Fasting for Health

What is fasting and why do people fast? The answers to these questions are quite varied as nowadays people on special or unusual diets, consider that a fast. I like to keep things simple, so to me fasting is simply the abstention from food and drink for a certain period of time. As for the reasons people fast, my guess would be for the physical benefits such as losing weight or to cure an illness, it can also be a method of colon cleansing. There's also the age old reason, for spiritual growth.

It is certainly more popular to consider fasting for weight loss than for spiritual growth. The latter seems to be a dying practice in this age of vanity, and this I believe is a gross mistake on our part. Don't get me wrong, I too am for keeping the body looking and feeling great, however, if we ignore the spiritual aspects of our existence, we do ourselves a terrible disservice as it creates an imbalance in the total being. As you may have guessed, I'm a proponent of holistic health - taking care of the mind, body and soul.

Most of this site is dedicated to improving and developing the body, so I'd like to take a little time here to share with you my perspective on fasting for spiritual development. Without getting too 'religious', let's look at the major monotheistic religions and what they say about fasting.

The Hebrew Bible states in Ezra 8:21 - "I called for a fast there by the Ahava Canal, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and seek from him a safe journey for us, our children, and all our property."

The Christian's Holy Bible makes mention of fasting for spiritual growth in several verses. For example, (Acts 13:2; 13:3) states - "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." Here's another example which I won't quote here, but suggest that your check it out: (Luke 2:37; 5:33)

The Muslim's Holy Quran, states the following in Chapter 2:verse 183: "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint."

It's clear from the above quotes that regardless of your choice of worship or religious affiliation, fasting is prescribed as a way of achieving God consciousness. By separating ourselves from our preoccupation with the physical needs of the body for a period of time, and with the right intent, one can achieve a closeness to God that otherwise would have been less likely.

Don't get me wrong, fasting is good, period. Whether for spiritual enlightenment or for weight loss, the benefits are tremendous. Let's think about it from just a physical perspective; by abstaining from food or drink we're giving our overworked organs a chance to rest and recuperate, and given our diets here in the western hemisphere, we definitely need to take a break from eating...I know I do.

Given all the benefits of fasting, when should you fast and for how long? I think you should be mentally, physically and emotionally prepared before considering a fast. Remember, fasting will affect your energy level, and if you're required to perform very physical tasks for long durations, fasting wouldn't be advised. The point here is that you have to be prepared to commit to the fast and be smart about it. Fasting under the wrong circumstances could be harmful; we fast to heal the body, not harm it. In addition to the physical challenges, fasting requires discipline, so you must be mentally and emotionally prepared to successfully complete a fast.

The duration of fast depends on the objective of the fast. A fast to reverse serious physical ailments such as ulcers may require more time than a fast to simply cleanse the body. In any event, there are two types of fast - the short fast, which is less than two weeks and the long fast, which is anything longer than two weeks. A word of caution here - if you're a rookie at fasting please avoid the longer fast as you could really hurt yourself. Please, please, please make sure you're knowledgeable about fasting and its effects, and ease into it by trying a shorter fast before attempting a longer one. Remember, fasting can heal, but it can also cause harm, so be smart about your fast and you'll be successful.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and/or experience with fasting here.