Mental And Spiritual Benefits Of Fasting

Mental and spiritual benefits of fasting are innumerable. Fasting is an excellent way to train your mind and brain to perform better. Fasting looks like a  physical exercise, but fasting needs a good control over the mind. Hence it is also a mental and spiritual exercise.  Even if you are an atheist, benefits of fasting to improve your mental skills and brain functionality are hard to ignore.

Spiritual benefits of fasting

If you are a spiritual seeker, fasting can act as a media to communicate with the Almighty. It is a way to express your love towards God. It is  a way to train your mind to strengthen your belief in God.
The below Sanskrit verses from various spiritual text books explain that fasting during Ekadashi – 11th day of Hindu calendar is very beneficial for mental detoxification and to get rid of sins.

As Per Divine Park,
Fasting is called Upavasa.
Upa means near.
Vasa means, to stay.
Fasting can become spiritual only when the mind “resides near” the God.

Mental benefits of fasting

Control over mind – Fasting helps to exercise control over mind. When you start fasting, it is more of mental hunger that you need to control than the stomach related hunger.

Fasting helps to have good control of mind, which
– helps to achieve superior concentration
– boosts confidence.
– helps to keep distractions at bay.
– makes you think twice before speaking.
Control over the mind is the key for anger management and following.

Firm resolution – Fasting boosts the resolution power of mind. It makes you firmer, it makes you stick to one particular task and complete it. This is the reason why great people like Gandhiji and Anna Hazare while on strike, resolve to fasting. Fasting helps them to stick to their resolution apart from putting pressure on the opposition.

Clarity of mind –
Fasting clears thoughts of mind and helps in organized thinking.
Fasting drives you towards austerity and simplicity.

Steve Jobs used to resolve to fasting, or eating only fruits for a specific amounts of time.  It helped him to lead a simple lifestyle, with clearer thoughts and a firm resolution not to give in to money. This kind of resolution comes from the power of fasting. His famous quote – “Stay hungry and stay foolish” has its origin in fasting. Hunger in the mind can be increased by controlling hunger of the stomach, because stomach, emotions and mind are interrelated. (Example – people with more anger tend to suffer from gastric problems.

Laziness –
Fasting helps to clear the stomach and intestines of ‘Ama’ (indigestion). We already have read how Ama causes laziness. Hence fasting helps to get rid of laziness.

Lighter inside –
makes you feel lighter inside, gives you a healthy body and healthier mind.

Benefits according to Ayurveda

According to Ayurveda,
Fasting boosts Satvic nature of mind.
Fasting boosts Pitta. Pitta Dosha is related with enthusiasm, intelligence, analytical ability of mind, dedication, resolution to achieve the task at hand etc.
So enjoy mental and spiritual benefits of fasting by incorporating it after consulting your doctor.

Caution – Patients, people who are very lean, having less strength, and having Vata and Pitta imbalance or increase of Pitta should fast only after consultation with Ayurvedic doctor.

Fasting and Autophagy

Autophagy is a mechanism by which the body recycles old and dead body cells and cell components. This process is very useful when someone has disease and stress. It promotes survival chance of the individual by providing extra source of energy and cell components to the new cells and tissues.

The same process is very useful when a person is starving. This concept is explained as Dhatu Shosha in Ayurveda. When Ahara is not supplied, the Agni (digestive fire) eats up the Dhatus (tissues), leading to weight loss and if it continues for long, leads to death.

But in case of controlled fasting, the process of Autophagy leads to good recycling of dead and old body cells and extracting energy out of them. So, fasting can stimulate a controlled stress response of the body.

Effect on Ojas

Q: Fasting causes loss of Ojas. True?
This is true for a lean and weak person.
But in people with obesity, where Medo dhatu (Fat tissue) is pathologically high, fasting as a way of lightening therapy (Langhana) increases Ojas.

Read related: What is Ojas? How To Increase Ojas During Health And Disease?

Intense fasting?

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I underwent an intense 8 day detox consisting of :
   2 days: fast on only ginger tea – (made from dry ginger 1/4 tsp + 1L water boiled)
   2 days: only green vegetable soup
   2 days: only thin mung soup
   2 days: only mung & cooked green veg
   By the 3rd morning I wake up sweating profusely as if a fever has broken, and I feel very trembly and weak, until I am able to drink some warm ginger tea.
   Would this be a sign of intense agni digesting ama or a hypoglycaemic episode or just dehydration overnight?

Answer by Dr JV Hebbar 
There are a few factors to consider here. 
Ideal days for fasting: Two days of fasting only in ginger tea – In high Kapha disorders such as obesity, high cholesterol, Irritable bowel syndrome with severe anorexia, respiratory issues, asthma, etc. fasting for more than one day is recommended. If you are already healthy then the ideal time for fasting is 24 hours. 
In the above case, it appears the two day ginger juice fast, followed up with other types of detox fasting was not tolerated well by your body. 
Consider the below signs – 
Signs and symptoms of successful fasting (Langhana therapy):

वात मूत्र पुरीषाणां विसर्गे गात्र लाघवे।
हृदय उद्गार कण्ठ आस्य शुद्धौ तन्द्रा क्लमे गते॥
स्वेदे जाते रुचौ चैव क्षुत् पिपास सह उदये।
कृतं लङ्घनं आदेश्यं निर्व्यथे च अन्तरात्मनि॥(च.सू.२२/३४,३५)
vāta mūtra purīṣāṇāṃ visarge gātra lāghave|
hṛdaya udgāra kaṇṭha āsya śuddhau tandrā klame gate||
svede jāte rucau caiva kṣut pipāsa saha udaye|
kṛtaṃ laṅghanaṃ ādeśyaṃ nirvyathe ca antarātmani||(ca.sū.22/34,35)

Vata Mutra Pureesha Visarga – Proper excretion of flatus, urine and feces,
Laghava – lightness of the body,
Hrudaya Shuddhi – feeling of purity in heart,

Udgara shuddhi – feeling purity in eructation,
Kanta Shuddhi – feeling clarity in throat,
Lack of Tandra (drowsiness) and Klama (excretion),
appearance of sweat and appreciation of taste for food,
hunger, thirst and contentment.

Adverse effects of excess fasting (Langhana treatment):

Parva bheda – Cracking of the skin, crackling sound in small joints
Angamarda – Malaise, bodyache,
Kasa – cough,
Mukha Shosha – dryness of mouth,
Kshut pranasa – loss of appetite,
Aruchi – anorexia,
Trishna – thirst,
Weakness of the ears and eyes (impairment of the power of hearing and sight),
Sambhrama – loss of memory, dizziness,
frequent upward movement of Vatu, bloating
Tamo hrudi – bradycardia, lowered functioning of heart,
emaciation of body, loss of the power of digestion and body strength.

So, it appears, by the third day, your body was suffering with a few adverse effects of fasting. 
Read: How To Do Fasting? A Step By Step Guide For You

2 days: only green vegetable soup: 
If it is cooked green vegetable soup, then it is partially fine. But if it is raw green veg smoothie, then Ayurveda has some reservations against it. It can be heavy to digest and can be taxing on the Agni (digestion strength). Even if digested, it might not produce desired detoxifying effects that you were expecting. 
In your case, two days of ginger juice fasting followed by green leafy vegetables was immensely taxing on the agni that might have caused the said symptoms of feeling feverish and fatigue. 
Read: 13 Hazards And Precautions Related To Vegetables As Per Ayurveda

Next time, if you were to follow a detox program, deleting raw green smoothie from your schedule could be a good idea. It appears the below plan looks much better, especially if you have obesity, low hunger, high cholesterol or suffering with any lifestyle disorders. 
1 day : fast on only ginger tea – (made from dry ginger 1/4 tsp + 1L water boiled)
2 days: only thin mung soup
2 days: only mung & cooked green veg 
Still, keep an eye on healthy and undesired effects of fasting and adjust your diet accordingly, during such a schedule. Observing the signs and stopping the fasting regimen is more important than following a stringent and rigidly fixed fasting protocol. 

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