‘Yoga and fasting change the way you feel about yourself.’
– Thomas Humpert
The practice of yoga and fasting share common views on health and how to obtain it:
- A healthy lifestyle, sleep, diet, exercise, is a fundamental pattern.
- Health is not something we are ‘necessarily’ born with, but also something you can ‘work’ for – achieve or improve along the way.
- The body is a living organism with a memory and a health-giving intelligence.
- Both approaches are ‘self-effort’ based rather than ‘patient-doctor’ based.
- Both require and develop the practitioner’s patience and self-understanding.
Yoga and Iyengar yoga therapeutics
The primary purpose of yoga is to explore all layers of our being, to create a sense of unity and understand the interaction between body and mind.
According to yoga, good health is only a logical result of its practice.
The ‘intelligent set’ of yoga exercise (asanas) is a method to detoxify, restore and/or rejuvenate various body systems. Similar to fasting, yoga relies on the natural resource of the body to heal and regenerate.
*Amongst all yogic traditions, one of the most researched and respected therapeutic approaches is Iyengar yoga – it offers a ‘framework’ to adapt the practice in a therapeutic context. BKS Iyengar, the father of Iyengar yoga has researched and elaborated yoga’s therapeutic aspect with dedication for over 50 years. He was a talented yoga therapist and has cured countless patients and a broad range of diseases – his results are well known.
Another significant aspect is the teacher’s years of practice and experience, as this form ‘the intuitive understanding’ needed for a proper remedial process.
In the yogic culture, fasting has always been a source of interest; it is used for spiritual purification and health. Yet, according to yoga, fasting should not be done indiscriminately – as this might increase imbalances in the body.
Fasting is an ancient purification practice; it is present in almost every tradition – the experience of abstaining from food has existed for centuries.
*The scientific community is divided on the subject. Some discard the practice of fasting as a useless and dangerous thing, others have researched and understood the benefit of fasting.
However, in the last two decades, there has been a growing interest in the benefit of fasting, notably with intermittent fasting.
Under the Russian psychiatrist, Dr Yuri Nikolayev’s impulse, a vaste research program has been completed with over 8000 patients; they found out that it was efficient for many physical and mental diseases.
Nowadays, German medical communities, which are the pioneers in integrating alternative approaches, offer fasting as an approved treatment in many hospitals.
According to yoga, a fast of several hours between two meals is necessary for proper digestion and recovery – as this is a fundamental step towards good health.
Fasting persistently one day a week
My enthusiasm for this practice could not be overstated. It is possibly one of the most exciting health tools on this planet. Personally, I have done a large variety of short and long types of fasting and diet; this one has a special place in my heart for the durable change and improved quality of life it brings.
There are two main reasons for its efficacity:
- Rhythm, always fasting the same day, allows the body to overcome the initial shock and follow a pattern. This creates a supportive atmosphere.
- Regularity, combined with a committed approach, puts time as a precious ‘ally’ on your side.
This practice, done over a period of 3 to 4 months, in the 36 hours ‘water fast only’ fashion, will reformat your taste buds to their original patterns. Getting cleared of unhealthy eating habits will almost come effortlessly.
It is possible
A yoga practice:
Yoga can be practised regardless of your body type, age, flexibility, or injuries – it is indeed possible for all.
In the modern yoga world, yoga has been reduced to a commodity available everywhere at the lowest possible prices. Originally yoga, is a healing process between the teacher and the student. Also, the teacher’s experience and skills play a role in the student’s inner journey – this has been lost.
The fear of fasting is ancestral; not eating goes back to the very beginning of humanity. However, there are more than 100 ways to do a fast or a modified fast, depending on your present situation, objective, and capacity. There is no need to put yourself through an unnecessary dreadful experience. Yes, there will be challenges, but you can keep the difficulties at an acceptable limit.
The practice of fasting is deeply rewarding, both physically and psychologically.
Having a supportive environment is crucial – facing others’ doubts and negativity while you are out of your comfort zone, will not help.
Seeking help from professionals can be worth every penny – there are some skilled people out there.
Make up your mind and be committed to your actions and the change you would like to happen. Do not aim too high; learn from your mistakes, and use them as a stepping-stone.
- Do not give up:
Be open to new ideas and concepts, a cure that works can sometimes come in the form of a disguise. Learn to listen to yourself, keep whatever works and leave the rest.
Develop self-reliance, be inquisitive and keep searching.
[Written by Thomas Humpert (CIYT- level 2), from Satya Yoga, Copenhagen, Denmark]
- An interview from BKS Iyengar on his yoga method and health
- Some studies on the therapeutic effects of Iyengar Yoga (list non-exhaustive)
*Science and fasting
- A documentary about fasting from the French television channel ‘Arte’
- The insane benefits of water-only fasting – Dr Alan Goldhammer