetable broths. For Kapha people to maintain a good strong digestion, it would be healthy for them to do weekly fasts, picking one day each week to fast. Kapha types should avoid strong tasting sweet and sour juices.
Sipping warm teas throughout the day is also a highly effective way to flush out accumulated toxins from the body. Simply place the ingredients in a medium saucepan with 4 cups filtered water, bring the water to a boil for 5 minutes, and then steep for 2 to 5 minutes. Always add the lemon while the tea is steeping. Strain into a tea pot or thermos.
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
1 cinnamon or licorice stick
10 fresh basil leaves
Squeeze lemon juice
Simple fresh ginger tea and a squeeze of lemon is a good option as well.
Note: In juicing, please do not combine fruit and vegetables juices and only use up to 2 different fruits or 2 vegetables at a time. If this is not followed it can cause slow digestion, bloating, and can reverse the effects of fasting. It’s best to choose a fasting period in which you’ll be able to follow a peaceful, non-stressful routine. We recommend following the daily and nightly routines of Ayurveda. It’s also important always to break your fasts properly. The most important rule to remember is to begin eating again gradually, slowly working your way up to solid foods.