Updated: Nov 26
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Spiritual Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
While intermittent fasting is a hot new health trend, it is actually a practice that has been around thousands of year and is rooted in Ayurveda.
Ayurveda is often thought of as one of the oldest holistic systems of natural medicine, and that is an important part as we all need to be mentally and physically healthy. Yet, that system of medicine is only one part of the vast path known as "the knowledge of life." Ayur, life, Veda, knowledge. To know the nature of life itself--that is Ayurveda.
Today, Ayurveda's Ancient Knowledge of Intermittent Fasting is Now Acknowledged by Modern Science.
John Hopkins Medicine recently rediscovered what Ayurveda has known all along and published Intermittent Fasting: What is it and how does it work?
According to Ayurveda, intermittent fasting does more than burn fat. Ayurveda has known fasting can prevent, and in some cases, reverse conditions and diseases. When there is a gap in the digestive process, it provides critical cleansing time for the body and mind to purify. The brilliant process of cellular purification is compromised when there is a constant supply of food moving from one end of the digestive tract, to the other.
It is only relatively recent that humans had 24/7 access to nearly all foods imaginable. Reflecting on my own ancestors, it was only a generation ago that they grew and raised all their food. Living in a remote area, there was no convenience stores or all night markets.
Raised this way, I observed how to eat seasonally, that food abundance or scarcity ebbed and flowed naturally with the seasons, which built in fasting experiences. The term ritucharya in Ayurveda speaks to this. Ritu means season and charya means rhythm.
Simply put, it is following the natural rhythms of the season year-round. This is in stark contrast to having whatever one may want all the time. When there is a constant supply of foods, and foods that are not produced by a particular season, it can lead to health issues. How is it that in modern life with brilliant medical advances, there are so many chronic diseases? According to Ayurveda, there is a connection.
Digestion consists of four processes: ingestion, digestion, absorption and elimination. What happens when the roadway of the digestive system is constantly processing? (See: Poop Analysis with Ayurveda: What Your Poop Says About Your Health.)
Think of it as a rush hour pile up--all sorts of health problems occur mentally and physically.
It is wonderful that research is highlighting the mental and physical benefits of Ayurvedic intermittent fasting and yet, it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what Ayurveda's approach to fasting can do for your spiritual self.
Intermittent Fasting, Ayurveda, and the Digestive System
In Ayurveda, the digestive system is considered to be crucial to a person’s wellness and vitality. When the digestive system, agni, is unable to work optimally, toxins, ama, build up and cause imbalance before eventually leading to disease. Fasting promotes a steady release of those toxins and fosters proper regeneration of energy and digestive power.
For thousands of years, Ayurveda has recommended at least a 12 hour fasting window every day to give the digestive tract adequate time to rest and for cleansing on a cellular to occur. If the digestive tract is never given a break, the all important digestive fire, your agni, (think of this as your sacred fire) becomes imbalanced and can no longer properly digest the food ingested. Fasting is just one of the ways Ayurveda can help improve your digestion and overall health.
Intermittent Fasting as a Spiritual Practice
Fasting, in Ayurveda, is not simply intentionally skipping a meal or two. Fasting Ayurvedically, is an extension of practicing pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses —in Sanskrit praty means against and ahara means anything taken into the body. Ayurvedic fasting is a spiritual practice aimed at understanding one’s self and developing spiritual strength.
Ayurveda teaches us that intermittent fasting is not about the food, but about the spaces between the meals. Intentionally skipping a meal is an opportunity to perform tapas, to exercise our discipline and develop spiritual strength.
When we choose to practice pratyahara through intermittent fasting, we deliberately choose what to put into our body, or, in this instance, not put into our body. We create a commitment to not eat and through that experience, we gain determination on our path. It’s a lot like exercising and gaining spiritual muscle.
"To know about Ayurveda, contact Veenaji at Saumya Ayurveda --because when it comes to our spiritual life, it is emphasized in the ancient texts to consider what you eat, how you eat, as this supports a solid meditation practice.
Being an expert Ayurvedic doctor, and there are now very few, because it requires knowledge of the scriptures, the medicine, but it also requires a great deal of being a sadhaka. Without being a sadhaka, an Ayurvedic physician is not a true physician.
Because the medicine of Ayurveda is not simply medicine, it is much, much more than simply medicine. The name itself says it, Veda, it is the knowledge, wisdom, to know all about Ayu, life.
Life is complicated.
As one example, digestion itself is a very complex process. An Ayurvedic expert not only sees digestion from a physiological perspective, but also from a sadhana point of view.
The personality is another. There are many complex personality traits. Modern medical science cannot explain it, but an Ayurvedic doctor who is an expert--can tell you, for example, Vishuddha chakra needs to be balanced.
When you consult with Veenaji, then your body, mind, and your pranic body operate optimally and your sadhana, your spiritual life and life becomes easier, and your practice becomes enjoyable.”
--Dr. Panditji Dabral, Ph.D., Sanskrit
Practical Steps for Intermittent Fasting the Ayurveda Way
Ayurveda teaches to eat with intention and focus and to set aside any distractions when enjoying a meal. When we focus on our food as we eat, we connect with the nutrients of the food and with the prana, the life force of the food. Even when you’re eating the finest of organic foods, if you forgo the grounded connection to your meal, you’re missing out on the most critical component.
Guidelines for Intermittent Fasting as a Spiritual Practice:
1. Eat your meals at the same time each day.
2. Avoid eating between meals as it interfere with the intelligence of the digestive system and disrupts your prana, life force. 3. Eat with awareness. “Eat, and only eat.” 4. Practice eating meditation.
5. Fast as a spiritual practice, not just a digestive practice. 6. Eat breakfast like a prince/princess, lunch as a king/queen, and dinner as a pauper.
7. Consider eating 2 meals a day. (If not pregnant, nursing, blood sugar issues, under 18, eating disorders, or any other health concerns that are contraindicated.)
8. Find a gap, such as 12-16 hours between meals. This naturally occurs when one takes an early, lite dinner and wakes with warm water or digestive tea first.
"Don,t push, do what is correct for you, the point is to create a resting, cleansing space between the last meal and the first meal." - Veena
9. Eat your last meal at least 3 hours before bed.
10. Sip hot Saumya Digestive Detox tea throughout the day. 11. Be grateful and respectful of the food you are eating, whether it is plant or animal, it's life is now supporting your life and as you consume food, it becomes part of you on a cellular level. This is consciousness with eating and life itself.
"Fasting should be specific to the individual and guided accordingly to avoid imbalancing the doshas, and to create the most benefitial experience possible. Like all things, fasting is not a one size fits all approach. All care needs to be customized to the individual"
--Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
Benefits of Spiritual Fasting
· Improves focus and concentration
· Increases awareness
· Deepens connection to the Divine
· Enhances emotional health
· Supports a healthy physical body
These are general guidelines. What is correct and healthy for one person, is not so for the next and may even been injurious. The key is to learn to observe how your body feels after eating each meal. Do you feel heavy and tired after eating or do you feel lively and focused? If you feel energized your body is approving of that meal. If you feel dull and heavy, your body is having difficulty with it and it is letting you know it.
Intermittent fasting is another one of Ayurveda's natural remedies for dealing with health concerns, optimizing well being physically, mentally and spiritually-- as well as a simple and effective tool for daily cleansing and detox.
"When we follow these Ayurveda guidelines, we naturally intermittent fast, cleanse and detox our bodies and mind every day." -Veena
Explore more: Ayurveda's Approach to Intermittent Fasting
Ayurveda's spiritual intermittent fasting, may be a supportive addition to your Ayurveda lifetstyle.
There is a saying, "The mind is more in the body, than the body is in the mind." The Saumya 3 Step Meditation Process shifts us from fight-flight-freeze mode, to rest-restore-relax mode. Give it a try for forty days and observe the changes. The more grounded and relaxed we are, the smoother life flows.
"The breath is the connection between the mind and body, so by training the breath, we become calm, focused, and grounded, we slow down the aging process by decreasing stress. These practices are so simple and easy to have as part of our daily life. We actually feel and look younger."
- Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
1. Learn Diaphragmatic Breathing and Change Your Life. When we re-learn to breath diaphragmatically, we move from the flight-fight-freeze mode, to rest, restore, relaxation mode from where we want and need to live.
3. Ayurveda Daily Routines: --Ayurvedic Morning Routine | 6 Rituals for a Calm and Centered Day
"Choose a couple of practices from the routines that provide you with the greatest support. Perform them while applying our two minute meditation technique and your mundane tasks, just transformed into a mellifluous meditation. This is meditation applied to daily life." - Veena, Saumya Ayurveda
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-Molly Rossini, Minnesota
Explore More: Ayurveda Breathwork Pranayama
“I feel greatly improved. Stress fell off like an old hairy coat. I’m just not anxious. Depression is way decreased. I was haunted by anxiety my whole life, and it’s just gone. The mudra, mantra...WOW. This is so cool! I have regained hope. Something wonderful is taking place. You and your knowledge come to me after a lifetime of searching and prayer. I am forever grateful.” --Mark Hughes, Minnesota
“Veena has been an incredible resource to help me get aligned on food, herbs, and mind, body, and soul exercises to feel more grounded and present. I love the daily guided practices, a routine that feels EMBODYING. She has made an outsized impact on my life in a short amount of time.” –Mark Fishman, USA
“I was inflamed. I had trouble keeping weight on, I was diagnosed with incurable ulcerative proctitus, my energy was very low, and I was taking medications daily for a skin condition, and I had severe migraines.
Following Veena’s guidance, all of these conditions have been nearly eliminated! The incurable ulcerative proctitus was given a Mayo Clinic Score of 0, normal or inactive disease.
I’m very grateful to Veena for the wonderful results and the healthier quality of life we have attained together. Without reservation, I highly recommend Veena at Saumya Ayurveda.”
---Chris Schirber, Yoga Teacher, Minnesota
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When we gain clarity about what to eat, we can cook and eat with confidence knowing we are turning our food into medicine and with Saumya Ayurveda, you'll know what to do. As Julia Childs put it, "This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook—try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless and above all have fun."
We all want to be heard, understood, and cared for as whole beings, not a set of isolated symptoms. True health is more than the absence of disease, which is why Western medicine so often leaves us feeling hopeless and unseen.
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Veena is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner and meditation teacher, and monk.
She is President Emeritus and teaching faculty of the Meditation Center.
Veena fell in love with the traditional medicine used in her family’s home, learning herbal remedies at her grandmother's knee.
These childhood experiences were the seeds of a lifelong passion. For over 30 years, Veena has dedicated her life to the world’s oldest healing system: Ayurveda.
She draws on this ancient wisdom to help others find their compass to a healthy life – and support those left wanting by Western medicine.
An experienced Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, Veena’s deep, intuitive knowledge of Ayurveda empowers her clients to reclaim their fullest, most vibrant lives –mentally, physically, and spiritually. Veena individualizes treatment plans to each person, rather than offering a one-size-fits-all approach, so it fits your life and becomes woven in your lifestyle, naturally.