Fasting, both intermittent and prolonged, has garnered a lot of attention in dietary circles as of late. Within the science of Ayurveda, fasting is an age-old practice, with consideration given
to the constitution of the individual before a fast is considered or undertaken. Within the west, people often fast for periods of ten, twelve, fifteen or sometimes even twenty days with no consideration to their individual constitutions, this practice of fasting without considering or understanding an individual’s constitutional makeup and requirements can cause serious negative and detrimental effects on the person undergoing the fast.
For example, a person of predominantly Vata constitution shouldn’t fast for a period of longer than three days. By not eating the body increases in lightness, and our bodily air element, namely Vata, also increases, So, if a fast is observed for too long, Vata can become undermined and this impairment of the Vata element can lead to anxiety, physical weakness, nervousness, agitation and fear.
Individuals who are predominantly of a Pitta constitution should observe the same length restrictions when it comes to fasting, a fast that is prolonged for more than four days will cause aggravation of the pitta element, vastly increasing the fire element within the physical body. The increase of the Pitta element can create physical and psychological reactions such as increases in dizziness, pettiness, hatred or anger.
Prolonged longed fasts, however, may be undertaken by people with a predominant Kappa constitution, during the fast they will experience delightful sensations of increased lightness, greater awareness and feel an increased opening of consciousness, with a marked improvement in understanding and mental clarity.
If the fast that is undertaken is going to be a juice fast the following guidelines are important to remember. For people of predominantly Vata constitution, grape juice is a good choice, likewise, pomegranate juice is beneficial to those with a predominant Pitta constitution and apple juice is the best choice for individuals of a kappa constitution. During the fast, about one and a half quarts of the fruit juice diluted with water should be consumed each day
During a fast period, the digestive system is in a resting mode, it is highly important not to place unnecessary strain on the body’s agni ( digestive fire) whilst observing the fast. Whilst undergoing the fast, the digestive fire becomes stimulated, and without any food passing through the digestive tract, the agni slowly burns away and dissolves any deep-seated toxins in the intestinal tract.
Within the science of Ayurveda, we are taught that particular herbs and spices such as cayenne pepper, black pepper, ginger and curry leaves ( which all have specific medicinal values because of their spicy, hot properties) are used to help with neutralizing toxins from the body’s system. When taken in the form of brewed teas, they help to enkindle the agni which, in turn, burns away toxins. When a fast is undertaken, bodily stamina and physical strength should be monitored closely.
If one’s physical strength lessens noticeably, the fast should be stopped. Fasting is highly recommended where the body is suffering from a cold, a fever, constipation or any form of arthritic pain. If ama or toxins exist in the large intestinal tract, fasting should be encouraged. In the case of a normal healthy individual, a warm water fast, consisting of one to two quarts of warm water per day, is advisable for at least one day a week.
Practising this allows time for the digestive system to rest and recuperate and encourages the bodies Angi to strengthen.
Sections containing practical guidance to fasting published in this blog were based on a book published by the renowned Ayurvedic Dr and Practitioner: Dr Vasant Lad, Titled “Ayurveda – The Science Of Self Healing” ISBN: 0-914955-00-4.