It is known that fasting has many incredible benefits for physical health, including cellular repair and disease reversal. But what are the spiritual benefits of fasting?
From Rumi to various religious scriptures, fasting is portrayed as a means to fine-tune the body for a greater connection with the divine. By eliminating energy-robbing activities such as digestion, your body will have greater energy reserves to devote towards healing, regeneration, and fueling energy flow to the body’s main energy centers, or chakras.
In astrological wisdom, through the chakras, the body is connected to the cosmic bodies – or the governors of the cosmic order – we know as the planets. By evolving our energies and perfecting them in this lifetime, we help perfect the energies of corresponding planets…and the whole cosmic cycle continues on.
The Physical Benefits of Fasting
But before we get into the spiritual benefits of fasting, let’s go through some research-backed physical benefits first, which can motivate us to start with the practice in the first place! Here are some major benefits of fasting on physical health:
Weight loss: Fasting can help to reduce calorie intake and promote weight loss, which can improve overall health and reduce the risk of obesity-related diseases.
Improved insulin sensitivity: Fasting can help to improve insulin sensitivity, which can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and improve blood sugar control.
Reduced inflammation: Fasting has been shown to reduce inflammation in the body, which is a risk factor for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Improved heart health: Fasting can help to reduce blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and triglycerides, which are all risk factors for heart disease.
Increased longevity: Various studies suggest that fasting may help to increase lifespan and reduce the risk of age-related diseases.
Rumi on Fasting
“Fasting is the first principle of medicine; fast and see the strength of the spirit reveal itself.” -Rumi
Rumi was a 13th-century Persian mystic and poet who combined his training in mysticism with his love for creative writing and teaching to inspire others to grow and evolve spiritually through cosmic wisdom. In many of his writings, he talks about the spiritual benefits of fasting and denotes the human body as a musical vessel through which the cosmos can create songs.
By this, he most likely means that the body acts like a frequency antenna that is connected to the cosmic radio. He believes that the more “attuned” we are through fasting, the greater the capacity we have to hear the spiritual messages, signs, and synchronicities that are in our reality.
Rumi was heavily immersed in Islamic mysticism and a part of Islam is yearly fasting during Ramadan, the holy month. In fact, fasting constitutes one of the fifty pillars of Islam, during which Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, sexual activity, and other energy-depleting activities (especially during the day). This fasting is holistic and meant to rebalance and purify the body by elevating its health physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Here is a poem from Rumi’s writings that showcase how he feels about the power of fasting for the growth of spiritual awareness:
“There’s a hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox
is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and the belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.
Emptier, read secrets with the reed pen.
When you’re full of food and drink, an ugly metal
statue sits where your spirit should. When you fast,
good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon’s ring. Don’t give it
to some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you’ve lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.
A table descends to your tents,
spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages.”
Fasting in the Buddhist Tradition
Fasting is intricately associated with the story of Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Siddhartha Gautama spent 40 days and nights under the tree fasting and meditating deeply about the realities of life. It is because of his pure dedication and trance-like concentration that helps him reach enlightenment and breaks his fast. But, to do so, he had to confront his own mortality and realize that rejecting food altogether was not going to help him get closer to the truth.
By not eating food, he noticed that he had no more strength to continue with meditation and if he continued to meditate on an empty stomach, he would lose consciousness and would die. Trying to escape the laws of the 3-D universe is an extreme that was not necessary.
Just when Gautama realized this, a young herd maid walked by and offered him a bowl of milk porridge and he accepted. He then realized that a balanced approach is the healthiest approach when it came to the ascetic, mystic life. And in order to continue on the path to self-discovery and transcendence, eating one meal per day and fasting the rest of the time was the best approach.
Just like in Islam, fasting is an integral part of the Buddhist tradition. For example, fasting is a part of 13 major Buddhist practices called Dhutangas, of which a few are devoted to food consumption. The Dhutangas suggest that practitioners should eat only once a day, in one sitting, and consume a small portion of Karma-free food (food that involves minimum suffering in its composition and preparation).
Overall, fasting not only showed the Buddha the powers of concentration and spiritual awakening, but it likewise alerted him of the dangers of going too far and the importance of moderation. These insights were inevitably at the core of Buddhist teachings, whose tenants for an awakened life rest on the Middle Path – or balance/moderation.
Fasting in Different Religious Traditions
In other Abrahamic traditions such as Judaism, fasting is tied to redemption and purification, especially during Yom Kippur (the day of atonement).
Depending on the holiday and tradition, it can also be utilized for mourning, especially during the Tisha B’Av day, which marks the last day of a three-week mourning period that commemorates the destruction of the temples in Jerusalem. Fasting is also practiced in the Jewish tradition as an act of gratitude for God’s graces.
Christianity encourages fasting, although it is not obligatory. The main fasting days for Roman Catholics are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The Anglican Church encourages fasting during the 40 days of Lent and on all Fridays, with the exception of Christmas Day.
In the Eastern Orthodox Tradition, fasting is seen as a practice that cultivates discipline, gluttony, and over-indulgence. It builds character and more self-awareness in its self-sacrificial approach.
Fasting in Ayurveda
In the ancient healing tradition of Ayurveda, fasting is a vital practice to bring the body back to harmony and rid it of disease. It is a way to help the body take a break from digestion and divert its vital energy to detoxification and healing.
But unlike many religious and spiritual traditions, fasting in Ayurveda is customized to individual needs and usually does not entail full abstinence from foods and liquids. Instead, it promotes intermittent fasting, intake of small portions of cleansing foods, and cutting out of the foods, lifestyle habits, and chemicals that cause the accumulation of toxins over time.
Ayurveda recommends short and frequent fasts as opposed to long, extended fasts that could weaken the body and create a disconnect between the body and the mind. These shorter weekly or monthly fasts allow the body to tap into its innate self-healing intelligence.
The following are some easy ways to use Ayurvedic fasting to achieve greater mental clarity, physical health, emotional stability, and spiritual awareness:
- Do a mono-food fast – meaning you eat one fruit or vegetable per sitting throughout the day (not mixing different fruits and veggies together). This helps your digestive system rest and energize your body.
- If you decide to do mini-fasts once per week or month, always choose the same day or a similar time frame. Your body gets accustomed to cycles and can set internal parameters according to expectations. A helpful tip in terms of astrology is to fast on the day of the week that you were born.
- However you decide to fast, drinking warm lemon water, detox tea, or a pressed juice first thing in the morning on an empty stomach is one of the best detox practices you can do to help your body hydrate and start the cleansing process for the day.
Sadhguru, an Indian spiritual teacher and mystic, recommends intermittent fasting as part of a habitual protocol for life. He states:
“Every cell in your body is designed to create health, isn’t it? They’re all working hard to create health, except you. So, minimum eight-hours gap is what is recommended in yoga. Between one meal and the next meal, there must be an eight-hour space. If you do this, you will see whatever your health problems, minimum fifty percent will go away in six weeks’ time. I’ll guarantee you this.”
The Role of Fasting in Nature
When you watch animals when they’re sick, you’ll notice that they choose solitude and shun food. This is because the animal body is wise and does everything for a reason. Since food will take more energy to digest than the body has to digest and heal properly, it will choose to utilize its existing energy towards repair, since digestion becomes risky and compromising to the whole system.
The body is always calculating how to preserve its energy in the most efficient way while keeping us in the best state of harmony as possible. If you think of the body as an energetic battery, fasting would be akin to placing the battery in hibernation mode.
However, when it comes to the mammalian body, fasting is not only able to preserve but also regenerate. This means it can switch off its habitual energy funnels of digestion, assimilation, and elimination and divert them toward the repair.
The best course of action for healing – be it simply a cold, the flu, aches, chronic inflammation, or acute/chronic health issues – is to always rest and fast. The type of fast you decide to undergo should come from your intuitive sense of knowing what’s best for you and should center on reducing food intake (especially solid foods, dairy, meat, processed sugar, and protein).
The Spiritual Benefits of Fasting
Since the body-mind-spirit triad is connected and each facet impacts the other facets either negatively or positively, the physical benefits of fasting translate to mental and spiritual benefits as well (and vice versa). When the body is empty from food and lets the organs rest, it is finally in a state of stillness and reception (as opposed to activity and distraction).
This state of presence also clears the mind, since mental health is closely related to nutritional deficiencies as well as gut, endocrine, and nervous system health. Once we can think more clearly by energizing and healing the body, we will be naturally more inclined towards self-love and care. And when the body is not obstructed by energy blockages (due to diet, emotions, activity, and lifestyle), energy – or life force – can more easily flow throughout the body.
When the body is at its peak of energy and stillness, it is capable of tapping into higher frequency states, emotions, intuitive knowing, and mental awareness.
Here are some of the most common spiritual benefits of fasting:
- A closer relationship with self
- Gratitude for food, body, and life
- More vivid dreams
- Chakra energy vortex rebalancing
- Feeling of peace and calm
- Greater mental alertness
- Purifying the body for prayer
- Increasing the power of prayer
- Helps you strengthen your will and overcome temptation
- Strengthening resolve and sense of commitment
- Increasing body energy and frequency
- Fewer obstructions to energy flow
- Clarity of mind
- More in-depth meditation practice
- Greater insights, ideas, and understanding
- Increased synchronicity
- Higher vibration and attracting circumstances/individuals of higher vibration
- Feeling reborn and shedding old skin
- Stronger intuition
- Heightened creativity and imagination
- Greater balance of mind/heart in decision-making
- More openness to life, risk, and the unknown
- A strong impulse to connect with the spirit
- Better perception capacity and ability to perceive divine messages/insight
- Stronger awareness of signs, symbols, and patterns in life and nature
How to Fast and Break a Fast
The following are some of the most effective fasts that you can choose to adapt as part of your regular health regimen. Depending on your level of acidosis – or chronic inflammation – you may decide to ease into fasting with raw foods, then follow that with a fruit fast, and finally with a juice fast. If you are healthy and want to go deeper with your cleanse, a juice fast and a water fast are truly recommended.
The reason why I didn’t mention dry fasting is that it is a more extreme form of fasting that requires strength, health, caution, and monitoring by an experienced specialist. It is not my go-to fasting preference, since it could cause the body to go into shock and induce very heavy detoxification symptoms.
All Raw Food Fast
This “fast” is simply a decision to switch to an all-raw diet, which brings more energy in and provides the body with essential enzymes and nutrients it needs to reverse its ‘starvation’ or ‘inflammatory’ state and help all systems revert to their original state of operation.
Since no other animal in nature cooks its food, you can imagine how much cooking truly dentures the nature, energy, and nutrient quality of foods. When on a raw diet fast, make sure to stick to mostly fruits and veggies, as nuts and seeds are full of complex protein that is incredibly hard to digest and assimilate by the colon and the kidneys.
All Fruit Fast
A fruit fast is one of the best fasts you could do, since fruit provides the most concentrated energy (simple sugars) for cellular function out of any food found in nature. Fruit not only gives the body the extra energy it needs to heal and repair, but it is also very easy to digest and assimilate (without pancreatic input).
I believe that we are frugivore species (given our anatomy and similarity to apes), and our bodies thrive on fruit. Some of the most powerful fruits you should have during an all-fruit fast are grapes, melons, citrus, and tropical fruits. During a fruit fast, you can eat as much fruit as you want, but make sure it is all ripe, organic – and if possible, local!
Another essential type of fast you can do is a juice fast. A cold-pressed juice fast is particularly healing if you experience gut problems and digestive problems (which include the liver/pancreas axis).
When you juice, you eliminate fiber from veggies and fruits, which is healthy and cleansing to the gut but very hard to digest, especially if you intend to rest your intestinal function.
Juicing also helps to bring energy and nutrition into the body quickly, and is truly recommended when the body is very weak and recovering from certain conditions and medical procedures. It is the fast that I recommend for those suffering from debilitating conditions such as cancer, autoimmune disease, nervous system dysregulation and brain injuries, and more.
Water fasting can be a great complement to detoxification and regeneration. Foremost, water fasting should always be done with pure water, such as spring water, reverse osmosis water, or distilled water. At this level, your digestive energy is utilized by the neurological, lymphatic, and glandular systems for readjustments and healing.
This is one of the deepest fasts to follow and one that I recommend as a short-term fast (up to a week), especially if you are already afflicted with health issues and your adrenal glands and body are not very strong to handle the healing crisis of such deep cleansing. If you are relatively healthy, water fasting can provide you with energy by removing many obstructive toxins and acids.
This type of fast is recommended as part of a long-term lifestyle. When we fast intermittently, we can lower overall inflammation levels in the body, improve organ and metabolic function, help accelerate healing, and increase overall energy levels. Intermittent fasting simply involves taking long breaks between meals – especially between dinner and breakfast.
By stopping to eat by 6 – 7 pm and then eating again the next morning, you can provide the body with a 14-hour window of rest from digestion. This is a big opportunity for the body to rest, heal, and regenerate. Ideally, you should strive to intermittently fast regularly – even daily – for optimal health and longevity.
But fasting is only one side of the equation. Knowing how to break a fast is equally as important. As for the best time to break a fast, it truly depends on your own intuitive knowing and how you feel throughout the fasting process. Dr. Robert Morse states the following concerning the process of breaking a fast and what to keep in mind to do so safely and effectively:
After about three days or so [after a no-food fast] one loses the desire for foods, and in a lot of cases, eating. This is because the body is starting to use that digestive energy for cleaning and healing. When you start feeling hungry again, this is a good sign to start eating. Remember to start with fruits only!
Another way to determine how long to fast, is the tongue method. This is the old fashioned way that I have used for years. When you start fasting, your tongue will become coated with a thick white, yellow, green, or brown substance. The more toxic you are, the thicker and darker this coating becomes. Of course, the healthier you are, the less your tongue will coat when you fast. If you fast until your tongue becomes pink again, you will have done a tremendous job of cleaning your body out.
General Fasting, 2019
Of course, other realities of daily life may limit how long you devote yourself to a fast and what type of fast you do. If you simply cannot commit to a water fast for more than a weekend because of work responsibilities, you may decide to combine a water fast with a fruit fast.
How you fast is truly up to you, but knowing how to break it correctly will help you maximize the fasting benefits and lower any chance of adverse side effects, which may be dangerous.
This is what Dr. Morse has to say about the dangers of breaking a fast incorrectly:
“How you break a fast depends on how long you have fasted and what type of fast that you did. A general rule of thumb would be to break most fasts with a day or two of just fruit-eating for every three days of water fasting. I heard of a man who died from breaking a long extended fast with boiled potatoes. Being a sticky, gluey, starch, I can see how it locked his bowels up. Always try to keep your bowels moving. When you are on a juice or water fast, this is not always possible [because of the lack of fiber].”
What Are The Risks Associated With Fasting?
If you forcefully fast without preparing your body and mind sufficiently, you will only cause damage to your health. – Sadhguru
Dry fasting and water fasting are the only types of fasting that should be monitored for any associated risks, since they involve deeper tissue cleansing (more acids floating through the system awaiting to be expelled), the possibility of dehydration, and may prompt a healing crisis that instigates unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms.
Depending on the state of your health issues, the more chronic and unhealthy you are, the more advisable it is to stick to juice, fruit, and raw food fasting. However, if you’re in good health, have been consuming a plant-based diet for some time, and have undergone several fasts beforehand, you can ease into a dry fast for one day and a water fast for up to a week.
For any more time than that, I would advise you to collaborate with a supervised specialist that guides you on the journey. In my opinion, it is best to take a balanced approach to fasting and never push your body with extreme measures that it is not used to. Detoxing slowly and effectively is the best approach you can take!
There are no risks associated with intermittent fasting, although you can still feel detoxification symptoms as part of the body’s overall healing crisis. That is why starting intermittent fasting should be preceded by doing a proper alkaline diet cleanse that involves eliminating packaged foods, dairy, meat, and other artificial foods and preservatives.
The more you ease into a detox with a plant-based diet and herbs, the easier and more enjoyable your fast will be. Likewise, the level of detox symptoms you will experience will correspond to the level of your acidosis and toxicity.
Since the physical body is connected intricately with the other energetic bodies, including the spiritual body, all of the bodies – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – will benefit from a fasting protocol that is eased into and performed correctly.
As the ancients had often pointed out, the mind is the sharpest when the stomach is empty. This truism acknowledges the importance of giving the body a break from digesting, assimilating, and eliminating foods so that it can divert its energy reserves toward activity, healing, and regeneration.
Fasting not only strives to do that, but juice fasting and fruit fasting also add more energy to the body, since juicing eliminates digestion-heavy fiber and provides the body with additional nutrients, while fruit is some of the highest energy foods found in nature.
Whatever type of fast you feel called to do intuitively, the physical and spiritual benefits of fasting will transform your life and health for the better. Not only will you feel more connected to yourself but will begin to have a deeper relationship with others and your environment.
With your body, mind, and spirit aligned in balance and harmony, you will feel more authentically you and will be more clear about what is important in your life and what type of life you want to live.
But, as mentioned beforehand, to fast correctly is to prepare your body for fasting with cleansing and detoxification. Here are a few of my articles that will help you ignite the process of cleansing, strengthen your body, and provide you with even more healing energy to make your fast the best it can be: