Fasting. It’s one word that can ignite a lot of emotions and thoughts in people, and one of them is usually fear. Simply hearing the term “fasting” might make you head out to the grocery store ASAP to stock up or call your favorite pizza place and order an entire pizza...for one. With that said, some people may feel a rush of excitement at the thought of fasting. People who are familiar with fasting usually look forward to the mental challenge, inner peace, and the health benefits of fasting. Fasting is an ancient concept in yoga culture, a self-cleansing and self-healing practice that can help strengthen your mind, body and soul connection while improving your overall health, digestion and well-being.
If you’ve never fasted before, it is inevitable you may feel scared and apprehensive about doing it. Your mind may be consumed with repeated thoughts of how am I going to do it and the feeling of lack. Lack of food, lack of food and well yeah, lack of food! It’s common to think that fasting may cause too much mental anguish and even potentially be harmful. It is important to know that for most people, fasting is safe and has a lot of health benefits. Yoga and fasting in combination enhance these health benefits. Make sure to drink ample amounts of water during your fast. Water allows the body to handle what’s going on during fasting and also reduces cravings. People who shouldn’t fast include children, diabetics, pregnant women, women who are breastfeeding and people who suffer from hypoglycemia.
One of the best things about fasting is how it helps to kickstart your system to rid toxins that have been stuck in the body for some time. The accumulation of toxins, is the root cause of poor health and is problematic for the human body. To effectively deal with the root cause of poor health, it is necessary to eliminate accumulated toxicity in the small intestine and colon on a regular basis in order to maximize your overall health. Any kind of fasting program stresses the importance of getting rid of toxins, so what exactly are toxins anyway?
To give you a better idea of the large amount of toxins out there, here is a list of everyday toxins you may encounter:
Mercury contained in fish
Lead contained in old paints, blinds and canned goods
Aluminum contained in deodorant
Poor air quality
Contaminated water, food
Chemicals found in personal care products, household cleaners
Dietary: Intake of trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, processed foods, refined flours
Our digestive system is always working hard and requires a lot of energy. Depending on your diet, your digestion system may be working overtime more then you realize. During a fast, the body isn’t busy digesting food and converting it to energy, so it begins to work on healing other parts of the body that need it. Your body focuses on repairing, resetting and working to get things in better condition. Your immune system, adrenals, hormones, brain chemistry and metabolism can all positively be effected by fasting.
When your get rid of old toxins from your body, you will also be releasing negative emotions, so expect emotions to come up during a fast.
It can be hard to explain until you experience it for yourself, but when you aren’t focused on eating, you can start to have completely different thoughts. A lot of the time, we are eating to soothe or stuff down our emotions and not to fuel our bodies. This means that it is inevitable that during a fast, things start to come up and emotions can be heightened. We no longer can eat to bury or avoid certain emotions and things start to feel much more raw and honest. Try and see this as a good thing (because it is!) and use it as a way to deal with your stale emotions that are stored in the body. Now you finally have the opportunity to process, deal with, and release emotions in the body that could be contributing to poor physical and mental health.
Everyone has different reasons for fasting. Emotional, mental, physical and spiritual - there are many different reasons to fast. Some reasons are the more obvious ones like to lose weight or to feel better overall. Sometimes you don’t feel well and can sense that you need to give yourself a break from eating and once you do, you may start to feel better. As Hippocrates said, "Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work.The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness."
A common question from those who practice yoga and are thinking about fasting is, can I still do yoga while I fast? And the answer is YES! Absolutely!
Yoga and fasting are two activities that seamlessly fit together. Depending on how often you fast, your lifestyle and diet, you may have more or less energy when fasting. Sometimes people feel more energetic and sometimes people feel lethargic. Either way, yoga is perfectly safe to practice while fasting. Gentle movement, stretching and deep breathing are all ways to add to the detoxification process that happen during a fast. Not only can yoga help to clear your mind when fasting, it can help you connect to your center and enter a calm and meditative state. Yoga can help you twist, move out and bend stagnant and negative emotions out from your body.
On the more spiritual side, there’s symbolism of new beginnings and fresh energy that goes along with fasting and practicing yoga simultaneously. It’s an incredible way to jumpstart something great in your life that you’ve been waiting to do. Fasting and yoga combined can be the catalyst you need to go in a more heart-centered and happier direction in life. A direction that you’ve been wanting to go in for a long time. Fasting and yoga can help to give clarity, better health, a renewed spirit and an overall positive perspective on life.
By Suzanne Kvilhaug
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