UPAVAASA – FASTING AND HUMAN HEALTH
30 Jun 2021 HYN Himalayan Yoga Academy
UPAVAASA – FASTING AND HUMAN HEALTH
Fasting and Human Health
The ancient Ayurvedic texts equally praise fasting: ‘langhanam param aushadham’ – fasting is the greatest medicine – and jvaraadau langhanam proctam – at the onset of fever, fast. The benefits of fasting: “disappearance of aggravated doshas, boosting of the digestive fire, weight reduction, increased vigor and ojas (vitality), digestion of aam (toxins), true hunger and thirst, and the desire, to eat. ”
In the past, ‘fasting’ was considered to be related only to religion and was called a sham. But now scientific studies have proven that it is a good way to keep the body healthy. The benefits of intermittent fasting have been studied and proven. Literally eating food should be within 8 hours in 24 hours, and fasting for 16 hours. In general we have to have food 10 am in morning and 6:00 pm around, before sun sets if possible. Normally we have to eat two times a day making 3 to 5 hours gap.
Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2016 for his research on how cells recycle and renew their content, a process called autophagy. Fasting activates autophagy, which helps slow down the aging process and has a positive impact on cell renewal. Fasting is for Health and Longevity.
Ayurvedic Viewpoint of Fasting
The underlying principle behind fasting is to be found in Ayurveda. This ancient Indian medical system sees the basic cause of many diseases as the accumulation of toxic materials in the digestive system. Regular cleansing of toxic materials keeps one healthy. By fasting, the digestive organs get rest and all body mechanisms are cleansed and corrected. Since the human body, as explained by Ayurveda, is composed of 80% liquid and 20% solid, like the earth, the gravitational force of the moon affects the fluid contents of the body. It causes emotional imbalances in the body, making some people tense, irritable and violent. Fast acts as antidote, for it lowers the acid content in the body which helps people to retain their sanity.
Eating food when there is mental stress is not good for digestion, stomach upset. Happily cooked food in a healthy environment gives positive energy while angry cooked food gives negative energy. So let’s exercise regularly by eating fresh and balanced food cooked at home with a happy mind in a healthy environment and make life healthy and happy, in fact, it is very bad to get sick without knowing how to eat.
Natural Mechanism of Upavaasa
Many mammals also fast during illness or injury, such as dogs, cats, horses and cows. They will avoid even the most delicious food offered to them, taking only water. They resume food only after complete recovery. They survive without food because of autophagy process. This word is derived from the Greek auto ‘self’ and phage in ‘to eat’. Thus, autophagy means ‘self-eating’ or ‘self-cannibalization’.
These findings of science reflect the remarkable benefits to the body and brain of restricting food intake through fasts such as ekadashi, ektana and dharna-parna. Bearing this in mind, different religious people who faithfully observe these vratas will be protected from many diseases and may accrue longevity. As far as the science of fasting is concerned, the benefits can be summed up in the phrase: ‘Eat less, live healthily.’
The Purpose of Fasting
Generally, people fast for health reasons. And there are many benefits . One, fasts for 24 hours cleans one’s body from the inside. Many also fast by drinking only water, which is also a good thing. For us, the benefits are immense because Bhagwan becomes pleased upon us. There is a saying, “One should go to a pilgrim place for the sake of doing austerities, and not for eating and drinking.”
Another benefit is that there are certain (harmful) substances in our blood that are eliminated by fasting. Some animals fast for several days prior to mating. The reason being that a certain amount of wholesome energy is created within themselves, which is beneficial to their body
By fasting one’s body may become physically weak, but there are other good energies that are created. One, the body becomes clean, which is a very big thing. Some fast for one day, two days or five days, whereas some fast by drinking liquids. In short, such fasts are very beneficial. One is never at a loss through fasting.
Benefits of Fasting
There are two benefits behind fast: one is spiritual – it helps one to develop self-restraint and other virtues; and the second is the increase in inner strength. By fasting one’s thoughts are transformed. For this, one must have a resolute mind. By having a strong mind all tasks can be done.
It 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. Fasting overhauls the respiratory, circulatory, digestive and urinary systems. It destroys all the impurities of the body and all sorts of poisons. It eliminates uric acid deposits. Just as impure gold is rendered pure by melting it in the crucible again and again, so also this impure mind is rendered purer by repeated fasting.
Some monks have traditionally fasted intermittently. Such fasts not only reduces body weight, but also helps to cure some diseases. People with obesity and uric acid have been found to lose both disease and weight by fasting only one day a week.
FASTING IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
As this prevailed in ancient cultures and lands such as Egypt, Assyria, Scythia, Greece, Babylon, Persia, Nineveh, Palestine, Rome, China, among the Druids, Celts, Scandinavians, Indians of North America, and Aztecs and Incas of South America. Moses fasted for 120 days on Mount Sinai. Jesus fasted for 40 days. The Bible also cites fasting by the apostles. Muslims observe the month-long fast of Ramazan (Ramadan). In Jainism, Fasts is an important form of sadhana. It was not only mentioned in Sanatan system and hindus system. It was used to since thousands of years ago as Upasana ( Spritual Sadhanaa).