When we step into more mindful living, at some point the question of proper diet and nutrition arises, both in terms of physical and informational food. Without control over what we immerse ourselves in, it is impossible to advance on the path of spiritual self-improvement. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is nowadays main yogic text, it is said that before embarking on the physical practice of yoga (asanas) one should establish oneself in yama (moral principle) and niyama (observance), which are first two limbs of yoga.
The need to maintain physical and spiritual purity is known as principle as shaucha (Shaucha from Sanskrit purity, clearness), which generally refers to purity of mind, speech and body. Consequently, our present state of being depends on what we immerse ourselves in. For example, by eating the bodies of other living beings, we also download the energy of death, fear and suffering into ourselves. Same principle can be applied to informational ‘food’, if we consume negative news, telenovelas with lots of drama and suffering, that become our mental focus, and, hence, effect the quality of our energy.
So, the need for hygiene at all levels is obvious. Giving up or, at least, reducing animal and other junk food and limiting the TV time, with proper level of awareness is not difficult. Same time when we just start taking first steps we face a quest of how to cleanse the body and consciousness of the already accumulated ballast that we feel drags us down? Cleansing practices can come to our rescue, and one of the most effective is a regular 36-hour fasting.
Preparation for a Fast
With the traditional type of diet, when we immerse ourselves in consuming unhealthy foods, fast food, mixing incompatible components, eating not fresh food etc. – our digestion works almost all the time of our day. A three-time meal is usual practice,, very often with snacks along the day, simply does not leave our digestive tract the opportunity to rest and cleanse. Therefore, at least once a month, and ideally once a week, would be great to give our body the opportunity to take a break from digesting food and cleanse itself. Thus, a 36-hour fast once a week would be the ideal option!
Our digestive system is designed in a way that it can work in two modes: food digestion or cleansing. And at the moment when food stops flowing into the stomach, the purification process starts: the internal organs begin to process the toxins accumulated over the years of inadequate nutrition and remove them. Harmful substances can accumulate in our intestines for years and they affect not only our body, but also our consciousness and mind. It has been scientifically proven that microflora of our intestine affects our eating habits, the way we perceive things, and even our choices in certain life situations. For example, the microflora grown on the abuse of unhealthy sweets will force a person to eat more sweets. Thus, addiction to sweets is nothing more than a desire for microbes in our digestive tract to get their food.
With the practice of fasting, the intestines will be intensively cleansed, and toxins will massively enter the bloodstream, which at first, can provoke unpleasant sensations, ranging from nausea, headaches, weakness to even mental disturbance. Thus, to minimize unpleasant sensations it is very recommended to cleanse our intestine from accumulated toxins with healthier diet and colon cleanse. Vegetarian diet with abundance of raw fruits and vegetables helps to clean the intestine. There are many different methods to clean the colon, from taking natural laxatives to perfmoning colon enema and shankha prakshalana (yogic cleansing kriya).
After the cleansing, we can safely proceed to fasting, without fear of poisoning the body with the contents of our own intestines. It is generally recommended to perform colon cleanse or shankha prakshalana on a regular basis, three-four times per year with a change of every season, even with an adequate nutrition diet. And in case when you feel that food addictions ( sweet, fatty, fried, too spicy etc) are still present, then colon cleanse and fasting could be performed more often or prolonged.
The benefits of fasting
The practice of fasting cleanses the physical body of accumulated toxins, but the positive effects do not end there. Much more important is its effect on the purification of our consciousness and subtle energy body. First of all, fasting is a spiritual practice, therefore, in addition to abstaining from food, attention shall be given to a spiritual purification. During fasting, it is desirable to limit contact with the outside world, devote time to reading spiritual literature, performing light asana practice, walking in nature, meditation and other spiritual practices. Fasting, which is limited to simply abstaining from food, will certainly purify the physical body, but it does not transform a person on a deeper level.
It is also recommended to limit the flow of negative information: not to watch TV, not listen to loud and aggressive music, etc. In this case, the practice of fasting will bring the maximum effect on the body and mind.
Fasting is a form of austerity, and austerity always gives a person an additional subtle energy and spiritual power that is called tapas ( tapas from Sanskrit heat, endurance), and it is important to use this energy in a proper way. Sometimes, we have difficulties controlling our habits and after getting out of the fast, the pendulum can swing in the other direction – we start to overeat and overly indulge in unhealthy foods and mass media. Therefore, it is important to know where and how we could constructively spend our accumulated spiritual energy. Setting the right intentions for our inner growth and performing acts of loving kindness are always a great way to direct the energy.
36 hour water fast
One of the best options for fasting is to abstain from food for 36 hours. Fasting for 36 hours is a mild stress for an unprepared body and at the same time allows us to cleanse ourselves. In addition to the cleansing process, the body is rejuvenated. Studies have shown that during fasting, special cells in the body, macrophages are activated and they destroy pathogenic bacteria, dead cells, toxins and foreign elements in the human body.
Fasting for a day and a half on the water will cleanse and rejuvenate the body. It is good to plan ahead of time the activities for that day of fasting, so that thoughts about food do not cause anxiety and the feeling of hunger is not very unpleasant.
There is also a more strict variation of fast so called dry fasting, which includes abstinence from food and water. However, in case of some serious chronic diseases, dry fasting is contraindicated. However in most cases, when there are no problems with the heart or kidneys, then a 36-hour dry fast will most likely not lead to any complications.
Fasting is the best time to practice deeper meditation, since the body is not busy digesting food and the energy does not drop to the level of manipura chakra, the first chakra located in the base of the spine. This allows for energy to be raised to a higher chakras.
Beginning and end of a 36-hour fast
A 36-hour fast should begin in the evening of the first day and last till the morning of the third day, where the second day is a full day of fasting. The evening of first day, at the last meal before fasting, it is better to refrain from heavy meals and dine with raw or steamed vegetables. On the morning of fasting day, you can do shankha prakshalana, or use an enema to cleanse the intestines. It is recommended to drink between 1 to 3 liters of fresh water on a fasting day, with possibly a few drops of fresh lemon juice added in case of nausea. The third day is a day out of fasting should be without heavy foods as well. The best to eat fruits, raw or steamed vegetables, some grains, freshly squeezed juices.
After the fast and purification of the body, it is best to correct the diet to be more healthy and holistic if such desire or need exists. The best way to do it by slowly reducing the amount of undesirable foods, and eventually a healthy nutritious diet will become a lifestyle rather than a one time practice. A 36-hour fast can be introduced into our life as a regular practice – once a week. Thus, the body will be regularly cleansed, which potentially will solve our health problems.
Some scientific facts about fasting
The effectiveness of fasting in the treatment of diseases in modern medicine was confirmed by many scientists and doctors. One of them is psychiatrist Professor Nikolaev. During the observation of his hospital wards, he noticed that most of the patients with schizophrenia, refused food during an exacerbation. The professor decided not to interfere in this process and not to force-feed the patients, but to observe what would happen next. The results were shocking: in those patients who refused food, the phase of exacerbation of the disease passed many times faster and easier than in those whom doctors continued to feed against their will.
Professor Nikolaev decided to continue his research and used fasting to treat such diseases as schizophrenia, manic-depressive syndrome, depression and others. The results were simply unbelievable: the symptoms of mental disorders in patients disappeared as well as symptoms of some of the accompanying conditions.
For a number of reasons, it was decided to stop these studies, since such method was unprofitable for modern medicine and pharmaceutical companies. Yet, each of us can test the effect of fasting in our personal life. A 36-hour fast is more a preventive practice than a therapeutic one, since there is no deep cleansing of the body at the physical level. For a more therapeutic effect and to treat more serious illnesses a prolonged fasting might be required, from 7-10 to 21- 40 days depending on condition.
However, even such a short abstinence from food can be a powerful tool for healing a person, especially if done on a regular basis. This method allows us to remove toxins from the body, improve the appearance of skin, correct unhealthy lifestyle, maintain healthy body weight and bring more peace and calm into our everyday life. One of the positive side effects of fasting is a new level of energy that we gain by practicing fasting!