Fasting in Ayurveda holds significance for the purification of both body and the mind. Ayurvedic fasting works on the principle of removing the body from accumulated toxins by following a body-type diet.
Fasting according to Ayurveda gives the body sufficient time to relax, purge out toxic matters, and infuse a new or rather renewed lease of life to the body organs.
FASTING IN AYURVEDA
As per Ayurveda every day of every week, we tend to put our digestion and metabolism under a lot of stress. Upavasa (fasting) is a way of igniting the digestive fire and destruction of metabolic toxins (ama dosha).
Common Problems in our Daily Routine
- We overeat when we’re stressed
- We eat on the run
- We indulge in unheathy eating patterns
- We skip meals
- We eat at irregular times
- We eat bad food combinations
- We eat heavy foods that are difficult to digest
- We eat our next meal before our previous meal has digested
- We eat too much, too late at night
All these factors contribute to indigestion, ama(toxin) accumulation, and sluggish metabolism. Basically, unless we live a very peaceful, contained, disciplined, or physically active life, caring for our digestion every day, at every meal, is a challenge.
As a result, it is somewhat inevitable that our digestive fire (referred to as Agni) will become imbalanced, in one of three ways:
- It can get too hot and overcook our food
- It can get too low and undercook our food
- It can become erratic—sometimes hot, sometimes low—sometimes overcooking, sometimes undercooking
When our food is undercooked or overcooked, it creates undigested food waste or toxins known as Ama in Sanskrit.
Carbohydrates digest simple sugars. But if carbs do not break down properly, it produces di-saccharides, which our bodies do not understand. Similarly, digested proteins convert to amino acids. If not properly digested, proteins become indoles and skatoles—very inflammatory and gene-altering substances. Fats are digested with fatty acids. Undigested fats will end up as arachidonic acid, which stimulates inflammation.
Undigested food toxins are collectively called AMA accumulates in our digestive tract and can eventually overflow into our channels and tissues, hampering cellular nutrition and waste disposal. Imbalanced Agni and accumulated Ama are considered the root cause of ALL diseases in Ayurveda.
Normally, a healthy body is able to recognize toxins and dispose of them regularly, but an overwhelming response will put the body’s intelligence in jeopardy and activate disease—a phenomenon called Pragya-Apradh (mistake of the intellect) in Ayurveda.
Fasting in Ayurveda does not mean starvation. It just suggest that during fasting (weekly, 15 days or monthly), abstain from the use of one essential element, like for instance, fruits, salt, protein, sugar, saturated oil, spices, chilies, carbohydrates, cereals, drinking, or smoking. Another method is to allow a day each to fast exclusively on fruits or fruit juices, or milk, curd, or water, etc.
Our sages suggest doing water fasting. Water Fasting is a spiritual practice to help burn karma as well as make the human instrument healthier and stronger to do practices. Learn More.
Ayurveda fasting is recommended on the basis of body types differentiated by Ayurveda as Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Most of us are a combination of two and rarely three.
Know about Ayurvedic Body Type – Tridoshas: Pitta, Vata & Kapha
Vata dominant are low weight people with light bone structures and irregular appetites. Vata people feel cold easily, like warmer temperatures, and prefer hot food and drinks. When out of balance, Vatas tend to experience hormonal disturbances, irregular energy, nervousness, anxiety, worry, and insomnia.
Dry skin, constipation, gas, and cold hands and feet all indicate imbalance. Vatas need to be careful when fasting, as these people have low reserves and tend to burn out easily. Warm soups with vegetables, mung beans, meat, or fish work well for Vata. Ginger is also a wonderful remedy; just add it to food or tea.
Pitta people tend to have medium physiques, greater digestive fires, and large appetites. They have a hard time handling heated foods, hot spices like cayenne pepper, garlic, fried foods, and red meat. Pittas are good speakers, who are prone to perfectionism, anger outbursts, irritability, skin rashes, and inflammatory disease. Pitta dominant people can fast on vegetables, smoothies, and broths.
Kapha people tend to have strong physiques, good muscle mass with exercise, and a tendency towards weight gain as they have slow metabolisms. Usually, they have good stamina and strong immune systems when in balance. They are typically gentle, kind-hearted people. When out of balance, they tend to get overweight, have heart disease, diabetes, allergies, and depression. Water or herbal tea can be a really good method for fasting.
Ayurveda recommends that everyone should fast once a week.
Even skipping one or two meals is beneficial.
Ginger tea is good for almost every body type, as it kindles a digestive fire and burns off AMA’s toxic buildup.
Pittas can add cumin seeds, fennel seeds, and coriander seeds.
Kaphas can double up on ginger.
For Vatas, try ½ to 1 teaspoon of ginger powder in tea. You can also sprinkle ginger powder and other spices on food. Cooking, however, will generally destroy all medicinal properties.
We also recommend following Ayurveda Detox Tea
- Kapiva Paachaka Green Tea | Supports Digestion | Enriched with Triphala, Bay Leaf and Others
- The Indian Chai – Ayurvedic Wellness Tea 100g with Hing, Turmeric, Ajwain, Tulsi etc, Herbal Tea for Full Body
If you’re fasting weekly, choose a day that fits your lifestyle—when you are unlikely to be doing too much physical activity, socializing, or super-demanding mental work.
Ayurvedic intermittent fasting or liquid diet days are an easy, effective habit for your ongoing preventative health regime. Not only does it reduce toxins and support a strong digestive fire, but it also calms cravings so you tend to make better decisions.
Here is a wonderful recipe for detoxification:
AYURVEDIC CLEANSING SOUP RECIPE
Here is a simple Ayurvedic cleansing soup, which cooks quickly. It will strengthen Agni, cleanse Ama and stabilize your blood sugar because it is low on the Glycemic Index. The quantities in this recipe can serve two people.
⅓ cup basmati rice (1 cup = 250ml.)
⅓ cup split moong dal with skin
8 cups boiling water
1 tsp. (tea spoon, 1tsp = 5ml.) ghee
¼ tsp. turmeric
1 pinch asafoetida or hing
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. finely grated ginger
1 tsp. garam masala (make your own – equal parts cumin, fennel, coriander, and black pepper seed ground in a spice grinder)
Salt to taste
Lemon to taste
Coriander leaves to sprinkle on top (optional)
Soak your rice and moong dal overnight. In the morning, drain, rinse and put it in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low heat and simmer until the moong is cooked. Serve hot with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, masala, a generous squeeze of lemon, and ghee. Cooking time is approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
CLEANSING IS THE KEY TO YOUR HEALTH
Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of clean, lukewarm water a day and doing breathing exercises will help you maintain perfect balance, along with good sleep, healthy digestion, and elimination. Sleep is essential for the restoration and repair of the body and mind. Good digestion helps assimilation. Elimination is the key to immune health.
You cannot attain optimal wellness if one of these fundamentals is lacking. For total health, combine and maintain these practices regularly.
Some guidelines for Fasting in Ayurveda:
- Fasting does not imply giving up foods taken on daily basis. Instead, a food item can be given up for a day. This will also help to break the habit of dependence on one particular food item, although for only a day in a week.
- Growing children, pregnant women, weak and undernourished, underweight people, the elderly and hypo-diabetics (who suffer from low blood sugar), low blood pressure, labourers, should not take to fasting, as their physical disorders may aggravate and worsen.
- During the day of fasting, a teaspoonful (5ml) of honey, mixed with lemon water should be taken with water three to four times a day, so that the body retains its natural vitality, and so that there is no accumulation of gas. Else, at least stick to drinking tender coconut water.
- The person who is on a fast can live on milk and seasonal fruits or only fruits on the day of fasting, apart from use of honey and lemon juice. Further, juices of fruits and vegetables are excellent diets for people who fast. Banana and milk diet is also a well-balanced, nutritive and healthy combination, apart from lemon juice and honey.
- Fasting helps in a smooth change-over to other foods, but excessive intake should be avoided at any cost.
- Another way of fasting is to impose self-imposed dietary regimen. Have a normal breakfast of milk and seasonal fruit, skip over your lunch and have near-normal dinner. A gap of 12 hours or so, should be given between breakfast, and dinner, as it is an ideal way to semi-starvation or moderate fasting. However, care should be taken to note that dinner menu is not loaded with sugars, salt, fats and spices, although there is no harm in their moderate use.
- Sufficient water should be taken when fasting during summer else, the body may not be able to withstand ravages of summer heat. Similarly, even during other seasons, the water-sodium balance should never be disturbed during a fast.
- Fasting should not be extended beyond two or three days a week and fasting should never be taken on successive days. There should be a gap of at least a day or so in between each fast.
The positive signs of effective fasting, include:
-Lightness in the body, clarity in the mind, and increased energy.
-Regular bowel movements with no gas or bloating.
-A clean tongue and fresh breath.
It’s best to choose a fasting period in which you’ll be able to follow a peaceful, non-stressful routine.