Questioner: Is there any benefit to fasting?

Sadhguru: In yoga, the ideal break between one meal and the next meal is eight hours. You can manage these kinds of meals even when you are working outside. But a minimum of five hours is a must for everybody. This is because only when your stomach is empty, your excretory system functions properly.

See, you can do this as an experiment: let us say your measure that you are eating so many calories, or your one meal is this many grams. You make the same meal into two portions and eat it twice a day. If you make the same meal into ten portions and eat ten times a day, you will see when you eat ten times; you will put on more weight. This is simply because the excretory system is not efficient. A lot of garbage, which would have gone out of system, will not go out of the system because constantly the stomach is full. When there is food in the stomach, when the digestive process is happening, the excretory system does not function very efficiently. Only when the stomach is totally empty, the cleansing happens well.

Once in every 11 to 14 days, you may not feel like eating. On that day, you should not eat.

Have you observed… when you are very sick, very weak, and you get up from the bed, how you walk? Every step in full awareness, isn’t it? As you become less of a body, your awareness of other dimensions within yourself naturally becomes enhanced. When food is served before you, if you are too much of a body, if you are hungry you know, both your hands will go for it. When you are very hungry, all your body wants to do is eat. But now, you could take a moment, before you start eating, to silently express your gratitude to everything that has brought this food to you – the land, the farmer, the vendor, the person who cooked it, the one who served it, and to the food itself for offering its life for yours, before you start eating. A simple act like this loosens you from your body. It reminds you that you are not the body. When you are very hungry, you are the body. Just give it a little space and suddenly you are not that. Hunger is there, you are there, and it is okay. Misunderstanding this has led to simply torturous fasting.

It is important that you don’t fast forcefully. If you observe the natural cycle of the body, there is something called a mandala. The mandala means that every 40 to 48 days, the system goes through a certain cycle. In every cycle, there are three days when your body does not need food. If you are conscious of how your body functions, you will become aware that on these days, your body does not need food. And without effort, you can go without food on that day.

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Infographic - Ekadashi

Once in every 11 to 14 days, you may not feel like eating. On that day, you should not eat. You know, even dogs and cats have this awareness? Have you noticed that on particular days, they will not eat? They are aware of their system. On the day the system says “no food,” it is a cleaning-up day, they will not eat. Since you don’t have this awareness, they fixed Ekadashi. Ekadashi comes once in every 14 days in the lunar calendar. At least every 14 days, you could go without food. If you are unable to go without food, if your activity levels are such and you don’t have the necessary sadhana to support you, then you could go on a fruit diet. Just observe your own system, and you may notice that on certain days, you do not really need to eat. Forcing food on those days is not a good thing to do.

Suppose one wants to fast for a certain period, it must always be supported with the right kind of spiritual practices or sadhana. If you forcefully fast without preparing your body and mind sufficiently, you will only cause damage to your health. But if your body is properly prepared, if you are mentally also in a certain state, if you are prepared energy-wise, then fasting can be of much benefit to you.

If you are constantly drinking coffee or tea, then, if you fast, it will become torture for you; fasting will be very difficult. So if you want to fast, first of all prepare the body by eating the right kind of foods. If it is a great torture when you hold back your urge to eat, you will only cause damage to the system. Maybe you are thinking of performing some kind of a feat “I did not eat for three days,” and you want to go and tell that to the whole world. Please don’t do such things. It is of no benefit to you. You will just make yourself weak, that is all. Just understanding the body and coming to a deeper understanding of how the system functions and what is the best thing to do, is more important than doing something like this.

It may not be a good thing for everybody to fast, but it has many benefits if it is done with proper understanding. So finding the right situation for the system and taking off food at that time will be a good thing to do.

Editor’s Note: Isha’s latest ebooklet, Food Body, looks at the kind of foods the body is most comfortable with and explores the most appropriate ways of consuming such foods. The 33-page booklet is a first step to tune into your body and figure out what suits it best. The book is available on a “name your price” basis. Pay what you want and download it.

Food Body