The Sanskrit word for fasting upavas is derived from ‘upa’ meaning ‘near’ and ‘vas’ meaning ‘to stay’. So, in simple terms, fasting means ‘to sit or stay near (self /the divine)’ to keep the divine close to you. The word fasting has an inbuilt orientation of the divine therapy. In Ayurveda, upavas is one among all daivavyapashraya chikitsa (spiritual therapies) and one among 10 langhana (that which produces lightness of the body) therapies.
Fasting helps get rid of ama (toxic filth) and aids in cultivation of control over our senses and keep the mind peaceful. Fasting and starvation are different but commonly used interchangeably. Starvation means not eating or drinking altogether, while fasting means control and restrain of five sensory and five motor senses. Fasting activates autophagy, which slows down the ageing process and has a positive impact on cell renewal.
According to Ayurveda, fasting is the best medicine to clear all kinds of toxins, allows body to recover from diseases, enhances metabolic process ,helps to clean visceral organs which in result works on many metabolic related problems, inflammatory diseases etc.
There are different types of fasting explained in ayurveda depending on individuals body types and dosha imbalances.
Types of fasting
Intermittent fasting: This is one of the much accepted fasting around the world. Here one has to keep long period of interval in between 2 meals. usually 14 to 18 hours of intermittent fasting is recommended from dinner to next day breakfast.
24 hours of fasting: Here fasting is done on water, fruits, vegetables or vegetable soups depending on individuals condition. This types of fasting is recommended once in a week to once in two weeks.
Fasting on light food: In this fasting certain types of food like moong dal khichdi, vegetable soups, porridge etc which is easy to digest, doesn’t make body to form toxins are allowed.
According to ayurveda a good working digestive fire is the key for good health and immunity. When it diminishes body can’t perform it’s function correctly leading many diseases. A weak digestive fire forms AMA in the body which clogs in the channels causes many problems including diabetes, obesity, cysts, tumour, liver and kidney diseases etc. AMA is vitiated kapha dosha accumulated in the system.
Fasting can give the digestive system a break, allowing the body to focus on detoxifying and removing waste products. It may have cognitive benefits such as increased mental clarity and focus.
(The writer is a qualified internationally renowned Ayurveda consultant, expert in pulse diagnosis, and holds 15 years of experience)