What can we call toxins? Any substance (or feeling, or interpretation) absorbed by a living being that is not essential, or upsets its optimal equilibrium and functioning is a toxin. Since the body follows the mind and spirit, it is not only material toxins that make you unhealthy, but the kind of thoughts, meanings and emotions that you internalize that affect your state of total health.
Fasting is one of the oldest and most effective ways of detoxification. It is interesting to note that fasting of various kinds has been linked with religion: Ramadan, Lent, Navratra, and so forth. We can suppose that this was one sure shot way to get the largest number of people to comply, as well as establish a certain mind-feeling circuit alongside the physical aspect of fasting.
Fasting comes as many dishes: special diets that eliminate either carbohydrates, or proteins, or are of only fruit, only juice, only something or the other. They may all have their advantages and disadvantages given specific conditions, but I am going to talk of a kind that I have practiced and found most beneficial at multiple levels – the weekly 36-hour water fast. If that daunts you (and fasts, for some misplaced reason, frighten most people … possibly because of the solemn imposition-association with religion), go for a fortnightly fast.
People have done water fasts for as many as thirty-forty days at a stretch, but the shorter and more regular fasts are the ones that, in my opinion, are most effective, sustainable, and give you the best long-term advantage of detoxification.
However, if you have any acute or chronic condition like diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, are recovering from illness, or are dependent on regular medication, it would be best to consult your therapist before embarking on even this short fast.
Getting in and out of a Fast
Many fasts can prove ineffective, and even harmful, if the take off and landing are anything but smooth and gentle. Doing a fast for 36 hours and ending it with regular, heavy food can be quite disastrous to the digestive system.
The best way to ease into the fast is to eat a light last meal, like a soup accompanied by some vegetables in a home-made sauce or gravy. If your Friday evening meal was at 6:30 pm, you are ready to begin sipping cool, refreshing water an hour and a half after, and continue with water-sipping till Sunday morning, when you can break your fast with coconut water soon after waking up. Keep the following lunch very light. Say, tossed vegetable or sprouts, a khichdi with a spoon of ghee (clarified butter). Likewise, stay with an early and light dinner, before getting into ‘regular’ meals the next day.
There is also little use of fasting if you are ultimately going back to completely unhealthy foods the rest of the time – processed and packaged foods, deep fried foods, refined oils, refined flour, aerated and processed drinks, processed table salt and foods high in refined sugar.
A lot of people ask, why plain water, why not lemon, orange, watermelon juices or fruit, or coconut water, or honey water. No denying that these kind of fasts have got some incredible results for people. But intake of plain water is zero calorific and remains the most intense kind of fast that you can do in terms of thorough body cleansing. That is not saying that it is the most difficult. I find the water fast far easier to follow than any mono food (solid or liquid) based one. Further, people with compromised gut health can easily enter a cycle of hyper acidity with anything other than water. Any sort of food, however mild, does stimulate the digestive juices, and that can not only cause discomfort but also render elusive the kind of complete cleanse that pure, good quality water enables.
Clean spring water, while being the ideal choice of water for fasting, is not available to the majority of us. So back to the old filtered water. But you can improve on that in two ways. One is by storing it in a porous, unpainted clay pot (I recommend the large maaths from Rajasthan that are really thin and porous) for 5-6 hours minimum before drinking it. The other option is to bottle the filtered water in transparent glass bottles with plastic caps and leave them out in the sun for 6-7 hours before bringing them in. Both these processes purify the water, and make it ‘live’ and healing. I can tell you experientially that both sun-charged and earthen pot water leave one visibly rejuvenated, and have a light and clear feel when the water goes down your gullet.
As per body weight, drinking two to three and half litres of water is recommended. Keeping the requisite quantity of water aside for yourself will allow you to monitor the exact quantity you need to consume during the fasting period.
If you really want to get the best out of your fast, do it on a day when you can also remain silent, and not engage in much activity. This may be difficult to pull off on a regular basis for the majority, but if you add the silence and ‘withdrawal from the world’ aspect even occasionally, you’ll be richly rewarded. By withdrawal I mean complete disengagement from your electronic gadgets, books, music, and doing anything at all. Just relax and watch your thoughts, feelings, or the silence without engaging with any of them. It is best to inform family and friends in advance that you will not take calls or answer messages, and if there is an emergency, they should contact the person who is with you.
There can be a healing crisis (headache, nausea, aggravation of symptoms like pain, itching, fever, etc.), or there may be none. Emotional catharsis may present itself or not. Especially for the first such fasting, it is best you have someone understanding, supportive and helpful at home.
The healing that occurs is often unbelievable. Disappearance of pains of various kinds are fairly commonplace. I have seen allergies, sinusitis, nerve pains, and even tumours melt away with just the 36 hour fast in silence. It is not uncommon for people to emerge from the fast with emotional issues and other mental frustrations resolved, or with renewed energy and clarity to apply themselves in a certain direction.
This is real in-depth detoxification, where toxins from the body, mind and spirit fall away, leaving a cleaner and clearer canvas to paint upon. It is, after all, the body that follows the mind and spirit.
R K Chandrika