We’ve heard about the health benefits of fasting as a way to cleanse and detox the body. In yogic science, fasting is not just used as a purification practice, but also as a device to redirect energy. It takes a lot of pranic energy to convert the food we eat into cell fuel. Yogis have always devised ways to conserve prana and use it for spiritual purposes instead. Fasting is one of these methods.
Setting fasting aside for a moment, we also know that we are an integral part of this solar system. Most closely, we are affected by the planet itself, and the moon. In these modern days, we are so disconnected from nature that we don’t recognize this fundamental fact. If the moon has the power to elevate millions of gallons of oceanic water twice a day, do we really believe that it has no impact on us?
Now bringing these two principles together – fasting and the moon – this is where Ekadashi comes in. Ekadashi means the 11th day after the full moon, and the 11th day after the new moon. Yogis can recognize that on these days, their bodies really don’t crave food. In our fast food, compulsively fast paced societies, the subtle sensitivity is simply not there to notice this. Our body is in habitual hunger because that is how we have trained it.
Actually fasting is a part of so many spiritual traditions going back thousands of years. Each tradition has its own ideas about the reasons behind fasting. But if we distill all of these down, we can see the common thread, which is to turn one inward. Certain traditions may articulate this as, “bringing one closer to God,” while others may express it as a personal sacrifice or offering. Taking a wider perspective on this, we can easily see that all of these traditions see fasting as a way to consciously make a choice to turn a habitual and often compulsive activity into an opportunity to turn towards the divine.
The yogic intent of Ekadashi fasting is to enable a certain lightness and freeing up of energy within the body on specific days when the planet itself is in a certain state that facilitates meditativeness and an inward focus.
There are Ekadashi calendars available on the web. Here are two related articles on fasting:
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