Spring is truly upon us, and it’s always at this time of year that I look forward to my annual 10-day juice cleanse. I was once told by American alternative health food advocate Paul Bragg that for optimum health, one should do a 1-day fast once a week, a 3-day fast once a month, and a 10-day fast once a year. That has always stayed with me.
My first Introduction to fasting was during one of my early trips to India. I asked my teacher ‘should I fast?’. ‘Yes’, he said. ‘For how long?’ I pressed. ‘You do 4 days. This will be good for you’, was my answer. But the other students around me were doing 10
days, so I decided I would too.
Fasting in an Indian ashram is by no means a luxurious event. You are quite literally only served lemon water and of course, thankfully, as much chai as you like. If you’ve never tried it, Indian chai is an exotic blend of black tea and spices in unpasteurised cow’s milk. It has often been stewing for days. When you request a cup from the chaiwallah (chai street seller), it’s usual strained through what looks like a discarded sock, poured with both arms high and fully extended to gain as much height as possible. This helps it form a rich, foamy head of milk, not unlike that of a cappuccino. This gives it a welcome density when you have no food in your tummy.
I managed to complete my first fast. But throughout the entire 10 days, I found myself thinking about nothing but food, feasts of food, mounds of food. I wondered, what am I in actual fact feeding with these thoughts? 6 months later I did another 10-day fast. This time, I felt ‘I was getting better at it’.
In many traditions, fasting is considered a form of renunciation, and is often referred to in the yoga texts as tapas – in other words, a self-discipline of austerity to achieve progress in one’ spiritual practice. Over the years I have fasted or juice cleansed regularly, and this has given me a deeper appreciation and understanding of the concept of renunciation. It’s not so much about the idea of giving up food or going hungry, and by no means is it a weight loss program. But it has become a perfect opportunity for me to observe my behavioural patterns around food and eating. It’s also allowed me to ask myself, what nourishes my body from the outside, beyond carbohydrates and proteins? It has been a great opportunity to observe what happens to me when I give up something I am attached to. But further to this, to give it up with absolute joy, for no reward whatsoever, for no self-grandiose achievement or even an Instagram moment. Fasting to simply remain present. Fasting to simply witness the rising sensations. Fasting to simply renounce attachment to object.
I’ve been able to maintain this yogic practice of renunciation of solid food for several years now. The Bhagavad Gita says, ‘Remaining satisfied with what comes unasked for, having transcended the dualities…even when performing actions, he is not bound’.
If you’d like to join me for a juice cleanse this month, I highly recommend the pure (no fruit) cleanse form Sydney’s Orchard St store in Bondi. You can check them out at orchardstreet.com.au. Founder and naturopath Kirsten Shanks is the incredibly gifted woman who runs the show, and she is offering all friends of YogaMoves a 20% discount. Offer ends September 30th. Contact me and I can give you the discount code.