While most people celebrate Holy Week with the official beginning of summer in Puerto Rico, too few people celebrate its true religious meaning. I remember when we used to stay in on Holy Thursday and Holy Friday to watch religious movies – the life of Jesus, the Passion of Christ, stories of Moses and the Old Testament and the stories of the Virgins, like the Virgin of Fatima or the Virgin of Guadalupe. That is certainly here a thing of the past…
To me Holy Week is a time to reflect on Jesus’ life and our life as well. And since I started practicing YOGA, I’ve been celebrating Holy Week with a spiritual retreat. I just returned from one Easter Sunday. We do these retreats by fasting… and some people think we’re nuts. But if you want to be a healthy individual you should start to practice fasting more often.
When most people think of fasting, in the religious sense, they think of doing something to sacrifice themselves, as a punishment for whatever they did wrong… in yoga, we see fasting as a way to improve our health, to give our body a break from the hard-to digest foods that might not be as good for us as we think. It’s a way to bring more health into our lives.
The purpose of fasting is to help detoxify your body. This detoxification helps to eliminate and alleviate many ailments that might be creeping up on us because of the unhealthy eating habits we might be holding. And the fasting I am speaking of if to spend a day without eating cooked or processed foods… to spend a whole day eating lots of fruits, raw vegetable salads, water, juices. These are things we already know we should be eating more of… why? Because eating raw fruits and vegetables is the best for us to maintain our health. So isn’t it neat to select a day out of our week to try to eat only fruits and veggies?? Letting our food be also our medicine…
Here are a few of the benefits of doing a weekly fast:
- We give the digestive system a much needed break. Fruits and vegetables are much easier on the digestive system than breads, pastas, rices, cheeses, legumes, soy products, etc.
- Fasting will help cleanse the blood and help eliminate toxins lodged in your body. These toxins come from various sources – the contaminated air we breathe, chemical medications we might have taken, artificial colorants and preservatives in food, stimulants such as coffee, alcohol, cigarette smoke, among many others.
- When you ingest fresher foods your vital energy will increase. People think that by eating lighter you’ll feel sluggish. On the contrary, my experience has been that when done right, a day of eating just fresh veggies and fruits, with lots of water and juices make you feel very light and clean inside… with a great sense of well being. You will feel full of energy and ready to take on any challenge that faces you.
- And over time your defenses against diseases will improve and your skin will be brighter too. Since I have become vegetarian and practicing fasting I get much less colds than I used to before. You will not be completely immune, but when I used to work in an air-conditioned office full of moms that got sick every time their kids got a cold. It was like a chain reaction in that office – one person getting sick after the other and I was most of the times spared.
How to do a day of fasting? Simple:
- Because you’re eating lighter, you should have at least your 3 meals and 3 snacks throughout the day.
- Start your day with a large fruit salad or a fruit smoothie. My SS Smoothie and the Stealth Shake might be good alternatives for you. Try to make them with fruit juices or coconut water. I do stay away from soymilk and regular milk on these days, but I will admit, I use yogurt sometimes… because it has active live cultures.
- Throughout the day, drink lots of water and other liquids, like fresh fruit juices – freshly squeezed orange juice, grapefruit juice, kiwi juice, papaya juice… or have some coconut water.
- Have a great big salad for lunch – lettuces, tomato, cucumber, peppers, onions, broccoli, radishes, cauliflower, carrot, fennel, sprouts, etc. Have it with a delicious dressing that will make it all more appetizing.
- As snacks you can munch on fresh fruits and nuts, such as apples, pears, mangoes, papaya, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc.
- For dinner you could have another salad accompanied by steamed veggies – I personally have a delicate digestive system and I must have my salads with steamed /lightly boiled vegetables. I sometimes steam potatoes, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, and/or cauliflower. I make a nice fresh dressing with the left over salad I might have from lunch and it all tastes awesome.
Some words of extra advice…
- Eat fruits prior to eating salads. Fruits have large water content and sometimes, when eaten after heavier foods (ie vegetables or steamed root vegetables) it might give you uncomfortable gas.
- Because you’ll be eating more fresh foods and will be drinking water and juice more often than your regular daily diet, you’ll go to the bathroom more than usual. So be open to that idea and choose a day when you’ll have a bathroom accessible.
- Fasting is easier when made at home. It is harder on our psyche when we are trying to fast and people around us are eating stuff we are avoiding for the day. Do not make it harder on yourself… try to pick a day when you’ll stay at home with your “menu” set out for the day.
- Prepare in advance. Before the day you have chosen to fast, go to the market and buy your favorite fruits and veggies. See what’s beautiful and freshest in the market so you’ll be excited to build a menu around those great finds.
- Give yourself the opportunity to try out new things. I sometimes treat myself to certain fruits and veggies I do not regularly buy to give my salads some needed variety. And I know I must eat them in the next few days.
Hope you might have learned a bit about FASTING and might be inspired, or at least not afraid, to try it. I try to do it as often as I can and I can attest to its benefits.