Ayurvedic fasting

Practically all cultures and naturopathic approaches recognise a period of fasting. External pleasures should be renounced during this time and inner contemplation maintained in accordance with the principle: 'The body reduces, the spirit gains.'

Spring is the best time, according to Ayurveda, for concentrated purification. This is because the body does its own spring-cleaning at this time anyway. Increasing temperatures cause the Kapha that has accumulated in the body during winter to liquefy. The body aims to reduce or eliminate the dissolved Kapha. To do this effectively and lastingly, Ayurveda recommends a Panchakarma regimen especially in spring due to its effective and beneficial elimination methods. However, the regeneration process can also be strengthened at home– for example through light, Kapha-reducing food.

Complete fasting or so-called “zero fasting” is only recommended very rarely in Ayurveda because it reduces the digestive fire (agni) and increases Vata. Only reducing your food consumption for a certain period of time is more beneficial. For example, one could just skip breakfast and have only a light vegetable soup in the evening. Lunch should be strictly vegetarian, which not only means no meat, but also no fish, eggs or dairy products. Instead opt for light food that strengthens your digestion and reduces Kapha, which prevails in spring time. This especially includes leafy green vegetables such as spinach or chicory. Just as suitable for Ayurvedic fasting is yellow mung dal, soup or kitchari (soak the same amount of dried yellow mung beans and basmati rice in cold water and cook to a mash together with dry roasted cumin, coriander and ground ginger). Ayurvedic food supplements such as Triphala Plus and Ama Cleanse (see Note) can also support the digestive process. Consult an Ayurvedic doctor for further individual Ayurvedic dietary advice and health tips. You will find a list of excellent Ayurvedic doctors at the 'Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ayurveda' (DGA).

While reducing your food intake in this manner you should avoid stress and physical strain so that the body has as much strength as possible available for the cleansing process. However, this doesn't mean simply sleeping through a couple of days. Quite the opposite is the case. Sleeping during the day increases Kapha, the opposite of what we want to achieve. If there are signs of spring fatigue, you should rather go for a short walk to stimulate the body's functions. This will additionally make you feel awake and fresh again.

Ayurveda also recommends some other simple measures to stimulate the digestive power and eliminate damaging metabolic residues – and naturally not just in spring. Take a couple of sips of hot water every half an hour or so. Simply prepare a sufficient quantity in the morning by boiling a litre of water for at least ten minutes and store it in a thermos flask so it's available throughout the day. Fresh ginger can be added to the water according to your individual taste and specific constitution.

Ayurveda recommends a liquid day to support the balancing of the three doshas in a lasting way. Once a week take only liquids such as fresh vegetable soup, lassi and of course hot water. Fruit juices will ward off hunger pangs. Assuming you are not underweight, you could incorporate a liquid day into your routine over a few weeks or even months. This is particularly effective if you've overdone it with what you ate the previous day.