Before one willingly abstains from food or water-(commonly understood as FASTING), it's necessary to know what are the merits and benefits associated with each type of fasting. A fast may be partial or total, practiced by an individual or community either at one stretch or at specified intervals. In spiritual traditions a genuine fast is considered a true prayer that cleanses the body, mind and soul. Traditionally, fasting for religious and cultural beliefs implied complete abstinence from food and water. However with advancements in science, the act of fasting has been put to many other good usage. Primarily, fasting can be grouped into following broad categories, each with a different and distinct purpose.
- RELIGIOUS FAST
- HEALTH FAST
- MEDICAL FAST
- POLITICAL FAST
RELIGIOUS FAST : Human beings have been fasting since times immemorial for religious and spiritual reasons holding following beliefs.
(1) Essentially fasting for spiritual reasons coincide with meditation and prayers, by which the individual refreshes his inner body to awaken the spiritual forces latent in his soul. It stands as a symbolic gesture and a reminder for abstaining from selfish and carnal desires while connecting with almighty. By forgoing food, drink and abstinence from sexual activity, the most cherished things in life, human beings show their sincerity of faith and devotion to god.
(2) Fasting is a way of repentance for committing sins such as false and indecent thought, speech or action and is believed to protect a person from going to hell after death.
(3) The basic goal of any religious fast is to decrease material desires, physical passion, to follow the path of non violence and attain purification of soul by meditation.
(4) To inculcate a sense of brotherhood for the needy and hungry by fasting in community mourning for alms-giving and moral support.
HEALTH FAST : In recent times, as people are getting busier day by day, the process of fasting needs to be understood for restoring our body to optimal health.
(1) Practitioners of Naturopathy Medicine ( read further in "NATURAL HEALING BY FASTING" ) believe that when food intake is restricted major beneficial changes take place in our body, as harmful toxins are removed and new cells are regenerated in the body.
(2) While on fast, initially sugar stored in liver is burned up and thereafter toxins contained in fatty cells are released as fuel to provide energy to the brain.
(3) In doing so blood gets thinner, which helps in better oxygenation of tissues and growth of new cells.
(4) To derive true benefit out of fast other therapies such as exercise, meditation and yoga, may also be practiced in combination to eliminate waste from our body.
(5) Some studies have shown that fasting when done properly acts as an antidote and can be an effective therapy in treating allergies, arthritis, headaches, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, lethargy, inflammatory and psychological conditions.
MEDICAL FAST : In several scientific studies conducted by University of California, suggest that fasting is beneficial under medical conditions and also for improving health and management of diseases. Following facts will help us understand the merits and essence for medical fasting.
(1) In medical science, its an accepted practice to put a patient on fast before surgery to remove possible food particles from within the persons system which may cause complications during anesthesia.
(2) Persons are required to fast for conduct of cholesterol testing for getting standard results.
(3) Taking juice while fasting helps in maintaining a minimum diet of 800 calories per day, essential for avoiding condition of Hypoglycemia / Ketosis, which can be fatal for the brain.
(4) Reduction of calorie intake is the only known way to slow the aging process for increasing lifespan of an organism.
(5) Some doctors believe, pure water fasting combined with a healthy diet can actually provide relief in conditions of cardiovascular diseases, asthma, rheumatism, diabetes, colitis and psoriasis.
POLITICAL FAST : Across continents,with Democratic governance getting prominence day by day, fasting is often used as a political tool by activists for expression of opinion. Issues which merit fasting for a political cause may range from any of the following.
(1) To make a political statement for change in policy.
(2) To bring attention before the authorities for a public cause.
(3) To protest and voice dissent against the government.
(4 To offer resistance in a non-violent way.
No matter what is reason for you to fast, whether it is to lose weight, cleanse your body of harmful chemicals and toxins consumed through normal food and drink, moral, philosophical or religious beliefs, the only requirement is your desire and self discipline and that to without any cost.