Friday, January 27, 2012

The Substitute for Fasting

In the past few months I have not tried fasting. Ever since I changed my profession, I hardly got an opportunity to fast. These days I am seriously learning, practicing and teaching yoga to a handful of people. As a result, I hardly got an opportunity to get on with fasting. There is another reason for me to quit fasting. I learned from some of the ancient yoga texts and Guruji BKS Iyengar has also mentioned in many of his writings “that yoga is not for him who gorges too much and also not for him who starves himself.” According to hatha yoga pradeepika, a yogi is not supposed to starve himself by fasting.

Before quitting the fasting practice immediately, I wanted to make sure that fasting which gave me so many benefits before; why not benefit the yogis? So I kept on fasting once in a week along with my yoga practice. I had no problems at all for the first few months. In fact, it helped me in repairing my body and relieving my pains from the practice of yoga.

As my practice intensified, I began to experience fatigue, body aches and lack of strength in performing some of the balancing and inverting asanas, where you need some energy and power to perform. I then gave up weekly fasting. I gradually began to gain strength and power to practice my asanas. As you all know that fasting is meant to cleanse and repair our internal body. Soon I realized that asanas are not only cleansing and repairing my anatomical body but also my physiological body. After following Dr. Raju’s natural way of living I found myself light and healthy but after adapting yoga in my life seriously I gained robust health and I hardly remember of getting any symptom of sickness in the last couple of years. With the blessings of Guruji Shri BKS Iyengar and Dr. M.S. Raju I am going well in my life and also taking the teachings of these two Legends to the people in my own possible way.

I always had a question in my mind about Dr. Raju. He is been traveling throughout the state to teach the natural way of living to the people of Andhra Pradesh. Where does he get the time to fast and how be him going to manage the fast while traveling and talking for hours? I then revised his books called dasa pustakalu hoping for an answer. Dasa Pustakalu is a set of ten handbooks which every household should maintain at home, in which he has written many of his personal experiences along with misconceptions about natural lifestyle and explanations related to them. Revising these gems called Dasa Pustakalu did not disappoint me. I got the answer looking for. Here it is:

During his childhood Dr. Raju used to get sick very often. In spite of using medicines he used to get sick frequently. In the year 1985 he learned about the practice of Lankanam – the fasting unto recovery and ever since he followed this practice whenever he falls sick. He used to recover from fever in a very short span of time than ever before without spending a single rupee. He then began to eat rich, natural, whole, unprocessed and raw foods which kept him away from doctors for months and years. From the year 1992 he began to practice fasting every Saturday and from the year 1994 he began to eat 25% cooked food without oil, salt and 75% raw uncooked food. From the year 1997 onwards he began to eat his dinner before sunset. This cleanses the body in day to day basis therefore he happened to end the weekly practice of fasting. To understand this you need to go back to my previous posts on fasting and recollect the duties performed by our body and how fasting helps our body to perform those duties effectively and how this dinner before sunset substitutes fasting.

Some of the ancient yoga texts say that your food should be according to the rise and fall of the Sun as the energy from Sun stimulates the Jattharaagni-the fire to digest food in our body. You need to have a light breakfast and dinner in the morning and in the evening as the Jattharaagni will be low during those times due to mild sunrays. Low Jattharaagni will hamper digestion if you eat heavy food. As the Sun is at the peak in the mid day, it is advised to take heavy meal in the Lunch. High Jattharaagni will help digest any sort of food during this time. Today we have forgotten this very law of nature and inviting all sorts of diseases and disorders.

Dr. M.S. Raju in his book ‘water and you’ explained the duties of our body in a simple and clear manner. Page 12 ‘water and you’ says that the body has two duties to perform – the day duty and the night duty. The body remains healthy as long as it is performing these duties effectively. If these duties are interchanged the body loses health and life expectancy is reduced. It suffers from diseases.

1. Day Duty: The body discharges two types of functions during the day. The first is to digest food, transport this digested food to the cells, convert it into energy and move the waste material to the excretory system. The second function is to produce millions of new cells in the body against the millions of cells that die every day.

2. Night Duty: The body discharges two types of functions during the night. Firstly, the waste material produced during the day through consumption of food is purged to a certain extent through excretory system in the form of fasces, urine, sweat and carbon dioxide during the day. The cells purge the remaining waste material during the night. Secondly, many cells in our body get diseased everyday. The body repairs them. Likewise the body protects us from injuries, wounds and ill health.

If the body has to perform these functions effectively the body needs sufficient water, space and enough rest. Now let us assess what amount of water, space and rest we are providing to our body. Let us analyze what an average individual does in his day to day life and how his body bears the brunt.

1. Morning Activity: Let us assume that an average individual wakes up at 7AM. Immediately after brushing the teeth he needs coffee or tea. Some time later say around 7-30 AM or 8AM he needs breakfast.

2. Afternoon Activity: He then gets back to his work and around 12PM or 1PM again he will have some lunch.

3. Evening Activity: By the evening he finishes his work around 5PM or 6PM and would like to have some tea and snacks.

4. Night Activity: Finally at night he will have his dinner around 8PM or 9PM and go to bed at around 10PM or 11PM.

Now let us analyze the duties performed by our body in respect to our activities in detail.

The tea or coffee consumed around 7-15AM will at least take 15-20 minutes to digest; say it got digested by 7-20AM. Now it has to convert this into energy and supply it the cells and carryout the waste to excretory system. By the time it begins its work the breakfast comes in at 7-30AM. Now it has to digest this again. The breakfast is obviously heavier than the tea or coffee and it will consume more time to digest. Gone are the days where people used to follow the sun rays in the eating schedules. The kind of stuff we eat in our breakfast today easily consumes 2 to 3 hours of time to digest the food. Say, by 11-30AM it finishes up the digestion. By the time the body begins its other function of converting the food into energy, transporting it to the cells and sending the waste to the excretory system, there comes the Lunch at around 12PM or 1PM. The Lunch obviously is heavier than the breakfast. It may take around 3 to 4 hours to digest. Let us assume that it got digested by 4PM. Do we let the body perform other functions at least now? No! We don’t! There comes the snack in the evening at 5PM or 6PM. And what we have in snacks? All sort of junk that is available in the market. It again takes 1 or 2 hours to digest. BY the time the digestion is finished it is the time for a dinner at 9PM or 10 PM. Are we going to eat light dinner? No! We eat tummy full of stuff leisurely sitting with family members at night as everyone is available at home. These days’ people in metro cities are eating less in the noon as they feel dull which hampers their performance at work and gorging full of their tummies at night as there won’t be any work apart from sleeping. It takes another 4 to 5 hours to digest the food.

Majority of you might agree that you get a sound sleep at late night around 1AM or 2AM and some even say that they get sound sleep early in the morning hours at 4AM. That is because your digestive system stops functioning at that time. It completes the morning duty and starts performing the night duty when you are completely at rest.

We have forgotten the very basic nature of our creation. We humans are day predators. We hunt for food in the day and rest at night. The body needs 24 hours to perform its two duties – 12 hours in the day and 12 hours in the night. If your day begins at 7AM, you must allow your body to finish its day duty by 7PM. Because of our unnatural lifestyle we are over straining our body in performing the day duty by 6 to 7 hours and under performing the night duty by same length of time.

The body does most of its cleansing, repairing and healing work during its night duty. It will be around 2PM the body finishes its day duty. The night duty begins thereon. It continues smoothly as long as we are at sleep. The trouble begins from the moment we wake up. As soon as we wake up the cycle rolls on with tea at 7-15AM and the body thereby stops its night duty underperformed by 7 hours. The fortunate thing is that the body does not continue its night duty as it does with the day duty. Had it performed the night duty like its day duty one would die immediately due to indigestion? But if this continued for long anyway would lead to serious health hazards, as we see millions of people suffering from various lifestyle disorders.

Here we are analyzing the problems the body of an average individual is facing due to his lifestyle. This analysis based assuming the consumption of normal food. The teas and coffees taken in between, sweets, deep fried oily food and snack with lots of creams, butters, spices etc are exception. You can imagine the rest.

There some people who intentionally follow this lifestyle but there are also some people who do due to lack of choice. For those who are willing to compensate this over strain on body but their schedule of work or nature of work do not allow them to change their lifestyle drastically can follow a weekly fasting schedule as recommended by Dr. Raju.

Now let us briefly try to understand how fasting compensates that over strain and how it helps the body to balance the day and night duty effectively. Please go through fasting Dr. Raju’s way in order understand the process of fasting. When you fast in Dr. Raju’s way, suppose you have decided to fast on Saturday, the fasting begins from Friday night after dinner and ends with breakfast on Sunday morning. The night duty of the body begins at around 2PM on Friday and it goes on till 7AM on Sunday. As you have not consumed any food there is no day duty for the body. Therefore it continues its cleansing and repairing work. It does the night duty continuously for 30 hours in the period of fasting. How many hours your body is under performing in 6 days? 42 hours in a period of 6 days. By fasting once in a week you are compensating the load of 72% (30 hours) on your body. Isn’t it wonderful? Believe me, biweekly fasting is a boon to your health.

There are many people like me who cannot undertake fasting biweekly due to various reasons. If you make little changes in your lifestyle and discharge your daily activities as given below, then that will substitute the benefits of fasting. Your body will get ample time to perform its functions effectively on day to day basis without needing a fast. Here is the schedule:

1. Morning Activity: Try to wake up at 4-30 or 5AM early in the morning. Drink 1 or 1.5 liters of water, clean your bowels and exercise for at least an hour. People who cannot exercise can take a walk for an hour or two. By 6-30AM or 7AM have a glass of vegetable juice made up of any of these veggies like carrots, beetroots, cucumber, tomatoes, coriander leaves etc. It takes not more than 20 minutes to get digested and you will get ample enzymes that are useful to the body from them. You can have your regular breakfast by 7-30AM or 8AM as usual. Eat light breakfast without oil, ghee, cheese etc. so that the food gets digested easily.

2. Afternoon Activity: Have your regular lunch at 12-30PM or 1PM. Many people are used to eating fast food items in the day as that would save the time and keep you light. But that’s not right. Eat well enough in the lunch as your digestive power is at peak.

3. Evening Activity: Get back home and eat a light dinner before Sunset by 6-30PM as the digestive power is mild during that time. Prefer to end up with fruits in dinner.

Do not play your mouth in eating objects apart from this schedule. No snacks, no teas, no coffees, no juices, no soft drinks etc. in between. Water is the only exception. You can drink 2 glasses of water every hour or two maintaining a gap of half an hour before meals and 2 hours after meals.

Let us now analyze how our body discharges the duties with this schedule:

The vegetable juice taken at 6-30AM will be digested by 6-50AM and the breakfast taken at around 7-30AM will be digested by 8-30AM or 9AM. Moreover the morning exercises assist in digesting the food quickly as it raises the digestive power. Your body will have enough time to perform rest of the functions before lunch.

The lunch taken at 12-30PM or 1PM will be digested by around 3PM. Here again the body has enough time to perform rest of its day duty.

If you finish your dinner by 6-30PM with light food, it might be digested by 9PM. The body was resting at around 2AM under the normal activities. How many hours you saved with this schedule? Around 5 hours a day! How many hours it is going to be in a week? It is about 35 hours a week. Even if you have taken some heavy food couple of times in a week still you are compensating 30 hours which is equivalent to a weekly fasting.

I still have problems in following this schedule. I have no time to take vegetable juice in the morning as my yoga class is scheduled at 5-30AM to 7-30AM. After taking up the class I prefer to practice for 2 – 3 hours in the morning. Sometimes I end up drinking a glass of milk or juice half an hour before practice. I begin my practice at around 8-30AM till 11-30AM and will have my lunch around 12-30PM or 1PM.

I again have my class from 4 PM onwards. Therefore I cannot finish my dinner before Sunset. My dinner time is around 8PM – 8-30PM. I have no choice in this case. Moreover my appetite is high as my work involves physical exertion and I have only 2 meals a day. Therefore I cannot tend to have small meals at night. I slip into sound sleep by 10PM and wake up at 4-30AM without a miss. I have been following this routine for quite some time now and enjoying my life as never before.

In conclusion I would like to make it clear that fasting once a week is good for people involved in sedentary work. For people who needs excess physical exertion in their work it is not required. You can just follow the other alternatives to cleanse and repair your body. You must understand that the self uses the body to make the journey of life. You must always take care of your body as you take care of your vehicle. If you ignore the vehicle of your life called the body then the soul will dump you. Live healthy and let others live the same way.

I hope you enjoyed this article. Keep watching the space for more updates.

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