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Fasting can be defined as abstinence from food in observance of a religious ritual or sacred ceremony. It indicates the denial of the physical needs of the body for the sake of spiritual gains.

Fasting can also mean abstaining from taking certain things, either for religious reasons or for the sake of good health. A fast can be observed in many different ways:

  • A simple fast may just mean abstaining from such foods as fish or meat for a day or more. Many Hindus choose at least one or more such days in the week.
  • A moderate fast may consist of drinking only liquids and avoiding solids during the day and having a single vegetarian meal after sunset. This type of fast may continue for several days, especially in the case Navaratri, when Hindus fast for 9 days in honor of goddess Durga.
  • A serious fasting may involve taking only water or no water at all for a day or more, such as the single day no-fluid fast by women on Karwa Chauth
  • It is said, "When the stomach is full, the intellect begins to sleep. Wisdom becomes mute and the parts of the body restrain from acts of righteousness." By fasting, the digestive organs get rest and all body mechanisms are cleansed and corrected.

Read more about the significance and philosophy of fasting. Let us know your thoughts on fasting by posting a comment below.

Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Comments
March 31, 2009 at 7:10 am
(1) Vijay says:

Moderate fasting is beneficial.
While extreme fasting emaciate the body,
moderate fasting purges the body.. and
one’s attention is detached from the body
and sensuous desires and connected to spirit.
Fasting once a week is nothing bad,
provided there is peace and wellbeing.

Please take care and keep fit -
mentally and physically.

July 17, 2012 at 10:51 am
(2) Rama Rao K says:

I do not agree with your statement that fasting indicates the denial of the physical needs of the body for the sake of spiritual gains. In fact, to quote: “Kaya shoshana matrena ka tatra avivekinam, Valmika tadana yeva mrita kim nu mahoragah?” Loosely meaning, just by tormenting the stomach, one acheves nothing, just like beating the anthill does not kill the snake inside. Our ari-shadvargas cannot be conquered merely by abstinence from food.

December 30, 2012 at 11:21 pm
(3) Sahmanera Dreamwalker says:

I found this before coming to this site but it is a scientific study on fasting in non-obese people, i will put in a quote from it and end with the URL because I am unsure about the posting rules for about.com but I’ll let the words speak for themselves. this is only a pilot study but still

“Periodically repeated short-term fasting is a frequently practised tradition worldwide. Empirical reports suggest that during fasting periods the quality of sleep and daytime performance are improved. ”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12748412

October 10, 2013 at 4:04 am
(4) Rama Rao K says:

Devout Hindus have long since changed the meaning of Upavasah to mean fasting i.e. abstinence from food for a specfic period. How upavasa is different from fasting can be clearly seen from this verse:
Upa sameepe yo vasah, jeevatma paramatmano,
Upavasah sa vidyate,
na tu kaayasya shoshanam.
Upa (near) Vasah (staying) i.e Staying near the Lord (not staying near the next meal!) by performing puja, prayters, japa, tapa, keertanas, discourses etc etc constitute Upavasa. Obviously, there was no time or inclination to eat or think about eating. Hence abstinence from food occurred. Later, people overlooked this fact and merely concentrated on abstinence from food to be Upavasa.
Regarding Preet Lamba’s statement that fasting is basically cleans the system, nothing could be far from the truth. Fasting does not remove any waste from our body. It is our Liver/kidneys that filter out the waste products(due to metabolizing of proteins etc) on a 24/7/365 basis – yes – they work every minute of our lives. In fact, there is no need for resorting to any mambo-jumbo methods. (Detoxification therapies etc). As for intake of salt, the less the better; in fact the recommended intake of salt is about 5 gm per day which is virtually impossible to follow for most Indians.
Well for the rest of Preet Lamba’s comments, my advice would be – eat if you are hungry, drink water (or any other liquid other than alcohol) if you are thirsty – That’s simple common sense.

October 17, 2013 at 6:05 am
(5) Rama Rao K says:

As I earlier pointed out, fasting is nothing but punishing the body for no reason. To think that god rewards those who fast on certain days (by punishing the body) is meaningless. To quote Albert Einstein : I cannot imagine a god who rewards and punishes his objects of creation and is but a reflection of human fraility”.
However, fasting is generally suggested under these situations: If one is ill, it is better to take easily digestible food, or liquids, soups etc till one gets off the illness. One can observe that domestic animals like cats and dogs when they fall ill, do not touch any food; instead they curl themselves into a corner and lie still, sometimes even for 24 hours at a stretch, till they get over the illness.
Also if one is highly stressed, or after a heavy physical labour etc. one should avoid food altogether or take only liquids.
On a lighter vein, we can say that we all fast everyday – like if we take our supper at say 8.00 P.M and our next meal at say 8.00 A.M the next day we have fasted for 12 hours! In fact, the meal we take in the morning is called, yes you have guessed it – BREAK-FAST!

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