Indians fast regularly or on special occasions like festivals and special days like Ekadashi. On such days they do not eat at all, eat once or make do with fruits or a special diet of simple food. Fasting in Sanskrit is called upavaasa. Upa means "near" + vaasa means "to stay". Upavaasa therefore means staying near (the Lord), meaning the attainment of close mental proximity with the Lord.
Some people believe that certain stars in the galaxy at certain times of the year can be harmful to individual families. They might bring bad health, misfortune and other evil spirits on earth. To ease the
effect of these stars, people will fast and offer their prayers, to make them psychologically
stronger and able to cope with such misfortunes.Another reason for fasting is based on what their stars say (from their birth). This is recorded in the Janma Patrika (a book that records the position of the galaxy’s stars at the time ofbirth). Many people will fast as guided by the astrologer/priest.
Reasons behind fasting:
It is believed that if your body undergoes sufferings, your sins would lessen. It is like punishing yourself. So, instead of God punishing you, you punish yourself. This would lessen some of your sins and you would have more good times in your life.
It is also believed that if you fast on a particular day that particular deity becomes happy with you and lessens your sufferings. So, if you are in trouble and you go to an astrologer, he would also advise you to do fasting on a particular day depending upon the nature of your problem.
Glucose is the body's primary fuel source and is essential for the brain's functioning. When denied glucose for more than 4–8 hours, the body turns to the liver for glycogen, a storage form of glucose, to be used for fuel. A process called glycogenolysis converts glycogen into a usable form of fuel. At this point, the body also uses small amounts of protein to supplement this fuel. This fuel will last for up to 12 hours before the body needs to turn to glycogen stored in muscles, lasting for a few more days. If glucose is still denied at this point, muscle wasting is prevented by temporarily switching to fat as the primary fuel source, with glucose made as a byproduct during ketosis. The brain can then use this glucose or even ketones as a fuel source, while the rest of the body thrives on primarily fat. The body continues to use fat for as long as there is fat to consume. The body will generally indicate to the faster when fat levels are running extremely low (less than 7% and 10% of body weight for males and females, respectively) with an increased urge for food. Fasts are usually broken long before this point.
If the fast is not broken, starvation begins to occur, as the body begins to use protein for fuel. Health complications associated with fast-induced starvation include electrolyte imbalances, thinning hair, lanugo, cardiac arrhythmia and renal failure. Death occurs if fasting is pursued to the point of complete starvation.
Research suggests there are major health benefits to caloric restriction. Benefits include reduced risks of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, insulin resistance, immune disorders, and more generally, the slowing of the aging process, and the potential to increase maximum life span.[other health benefits include stress resistance, increased insulin sensitivity, reduced morbidity, and increased life span.fasting periods contributes to an improvement in the blood lipid profile, including a decrease in total and LDL cholesterol, and a decrease in the LDL to HDL cholesterol ratio. A statistically insignificant reduction in HDL cholesterol was also observed. These results suggest a possible positive impact on the obesity levels of individuals who adhere to these fasting periods.
Changes in blood chemistry during fasting, in combination with certain medications, may have dangerous effects, such as increased chance of acetaminophen poisoning. Excessive fasting for calorie restrictive purposes, accompanied by intense fears of becoming overweight are associated with mental disturbances, including anorexia nervosa.
- Fasting leads to cleaning of the intestine, certain fasting (partial) in which change of food is instructed in the custom, which leads to getting variety of micro nutrients from different types of food sources.
- Rest and a change of diet during fasting are very good for the digestive system and the entire body.Sleeping is improved by having a lighter stomach.
- Lot of our time and energy is spent in procuring food items, preparing, cooking, eating and digesting food. Certain food types make our minds dull and agitated. Hence on certain days man decides to save time and conserve his energy by eating either simple, light food or totally abstaining from eating so that his mind becomes alert and pure
- system needs a break and an overhaul to work at its best. The more you indulge the senses, the more they make their demands. Fasting helps us to cultivate control over our senses, sublimate our desires and guide our minds to be poised and at peace.
Different Kinds of Fasting
- This ancient Indian medical system sees the basic cause of many diseases as the accumulation of toxic materials in the digestive system. Regular cleansing of toxic materials keeps one healthy. By fasting, the digestive organs get rest and all body mechanisms are cleansed and corrected. A complete fast is good for heath, and the occasional intake of warm lemon juice during the period of fasting prevents the flatulence.
- Since the human body, as explained by Ayurveda, is composed of 80% liquid and 20% solid, like the earth, the gravitational force of the moon affects the fluid contents of the body. It causes emotional imbalances in the body, making some people tense, irritable and violent. Fasting acts as antidote, for it lowers the acid content in the body which helps people to retain their sanity.
- Hindus fast on certain days of the month such as Purnima (full moon) and Ekadasi (the 11th day of the fortnight).
- Certain days of the week is also marked for fasting, depending on individual choices and on one's favorite god and goddess. On Saturday, people fast to appease the god of that day, Shani or Saturn. Some fast on Tuesdays the auspicious day for Hanuman, the monkey God. On Fridays devotees of the goddess Santoshi Mata abstain from taking anything citric.
- Fasting at festivals is common. Hindus all over India observe fast on festivals like Navaratri, Shivratri and Karwa Chauth. Navaratri is a festival when people fast for nine days. Hindus in West Bengal fast on Ashtami, the eighth day of the festival of Durga Puja.
- Fasting can also mean abstaining from taking certain things, either for religious reason or for the sake of good health. For instance, some people refrain from taking salt on particular days. It is common knowledge that excess salt and sodium causes hypertention or elevation of blood pressure.
- Another common kind of fast is to forego taking cereals when only fruits are eaten. Such a diet is known as phalahar.
- Fasting on Chadurthi makes your life happier and increases the chances of attaining more benefits at work.
- Fasting on Sankadahara Chadurthi protects you from sudden death and accidents.
- Fasting on Sashti, Kirthigai protects you from evil forces and from health problems.
- Fasting on Ekadesi brings you peace of mind and happiness.
- Fasting on Pradosha fulfills all the desires and makes your life of no wants.
- Fasting on Shivarathri makes your wishes come true.
- According to scientific research, it is known that the air pressure on the earth varies to extreme limits on both the new moon (Amavasya) and the full moon (Purnima) day. This is because of the orbital path combination of the sun, moon and earth.This can be observed by the change in the nature of the tidal waves on the new moon and full moon days. The waves are very high and rough, but from the next day onwards, the waves become calm, an indication that the pressure has also receded.Now, based on this fact, the significance of Ekadasi fasting can be explained in 2 ways:
- According to science, it takes about 3-4 days for the food that we eat today to reach our brain (for the brain to understand the food intake). Now, if we eat light/fast on Ekadasi days, that intake will reach the brain correspondingly on the New moon/full moon day.
- On both of these days, the earth pressure is at its maximum, thus leading to imbalance in everything, including ones thought process. So, if the input to the brain is at a minimum, the chances of the brain indulging in any wayward activity due to the high pressure imbalance also becomes minimum.
- Another explanation for Ekadasi fasting is that compared to any other day of the moon cycle, atmospheric pressure is lowest on Ekadasi days. Thus, this is the best time to fast and cleanse the bowel system. If we fast on any other day, the high pressure/strain may damage our system. Thus, it is advisable that after fasting on Ekadasi, on the immediate next day (Dwadasi), we should get up early and eat as soon as possible.
- As per both the above theories, the fasting practice on Ekadasi days has a strong scientific base. People who observe the fast are asked to stay away from all types of grains, and to have a light diet of nuts, milk, fruits, etc.