Did You Know There Are Types of Fasting?

Fasting has been receiving more and more attention globally. A rising number of people are practicing different types of it for spiritual gains, healthful effects, and weight loss. Nutritionists have developed a variety of fasts, inspired by the existing traditional types. The Muslims’ fasting in Ramadan is among the short duration fasts, 24 hours or less.  It falls under the “dry fast” category as well. Following, we explore the main fasting categories as well as benefits of it.

 Three Main Groups 

Hermits and monks from different backgrounds practice fasting for spiritual purposes which include detaching themselves from the world and purifying the body. Among the religions and philosophies that practice fasting are Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, and Jainism. There are three main categories under which various methods of fasting have developed.

1 Selective/partial Fasting

Partial Fasting doesn’t demand a complete absence of food intake. It describes a selective diet that excludes or limits some foods. The principal concern here is not how much to eat, but the restriction on certain types of food. An example of the selective fasting is the Lent season which lasts for approximately six weeks to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert. The restrictions vary, according to the different churches rules, from animal products to eating only bread.

2 Absolute/Dry Fasting

Sharing the old roots with the other categories, the absolute fast asks for a complete stop of eating and drinking for short periods, 24 hours as a maximum. Judaism and Islam are familiar with this fast. Muslims practice it from dawn to dusk for a month, Ramadan. There’s also the Indian Karva Chauth Festival when women fast from the sunrise to moonrise. An issue this kind of fasting poses is that it could cause dehydration along with a quick release of the body toxins. Therefore, it’s recommended that you approach it gradually; prepare your body with fruit or juice fasts, for example, for a period before initiating a dry fast.

3 Liquid Fasting

As the name implies, a liquid fast requires you not to eat but allows drinking. It’s of two main branches: water fasting- probably the original form of this category- and juice fasting, the most popular of the two. However water fasting is the most effective, it’s difficult for the newbies especially if it’s for extended periods. An example of it is in south India where many Hindus perform water fast on Tuesdays from sunrise to sunset; they dedicated Tuesday to Mariamman, a local a form of Goddess Shakti, the personification of cosmic energy.

 Benefits of Fasting 

Scientists have been examining the influences of reducing calories through fasting, in other words skipping meals, since the 1930s, forming what is called today “science of fasting”.  Studies conducted on rodents, fruit flies, and animals showed that reducing the calorie consumption by 30 to 40% extended their lifespan by a third or more. Therefore, many experts and nutritionists have suggested Intermittent Fasting as a method to keep the body healthy and reduce the risks of old-age diseases.

The ancient religions and philosophies probably acknowledged the physical benefits as means to spiritual growth. Among the effective old rooted techniques closely associated with fasting are praying, meditation and practicing silence.

Exploring the meanings of fasting and ways of practicing it in the different cultures is a rich area that could enhance the fasting experience and encourage the one to adopt it as a regular habit throughout the year.

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