Upavasam or Fasting in Hinduism is a practice that varies greatly depending on the community, family, or individual.
It is not an obligation, but a moral and spiritual act where the aim is to purify the body and mind and acquire divine grace.
Key points about Upavasam in Hinduism:
Purpose of Upavasam: Fasting in Hinduism indicates the denial of the physical needs of the body for the sake of spiritual gains. It helps create an attunement with the Absolute by establishing a harmonious relationship between the body and the soul. It’s also seen as a great instrument for self-discipline.
Types of Fasting: There are different forms of fasting which are more or less strict. In some cases, fasting involves abstaining from one meal in the day. Sometimes, it is sufficient to eliminate certain types of food and replace them with others, without restricting the quantity. For instance, some people refrain from consuming salt on particular days.
When to Fast: Hindus fast on certain days of the month such as Purnima (full moon) and Ekadasi (the 11th day of the fortnight). Certain days of the week are also marked for fasting, depending on individual choices and on one’s favorite god and goddess.
Upavasam at Festivals: Fasting at festivals is common. Hindus all over India observe fast on festivals like Navaratri, Shivratri, and Karwa Chauth.
Remember, these practices can vary greatly depending on personal beliefs and traditions.
Fasting has been associated with a number of potential health benefits, many of which are backed by scientific research.
Here are some of the key benefits of Upavasam:
- Promotes Blood Sugar Control: Fasting may improve blood sugar control, making it potentially beneficial for those at risk of diabetes. A study found that intermittent fasting can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity.
- Aids in Weight Loss: Fasting can help in weight loss as it typically reduces calorie intake and can also enhance hormone function to facilitate weight loss. It can increase your metabolic rate, helping you burn more calories.
- Promotes Better Health by Fighting Inflammation: Some studies have found that fasting can help decrease levels of inflammation, promoting better health.
- May Enhance Brain Function: Fasting could increase nerve cell synthesis, and improve mental clarity, concentration, and overall brain function.
- Aids in Cellular Repair and Longevity: During fasting, your body induces important cellular repair processes, such as removing waste material from cells. It also beneficially changes several genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against disease.
- May Aid in Cancer Prevention: Fasting may provide protection against medical conditions like cancer and neurodegenerative disorders.
- Remember, while these benefits have been associated with fasting, it’s important to approach fasting responsibly and consider potential side effects. It’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new dietary regimen.
Image creditDr Jean Fortunet, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons