How Fasting Once A Week Changed My Life
I was a teenager when I first heard about fasting. It wasn’t a topic I’d heard about growing up.
I came to learn about it through Mahatma Gandhi, who devoted his life to his country and spiritual practice. He would fast on Mondays—not only from food, but from speaking too, as he took silence, known as Mouna.
Each day of the week is connected to a specific planet and Hindu deity. Monday is for the moon and Shiva, who represents consciousness.
I was surprised to learn it was possible to go a day without solid food.
Throughout the years that followed, I often reflected back on and found inspiration in Mahatma Gandhi’s weekly commitment.
Over 25 years later, his weekly fasting is fully integrated into my life. I had set my intention to fast one day a week after a full moon ceremony, but I did not expect it would turn into a lifetime commitment (Tapas)
Every week I experience the many health benefits of fasting, and my body thanks me for taking time to rest its digestive system—among many other advantages I’ll share in this blog. For now I only fast on water or tea; when I am ready, I will also fast from speech.
I have since made friends with some Yogis who live in India and do not eat solid food of any kind. They inspire me that all is possible. One of my friends I have nicknamed “Superman,” as he not only refrains from food but also, at his youthful age of 72 years young, climbs up a mountain three times per day to visit a Shiva Temple. Each journey is an exhausting 15 kilometers mountain, which is a good workout even once a day. A great inspirational human, who always if full of inspiration.
Here are some of the gifts I receive from fasting once a week.
It feels like on a weekly basis my digestive system completely resets itself. Since I travel so much, there are times I eat foods I would normally not ingest. If I have loose stools, the next day after I fast I have regular, solid bowl moments. I feel lighter and have no bloating.
Each week, different situations may take place on my fasting day that could easily distract me from keeping my fast, yet the benefits overweigh the distractions. They are really just attractions made up from my mind. Yoga philosophy encourages the practice of prathyahara, sense withdrawal. This is now revealing itself; when I see others eat, or when I smell food, I know that my health is more important than a temporary sensation. This in turn builds my willpower and strength. And you cannot buy that at the store. On a more subtle level, extra prana is going to my manipura, Solar Plexus chakra.
When we eat, we need fire to digest food. Fire is another source of energy. When we conserve our inner energy reserves, we in turn have more energy. I always need less sleep and have more energy when I am fasting. I feel lighter and brighter. I make sure I drink lots of good water and get connected to the sun, as the sun is the first source of prana (and is where some of my Yogi friends who do not eat get their extra energy).
I always know that if I am working on my fast day I will be more productive, because I do not need to spend time in the kitchen making food, cleaning up or doing dishes. It’s a good trade that makes me feel great.
No More Emotional Eating
There is something in the yoga philosophy called Swadyaya, which means self-reflection or self-inquiry. I have begun to reflect on my relationship with food. Previously I took my low felt emotions out with eating. It used to be binging on sugar. I now have a relationship with my body’s message, and when I am full, I stop, without feeling guilty for not eating everything on my plate. I no longer experience emotional eating, as I now recognize when my feelings are low and watch them instead of losing myself in them.
The money I save on 3 meals a day, equates to 12 meals a month—and 144 meals per year. It may not seem like a lot, but it does add up.
More Love For Myself
One of the main reasons I stay committed to my weekly fast is to show love and respect to myself, the gift of the body that spirit gave me. Taking care of it, I in turn show love for my body (or better said, the vessel that carries me around). If I do not take care of the body I am given, no one will do it for me. We really are a walking miracle, able to do anything we believe in.
If you feel the call to fast, I recommend that you try it and go slow as you listen to your body. Some people have low blood sugar and need to eat, while others are able to go without food for one day and, like my yogi friends, simply do not need feed. Yet this is not something they just did overnight.
Becoming mindfully aware of our relationship with food and your body is a gift to yourself. This begins with your intention to make a conscious change, however that might look to you. There is an opportunity to fast with support on our Yoga Teacher Trainings