For how long should I keep a fast and how should I break it?What are the spiritual benefits of fasting?Why is it advised to fast on certain days such as ekadashi,solar eclipse etc.?
—Sukhmandeep Singh, India
Fasting is a very individual consideration as to how long and what, if anything, is consumed during a fast. Your age and health and level of activities (physical, mental, stress, solitary, living with people, children, time of year) are very, very important.
Paramhansa Yogananda devised a simplified set of suggestions about fasting in this modern age. Responding in this manner is not the right place to give it all (though by email we could send you a file) but a general recommendation might be a good starting point:
Partial fasting on a liquid diet is a good way to start: one day a week and three days every month as follows: drink only fresh milk or orange juice or any other fruit juice. Take a natural laxative the night before and add crushed almonds or other high protein nuts as needed in the liquid to stabilize blood sugar (but only if necessary). If instead of juice or milk, you fast completely, then drink plenty of clean water.
Since I don’t know anything about your physical health, you should consult a knowledgeable doctor first.
In general correspondence, it would be inappropriate to say much more since fasting is so individual.
Spiritually speaking, fasting has at least several major benefits: 1) developing self-control; 2) developing non-attachment to food; 3) bringing clarity of mind by freeing energy from the lower organs, and 4) bringing rest to the heart 5) making for deeper meditation and a more sensitive awareness of more subtle realities. One feels free and light during a fast, especially a longer fast, and after the processing of any toxicity and food compulsions, one feels an increase in health and vitality. Fasting is known to not only detoxify the body but can even heal the body. These benefits can be expanded upon especially as one fasts for longer periods of time than only one or two days.
The downside is that history is lined with the physical or mental corpses of fasting-fanatics. There are dangers, physical and mental, for those who incline to overdue or “binge” any new thing they take up. Yogananda was very practical in respect to food and fasting. He encourage what he charmingly called “proper eatarianism.” Meaning, in short, any diet suitable for one’s constitution!
This is why so many experts insist that one fast only with the supervision of a competent guide.
Spiritual Holidays, including Equinox and Solstice times of the year, have special vibrations of upliftment that a devotee can access and feel and which strengthen one’s devotion and will power. This not only makes fasting easier but provides the energy and incentive to fast.
I hope you find this helpful.
Seattle WA USA / www.Hrimananda.org