Fasting – A Traditional Ayurvedic Cleansing Ritual

Fasting – A Traditional Ayurvedic Cleansing Ritual

All too often I see people panic and use fasting as a quick weight loss solutions. But fasting is not designed as a weight loss programme. Fasting is far more than this, it is a powerful cleansing technique to allow your gut to rest, stimulate your digestive fire, restore healthy organ functions, calm the mind and clear toxins and as a result unwanted fat tissue can reduce.

I recommend intermittent fasting one day a week, especially over the Spring months when our digestion and energy levels start to weaken and our system needs a reboot so that we can enhance our body’s natural detoxification mechanisms. Our body has one of the best built in detoxification systems via our liver, lungs, colon, kidneys and skin. Our only job is to give these organs the support that they need.

Spring is the ‘kapha’ season and a natural time for the body to eliminate toxins. There are many different ways to fast and cleanse the body and since we are all unique we must find a cleansing method that suits our body type. If you have never done fasting before, as a safe start you can do a 1 day fast a week. This can be adjusted depending on your current state of health, body strength, climate, age and constitution. Fasting in not about total abstinence from food, but a healthy rest for our digestive system can help it clear ama (toxins) and strengthen the digestive fire  - something that is imperative in a world of over-consumption. Fasting done correctly can also increase energy levels, immunity, brings lightness to the body, sharpen the intellect and bring a sense of vitality.

Supported by the Spring diet and lifestyle guidance given in my previous blog posts, here are my three 1-day fasting options for the Spring season:

Option 1: clear liquid fasting

This cleanse is most suitable to someone who is used to fasting and already has a plant-based/vegan diet. It is most suitable for the kapha body types.

  • Drink clear, warm liquids throughout the day. This can include, warm water, herbal teas, clear liquid/broth soups
  • For the evening you can have a light & spiced mung bean soup

Option 2: fruit/juice fasting

This is a fasting option for those with a pitta dominant constitution:

  • Eat only ripe seasonal fruits for breakfast, lunch
  • Drink clear liquids, herbal teas in between meals
  • For the evening you can have a light & spiced mung bean soup

Option 3: mono-diet

This is traditional and the safest approach to fasting. This is a cleanse that is most suited to a beginner to fasting, someone who is starting from a highly processed diet or someone that has a vata dominant constitution. This fast can be done for up to 3 days:

  • Drink hot lemon water in the morning, wait until hunger presents itself – I mean real hunger (not craving) drink warn water or herbal teas
  • Have your first mono-diet meal of kitchari (simple blend of split mung beans, rice, ghee and spices) at 11:30-12:30 – make it a moderate portion (don’t overeat). Use this time to eat slowly, observing and tasting the meal.
  • Continue to drink warm water or herbal teas throughout the day
  • For your early evening meal at 17:00 – 18:00 you can have a second serving of kitchari

    Caution during fasting days:
  • Avoid all wheat, dairy, alcohol, meats and processed foods during the fast
  • Avoid stress and overworking the mind/body
  • It is not supportive to do heavy exercise. Light stretching and walking is as much as you want to do.
  • Take time to rest and reflect. Early to bed and disengagement to sensory stimuli will support your cleanse  - this means it’s a great time for a ‘digital’ and ‘media’ detox.
  • Get an early night and allow your body time to replenish and rejuvenate your body tissues over night
  • Fasting is most effective when supported by the right diet
  • If you feel weak or depleted - end the fast.

If you are unsure of Spring cleansing and fasting methods suited to your body type and digestive strength, contact an Ayurvedic practitioner who can safely guide you. Happy cleansing!