Advanced Yoga Practices
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Internet Lessons with additions,
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Fasting - A Powerful Spiritual
AYP Plus Additions:
- Why are AYP Fasting Instructions so Varied? (Audio)
New Visitors: It is recommended you read from the beginning of the web archive, as previous
lessons are prerequisite to this one. The first lesson is, "Why
Restricting or eliminating food intake for a
time, known as fasting,
is an ancient practice that can be found in most of the worlds spiritual
traditions. These days, it has been ritualized in the religions to the point
of being little more than an occasional ceremonial observance. Yet, there is
great value hidden in fasting that is being rediscovered in modern times as
more people have sought to reveal the underlying truths in their religion
and the effectiveness of spiritual methods that have been utilized by
serious practitioners for thousands of years.
The principle behind
fasting is simple. When the body is given an opportunity to take a break
from processing food, it will purify itself. Its energy resources are
naturally redirected from digestion and assimilation, and are fully devoted
to conducting an inner cleanup. In this mode, the body is much better able
to overcome disease and obstructions in the organs, tissues and nervous
system, including the subtle neurobiological blockages within us that are
the primary inhibitors of our spiritual unfoldment. So, prudent fasting is
both an effective health therapy and an important spiritual practice, all
rolled into one.
Fasting is an aspect of
diet is not only about what we are eating, but also about what we are not
eating. While, in the strictest sense, fasting is about not eating anything
for a period of time, the
can also be observed to be working to one degree or another across the
entire range of our dietary habits. In other words, the health and spiritual
benefits of eating a light and nutritious diet are due in large part to the
which is a condition of inner functioning that provides the natural
processes of the body a greater opportunity to engage in cleansing,
purification and opening.
So, while a purist may
regard anything more than zero food consumption to not be fasting, we are
more interested in the practical results that can be achieved by moderating
food intake to varying degrees at different times. This brings us back into
our main diet discussion, which is about what we are doing with food every
day, whether we are doing a full-blown fast, or simply favoring lighter more
nutritious eating habits. Both will be stimulating the fasting effect to
The goal in the AYP system is to effectively
utilize all of the known principles of human spiritual transformation
through the integration and optimization of effective practices. This will,
by necessity, draw us away from extremist attitudes about any particular
spiritual method. As with diet, attitudes about fasting that we see in the
world may also have a tendency toward an extreme
flight of fancy,
with a corresponding loss of focus on maintaining a balanced approach. The
extreme approaches we may encounter as we explore knowledge sources on
fasting do not invalidate the usefulness of the underlying principles
themselves. We just need to find a rational moderate approach.
Those who pursue extreme
approaches can distort the real value to be found in the method they may be
fanatically promoting. Let's not be swayed by extreme points of view, and
take the middle road that takes good advantage of sound principles of
spiritual transformation leading to steady progress with safety.
We began with sound
spiritual practices like deep meditation and spinal breathing pranayama. And
then we discussed the natural emergence of healthful and spiritually
evolutionary eating habits. We make choices about these things as our
awareness expands from within and as our neurobiology naturally seeks a
higher mode of functioning. It is the same when we consider fasting. We have
been moving in that direction already.
There are several ways
to approach fasting. It will depend on our personal preferences, and also on
our metabolic health when starting out.
The simplest way to add
more of the fasting effect
into our daily routine is to skip a meal for several days running. Our
ability to do so will depend largely on our comfort level. For some, it will
be very uncomfortable and difficult. For others, fairly easy. It is a good
place to start with our own experiment in fasting. Skipping a meal does not
mean eating twice as much at the next meal. It means reducing the total food
intake for a day, one meals worth, or for several days if we find it to be
For those with a medical condition such as
hypoglycemia or diabetes, where reducing food consumption could be
hazardous, a doctor should be consulted before undertaking any sort of fast.
The advantage of the
meal skipping approach is that it is easy for almost anyone to do anytime,
to begin experiencing the fasting effect. The disadvantage in the meal
skipping approach is that we may notice discomfort expressing itself as
With a fast involving no food for several days or more, the discomfort we
have called "hunger" is generally found not to be hunger, because it passes
as the fast continues. Then we know it for what it is the biological
withdrawal symptoms associated with a habitual dependence on food intake. No
one will starve in a few days or even a few weeks without food. But many
have felt like they were starving, due to the withdrawal symptoms associated
with no food intake after only a few hours. Interestingly, those who are on
a long fast don't feel hungry, once the initial adjustment has occurred. For
those who have experience with fasting for several days or more, the
discomfort passes until much later when a genuine hunger returns. This
latter stage hunger is a signal that a fast may be ended naturally.
Liquids are another
matter. No fast should ever be undertaken without adequate hydration. Our
body needs water on a daily basis to continue to function, whether we are
fasting or not. On a strict fast, only water is necessary to continue it.
There is also the popular juice fast, which adds nutrients, particularly
sugar, which is an energy source. For those who are inclined toward ongoing
discomfort during a fast, a juice fast may be preferable.
We each will find our
own balance. For many of us, moving gradually to a light and nutritious diet
may be more than enough. This too involves the fasting effect lightening the
food processing load in the body so our energies can better support our
inner processes of purification and opening, and also the production of
refined substances in the digestive system and elsewhere that are directly
related to our emerging enlightenment.
This brings up the
matter of kundalini again, which is the rise of ecstatic conductivity and
radiance in our body, facilitated by the associated refinements in
If we are adjusting to an awakening kundalini, we
should follow an appropriate diet, which will at times lean toward a heavier
diet and eating more often to temper the fire in the GI tract. During this
stage of our inner development, fasting will not be advisable, as it can
accelerate the purification process and exacerbate our kundalini symptoms.
Fasting is most useful before we have awakened
our inner energies, and then later on when our higher neurobiology has
stabilized. During the in-between period of kundalini energy awakening and
adjustment, we will be wise to adjust our eating habits to support that.
There is a time for everything, and everything in its own time.
In cases of illness,
fasting can be combined with Amaroli (urine therapy) to apply the powerful
combined natural healing effects provided by these two practices. This will
be further discussed in upcoming lessons.
Fasting may also be
combined with sun gazing and breathing techniques, which profess to provide
the means for sustaining life from sunlight and air, without food intake.
Whether this is true or not remains to be investigated by modern science. If
such abilities exist within us, we may find signs of their manifestation as
a result of long term yoga practice. Focusing on such phenomena to the
exclusion of deep meditation, spinal breathing pranayama and other yoga
practices will likely be premature. Let's be mindful of our tendency to get
caught up in
flights of fancy.
The advantage of self-directed and self-paced
spiritual practice is that we can make adjustments in our practices as
necessary to accommodate our inner unfoldment. This applies to the evolution
of our diet over the long term, and to the judicious use of fasting
according to our preferences and needs.
The guru is in you.
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Related Lessons Topic Path
Discuss this Lesson in the AYP Plus Support Forum
discussion on the role of fasting on our
spiritual path, see the
Diet, Shatkarmas and Amaroli
and AYP Plus.