Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fasting

If Panchakarma is not possible, fasting can be a highly effective alternative. It balances the doshas, rectifies agni (digestive fire), clears shrotas (channels) and strengthens all dhatus (tissues). It removes aam (toxic accumulations) from body, mind and emotions, and helps to reduce excess weight and swelling. Fasting improves the overall functioning of the body; provides tranquillity, strength, energy and vitality; increases immunity and also develops the ‘inner healer’.
Total fasting on water alone is generally not recommended for more than one and a half days at a time. Very long fasting not only depletes the agni (digestive fire), but also gradually increases vata and causes it to move upwards. Extending the period of total fasting over two days should only be considered for those with a kapha constitution or for patients with fever who should fast until the temperature has returned to normal. Another exception are patients suffering from problems such as arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes etc. who can benefit greatly from fasting for longer periods, but only under the supervision of a doctor and only whilst taking medicines prescribed for them according to their pulse.
In order to prepare the body and enable it to release toxins more effectively, it is extremely important to prepare the body prior to fasting by eating only mung soup or peya(see recipes) for three to four days. These days of preparation are followed by one and a half days of total fasting on just a fasting drink. On the evening of the second fasting day only a small meal of mand without ghee should be taken. It is very important to break the fast in this way, since the digestive fire, which has been rectified by the fasting should not get overloaded again. On the subsequent five days only the diet described on page 3 should be taken. This will gradually re-accustom your system to normal eating again and also act as a vehicle to bring more toxins out of the body. If any other food is taken at this stage, it will not be processed correctly and toxins will accumulate, undoing all the good results you have achieved.
As much as possible during fasting remain in silence and meditate. Try to do the total fasting period on a weekend or on days when you are not working, as your body needs full rest during this time. Apply ghee onto the temples and soles of the feet before bed to calm the mind and promote sound sleep.


Fasting Drink

During the preparation, the actual fast itself and for at least five days afterwards, one of the fasting drinks given below should be taken throughout the day. (The relevant fasting drink for each patient is determined by his or her constitution.) This drink is essential to keep the body strong, prevent a doshic imbalance and support the rectifying of the agni. It also helps to digest and eliminate toxins from the body. Ghee should be taken internally to reduce pitta and support agni (1 – 2 tsp. with hot water in the morning on an empty stomach).

Fasting drink for Pitta Types

4 cups water
2 tsp. cumin powder
2 tsp. coriander powder
20 rose petals (approx. one whole rose) or 1tsp. rose water
4 cardamom

1 tsp. fennel seeds powder
1 pinch asafoetida
4 basil leaves
1 pinch black pepper
½ tsp. ginger juice

Mix everything together in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and keep it covered for a further 20 minutes. Filter and keep warm in a flask to drink regularly throughout the day.

Fasting drink for Vata Types

Use the same recipe as described above, but add 3 pinch ajwain powder and 1 tsp. ginger powder.

Fasting drink for Kapha Types

2 tsp. ginger juice (squeeze the juice from a few slices of root ginger)
10 basil leaves made into a juice
1 pinch asafoetida
2 pinch black pepper
1 tsp. cumin powder
3 cups water

Mix everything together in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and keep it covered for a further 20 minutes. Filter and keep warm in a flask to drink regularly throughout the day. If you experience dryness in the mouth during the fast, just add half a teaspoon of liquorice root to the flask.

Herbal Remedies during Fasting

The effect of this fast is even more enhanced when combined with herbs individually prescribed to you by a practitioner, which may include remedies such as: Jivanyog, Chandrakalaras, Praval Moti, Anulom, Sumedha, Suhruday, Subuddhi etc. These remedies should be taken throughout the entire fast.

Siddha Paste

Applying siddha paste around the navel once a day is an effective way to speed up the removal of intestinal blocks and toxic accumulations.

1 small onion
½ tsp. dry ginger powder
½ tsp. ajwain powder
¼ tsp. black pepper
2-4 cloves garlic
2 pinch asafoetida
2 tabs. Suhruday
2 tabs. Anulom

Chop the onion and put it into a blender with the garlic and all the spices. Push everything through a sieve in order to make a fine paste. Crush the medicines and add to the pulp. Apply on the stomach all around the navel area and leave for at least 15 minutes. This paste is also an excellent remedy to apply on any body part that is painful such as the lower back or on strained or aching joints, muscles and tendons.

Diet for the Time after the 1½ Days of Total Fasting

Fasting rectifies agni, but in order to establish and maintain a proper functioning of the digestive fire, it is extremely important to return to normal food gradually. Five days is the absolute minimum time needed before a wider variety of foods can be re-introduced without causing digestive problems. This is very important, because if agni is not properly supported at this stage, new aam and toxins will be created again. Due to the same reason, it is advisable to maintain a meat and wheat-free diet for a further 10 days thereafter.

1st Day Mand with spices, but no ghee. Eat and chew the soup; don’t drink it!
2nd Day Mand or mung soup with ghee.
3rd Day Peya with spices and ghee.
4rd Day Mung soup and rice or vilepi with ghee. Evening: vegetable soup.
5th Day Vilepi, mung soup or vegetable soup and rice with ghee.

It is very important during this whole programme to only eat when you are hungry, never to fill your stomach to its full capacity and not to eat the next meal until the previous one has been completely digested, i.e. 3-4 hrs after eating or when there is pure belching after taking some hot water. Try to take your meals in a calm and quiet atmosphere, focusing on the food and chewing it well.

Mand, Peya and Vilepi Recipes

Mand, peya and vilepi are three types of khichadi. Khichadi is a special Indian dish, which is very easy to digest, highly nutritious and, most importantly, it ignites the digestive fires. All three khichadis are prepared in the same way, but require different amounts of water. The amounts of water given below apply when cooking in a pressure cooker; more water should be added when cooking with a normal pan.

Mand: 1 part rice, split mung and vegetables to 8 parts water.
Peya: 1 part rice, split mung and vegetables to 6 parts water.
Vilepi: 1 part rice, split mung and vegetables to 4 parts water.

Cooking instructions:

Soak the split mung beans for at least one hour before cooking. Heat ghee or olive oil in a pan and add cumin seeds. Then add some finely chopped onion, root ginger and garlic and sauté until golden brown. Stir in 1 tsp. turmeric powder, ¼ tsp. asafoetida, some black pepper, a few bay leaves, ½ tsp. coriander powder and 1 tsp. garam masala. At this stage don’t add salt as it makes the beans tougher, and they would therefore take longer to cook. Add to the pan ½ cup of rice, ¼ cup of mung beans and ¼ cup of chopped vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, courgettes or asparagus. Now add the required amount of water as stated above. In a normal pan you might need to add more water and cook for about 30 minutes, whereas in a pressure cooker it will cook within about five minutes after coming to pressure.
When the khichadi is ready, ie. the beans have dissolved and the rice has become completely soft and broken up, add a little salt and serve the dish with ghee and freshly chopped coriander leaves.
Mand should have a very watery consistency (blending it in a liquidizer helps to improve its flavour). Peya is like a thick soup and vilepi has a consistency similar to mashed potatoes. Use a thermos flask to take some soup with you when going to work.