Fasting For Your Body Type
Eating is a central part of our daily lives. It's important to take care. In this busy world we eat when we are stressed or sad, we eat too much, we eat at odd & inconsistent hours, we eat foods that are processed and indigestible, and we put food into our bodies before our last meal has even had time to digest. Once in a while, it is necessary to hit refresh and allow our systems to realign.
In Ayurveda, fasting is an important process for ridding your body of waste by having time to exclusively digest toxins without the interruption of added food. In popular culture, fasting and detoxing are usually seen as cranky & miserable last resorts to quickly shedding a few pounds. But really it is so much more than that.
Fasting is a practice that is sacred to many cultures & religions, and has been a natural truth throughout human history (hunter gatherers didn't eat every day, thrice/day). It is and has been widely used not for aesthetic reasons, but for mental gains such as clarity, awareness, gratitude, and physical ones like boosting your metabolism, anti-oxidant production (your body goes into "healing mode"), and replacement of malfunctioning brain cells. And yes, weight loss. Because it kickstarts your body into a state of autophagy (clearing out old cells for new healthy ones), research has shown that intermittent fasting has been wildly successful in preventing Alzheimers and fending off various cancers.
Each Ayurvedic body constitution ("dosha") has a different recommended fasting method, duration, and frequency. There are three primary doshas - pitta, kapha, and vata, and some may be any combination of two of the doshas. I, for example, am vata-kapha, meaning primarily vata, and somewhat kapha, so very short fasts of one day or even one part of the day are best, with consumption of water and herbs throughout. Warm weather fasting is best. Juice or mono food days are also recommended. Pitta and Kapha dominant body types can withstand and benefit from longer & or more frequent fasting. If you don't know your dosha, there is a helpful test *
* that will also provide general dietary recommendations.
Since I've not taken birth control, my body has also been very in tune with the cycle of the moon. I tend to base my day of fasting around this schedule. Similarly, Ekadashi is a traditional time in the Hindu calendar for devotees of Lord Vishnu to fast. It is the 11th day between the New Moon and the Full Moon. Although I have not personally tried this yet, I do find it reassuring that widely followed traditions base fasting days around the Moon too :) I like to fast when I feel physically strong enough. For me, this has been the day of or before the Full Moon, and on the first day of the New Moon. I believe this is all about how you feel and when you are mentally prepared. This is how you will reap the most benefits psychologically and physically.
If you do participate in a half day, full day, or few days of fasting, I recommend doing your homework first. Make sure not to fast beyond the recommended amount of time for your dosha. Also, don't choose a day that you know will be incredibly stressful. This can defeat the purpose and you may find yourself becoming very irritable and unappreciative of the experience. Get lots of sleep, do only restorative exercise like mild yoga, and remember to drink lots of water.
Once you've read up on everything, I encourage you to use this take this time to look inward. How do you feel?
-Are you more grateful that you live in a place where, when you need it, food is usually available?
-Can you take a few minutes on this day to meditate?
-Does this lack of food make you feel more aware of your physical existence? Do you like or dislike this feeling?
-Perhaps now, if you have not endured true emptiness of food in a long time, you can empathize more with those who do not have access to food every day. How does this make you feel?
Keep a journal of all your observations if you can.
Good luck! Lots of love.