24 Jan 2023
Celebrations of life are important to raise the level of consciousness in ourselves.
Celebrations of life are important to raise the level of consciousness in ourselves. All celebrations come with a point of continuity and perpetuity of happiness, auspiciousness and further celebrations.
Navratri marks the onset of a new season and is the most revered Hindu festival. Goddess Durga, the omnipresent cosmic energy, is worshipped in 9 different forms over a span of 9 nights. Fasting, meditation, prayers are performed during this period.
Philosophy of fasting
According to Ayurveda, the digestive fire is rekindled during a fast.
Pre-festival is the period of Regulation – which means preparing the body to let go of the toxins.
During-festival is the period of Cleansing (Shuddhi karan) – When fasting, the process of loosening and elimination of toxins (ama) begins. The increase in the digestive fires during a fast cause the toxins to burn off. Eliminating the ama is the first step of body’s restoration.
This leads to Purification (sodhana).
Once the body clears itself of toxins, the brain has access to a cleaner bloodstream. Our cells are regenerated by fasting. Old cells are flushed out and replaced by new ones during a fast.
Cooling and calming of these activities can give rise to the stillness of the mind. When the body is cleansed, the mind quietens and becomes more serene. Stillness of the mind gives rise to the buoyancy of the spirit, surging of the spirit. The soul becomes whole, recognisable and one’s being becomes self-realized. This results in clearer thoughts, better memory and increased sharpness of all other senses. The less food, the clearer brain.
Upavasa - ‘Upa’ means ‘near’ and ‘Vasa’ means ‘to stay’. So fasting means ‘to sit or stay near’ Prabhu and that brings Prabhu close to your heart and mind.
Fasting with upasana and combining with dhyana / meditation and prayers brings about purification of the mind and emergence of a personal connection with PRABHU.
Fasting makes you one with PRABHU and that makes you worthy of PRASAD.
Navratri fasting is about cleansing – it is about the alignment of your mind, body, spirit and therefore, alignment with the above.
Fasting creates space. It summons us to glance inwards and see within our own ego. Fasting is about the knowing of oneself, mastering and disciplining ourselves better. It takes you to an extra degree of self-awareness. Fasting helps us attain deeper perspectives, farthest visions, profound understanding of life, sharpness and alertness of the mind, astuteness of the mind and equanimity in emotions. It is all about sympathy, empathy, compassion, care, flow, rhythm which is being established in the breath, synchronising the rhythm - our unit rhythm synchronising with the universal rhythm and the circadian rhythm which at a point during fasting comes completely in biorhythmic equilibrium. This can create magic.
FASTING WITH UPASANA
Upasana is formed of the word ‘asana’ (sit) with ‘upa’ (near). The word denotes a spiritual act carried out in close proximity to God in prayer. Upasana is sitting in rememberance of The Prabhu. It is aligning ourselves with the ultimate Almighty, the creative source, the creative force.
Fasting is a cleansing process which makes the system vibrant. This helps to sit up with eyes closed and still be fully alert. To create this vibrancy, it is important to observe how we eat, what we eat, how much we eat. Fasting purifies the mind and the body and allows it to divert and think beyond. Your body and mind begin to regenerate when your stomach is empty and your thinking becomes more clear. At this stage, you can communicate with Prabhu by beginning to meditate. Spiritual fasting is done to maintain health, to remain silent, and to have that soul-stirring experience.
Navratri fasting can be taken a notch higher by fasting for 24 hours or by having only one meal a day with lots of fluids in between.
When the digestive system remains empty for about 12-16 hours of continuous fasting, autophagy sets in. “Auto” means self and “phagy” means eat. So autophagy is simply “self-eating.” It is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells in order to regenerate newer, healthier cells. It is beneficial to your overall health because the purpose of autophagy is to remove debris. It is just like hitting a reset button to your body and self-regulating it back to optimal smooth functioning.
This will bring about the resting of the organs which is directly related to the rejuvenation of the organs. A person's internal organs undergo a significant transformation. This metabolic rest can create magic.
FOOD WITH VASANA
Vasana is burning the fire of greedy desire. Vasanas are habits of the mind. They arise, grab your attention, and push you away from the Self and toward the outside world. It is the lust for food, drinks, sleep, attachment, power, achievement.
Fasting brings about Vairagya – According to the Bhagwad Gita, Vairagya means detachment from matter and engagement of the mind in spirit. Here it means to detach and be detached from the lust.
Fasting teaches us Sweekriti which means acceptance of what you get with grace.
Fasting teaches us about Trupti which means satisfaction / content with whatever you get and not lusting for more.
With upasana, you will be able to let go of the habits and sweekriti and trupti follows.
Post-festival is the period of getting PRASAD
1. Fortifying - Giving a short break to the body by fasting, cleanses the body from cellular to organ level and rejuvenates the entire system. It revitalizes the cells and tissues.
2. Regulating – After fasting when waste/toxin (ama) is eliminated, the Tridosha – Vata, Pitta and Kapha stay in harmony. Once these doshas are in equilibrium, the wellbeing of the body is established. That’s when one can experience Ojas. Ojas refers to the purest form of energy.
It is that vital energy that rules our immunity, strength and happiness.
From Vasana to Upavasana
Fasting is a state of cleansing where our body requires sufficient amounts of natural and fresh fruits, vegetables and other sattvic food to keep ourself energized.
Through the nine days of the festival, it is important to keep the gut light and healthy by including foods that are nutritious and also meet the fasting rituals.
Include more of:
•Vegetables as they are natural cleansers
•Fruits as they are healers
•Nuts and seeds are fortifiers and
•Herbs are regulators
Here are some healthy foods that not only go with your fasting rituals but also help to keep you hale and hearty to enjoy the festival to the fullest.
A traditional Navratri fasting plan is one that pacifies our digestive fire. Use any combination of the following ingredients:
1.Kuttu Atta (buckwheat flour)
Kuttu atta or buckwheat flour is packed with high fibre. Eg: Instead of oil dripping puris, make Kuttu roti with coriander and spices or vegetable pancakes.
2.Sabudana (sago/tapioca pearls)
Combine it with other ingredients such as A2 cow milk, vegetable, for making kheer or payasam and peanuts for making sabudana khichdi. Use as little cow ghee as possible.
3.Sama Chawal (barnyard millet/samo/samak/sanwa rice)
Being rich in fibre, sama rice gives you a feeling of fullness. It in an healthy alternative to go with, it helps you remain active and provides energy too. It is also preferred by diabetics because of low sugar content.
Make roti. Avoid making items that require frying like puri and paratha. If making sheera, halwa, laddoo, add little jaggery instead of sugar. Add variants like cardamom and kesar to boost taste.
5.Water chestnut (singhara) flour
Singhara has antioxidant properties. Singhara atte ki poori and halwa is consumed when fasting.
Makhana is a very popular food during the fasting. It is high-fibre and protein. Use these for in between snacking.
A combination of dry fruit, nuts and seeds like pumpkin, flax, sunflower seeds are a good alternative to in between meals.
8.Fruits and vegetables
A bowl of fresh fruit and boiled vegetables provides you with sumptuousness. Make sure to include these as main part of your meals. Vegetables like bottle gourd, pumpkin, yam (suran), colocasia (arbi), sweet potato, cucumber, tomato, carrot, raw papaya and spinach can be used. Fruits like guava, pear, apple, pomegranate and all that is in season can be consumed.
9.Organic cow based dairy products / Almond milk
They are rich in calcium and protein. A2 Cow milk and products like dahi, paneer, buttermilk.
10.Herbs and spices
Sendha namak (rock salt) is used in fasting. A tiny amount of roasted peanuts, tamarind, cumin seeds, green cardamom, cloves, peppercorns, nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut, coriander leaves, curry leaves, ginger and green chilli can be used to add flavour to your food. Use a little jaggery instead of sugar where needed.
Ensure a good hydration level. Consume water, coconut water, unsweetened lemon water, herbal tea, green tea, buttermilk, unsweetened lassi, vegetable soups.
SAMPLE DAY PLAN OPTIONS
Early Morning options
Warm water with lemon
Herbal teas with either/all (cinnamon, cardamom, kesar, tulsi, ginger, mint)
Fresh fruits - Pomegranate or guava or papaya or apple or banana or any seasonal
Soaked nuts and seeds
Choose from the following for 1 snack a day
Kuttu chilla with lauki or
Baked sabudana cutlet or
Grilled arbi / suran / yam cutlets / chaat or
Sweet potato chaat or
Sama rice idli or
Rajgira and makhana kheer or
Lauki kheer made in almond milk
Mid Morning options
Dry fruit, cinnamon, pepper milk (A2 cow)
Choose from the following for 1 meal a day – Include vegetables/salad/dahi/raita
Sam- ak khichdi or
Rajgira roti and lauki sabzi or
Samo and yellow moong dal khichdi and samo kadhi or
Rajgira paratha or
Kuttu paneer chilla or
Paneer kheer or
Rajgira kheer or halwa or
Lauki kheer or halwa or
Sweet potato halwa or
Sauté vegetables with green leafy like spinach or
Lauki pumpkin soup or
Pan roasted sweet potato tikki and salad
Evening snack options – only if needed
Mixed fruit or
Dahi with nuts and seeds / roasted peanuts or
Badam kesar pista milk with jaggery or
Til gudd chikki / badam gudd chikki or
Coconut laddoo or
*Supplementing the fasting ritual with some deep self-reflection, meditation and swadhyaya to unravel different layers of our being is recommended. Also exposing yourself to sunlight, fresh air and water will help the process of fasting better.
Fasting initialized…Rejuvenation optimized…Life Mickeymized!!!