Navratri is celebrated in India with grandeur and joy. These celebrations include a variety of sweets, fasting menus, and dandiya nights with friends and family. Navratri is celebrated four times during the year when seasons change. Out of the four Navratris, the Chaitra (Spring) and Sharad (Autumn) are more famous, while Magha (during winters) and Ashadha (Monsoons) are less popular.
Rich in colors, tradition, songs, and dance, Navratri is also a time for us to relax, turn inwards and recharge ourselves with new energy. It reduces the restlessness of the mind and brings forth awareness and joy. With Navratri right around the corner, a lot of us will be observing a fast (vrat). This means that we’ll be adjusting our food choices according to the rules of Navratri fasting. But why do devotees observe a fast? Is it primarily a religious belief, or is there more to it?
Navratris mark the onset of a new season, and therefore, a vrat is observed to make the body strong enough and flexible. By opting for a sattvic diet (foods without spices, oil, onion, garlic, meat, etc.) people strengthen their body and mind because a change of season brings along with it illnesses and diseases. Thus, by keeping Navratri vrat, people prepare to adapt themselves to the seasonal cycle.
Scroll down to know the myriad health benefits of Navratri fasting:
“We fast not to please the Divine, but to cleanse our body.”
- Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
- Helps in Detox
Apart from being an ideal time to connect with the spiritual self, Navratri is also the best time to detox and strengthen your body from within. We inhale and consume toxins in our day-to-day life either through food or living in a polluted environment. According to Ayurveda, fasting rekindles the digestive fire. An increase in the digestive fire burns the toxins in the body. Moreover, the fresh and light diet during Navratri boosts the immune system, flushing out toxins from the body, mucus, or any unwanted fecal matter.
When the toxins are flushed out of the body, it loses dullness and lethargy. All the cells of the body are rejuvenated. Fasting, therefore, is an effective therapy to cleanse our bodies.
- Soothes the Digestive System
The digestive system is constantly working to break down foods and carry forward the process of digestion. While fasting, our digestive system gets a break and time to rest. By avoiding wheat, rice, and lentils, and embracing ingredients like Singhare Ka Atta, Kuttu ka atta, Sama, Sabudana, etc, people give the much-needed rest to their digestive system.
- Calms the Mind
When the body is cleansed, the mind becomes calmer and more peaceful because of the deep connection between the body and mind. A study in 2003 found that fasting helps lower stress levels. Fasting leads to better cognitive health, reduction in oxidative stress reduces depression, and improves focus, and memory of the person.
- Improves Overall Health
Fasting increases the production of HGH hormone (Human Growth Hormone) which is responsible for muscle growth, metabolism, increase in height, and reduction of weight. Fasting reduces the risk of heart diseases, reduces cholesterol, keeps the blood pressure in control, produces ketosis that improves blood sugar levels, and helps the body manage stress in a better way.
During these nine days, people opt for a variety of fruits and foods that are nutritious. The antioxidants present in these foods help in the removal of harmful free radicals from the body. When you fast, your liquid intake increases which help in keeping the body hydrated. During Navratri, most people have coconut water, fresh fruit juices, milkshakes, buttermilk, etc. that nourish the body and moisturize the skin.
- Reap the benefits of a sattva bloom
Devotees who keep a vrat avoid the use of heat-generating spices such as Haldi (Turmeric), Dhania (coriander), Hing (asafoetida), Garam Masala (mixed exotic spices powder), Rai/Sarson (mustard), Lavang (clove), etc. They also avoid the use of sesame/mustard oil for cooking. Peanut oil or ghee are used for cooking vrat recipes. Thus, by avoiding these and using Jeera (cumin) and kali Mirch (black pepper), people keep their bodies cool and refreshed.
Fasting coupled with meditation increases sattva - the quality of tranquillity and positivity within us. An increase in sattva makes our minds more peaceful and alert. As a result, our intentions and prayers become more powerful. A sattva bloom also makes the body lighter and more energetic. We become more efficient. As a result, our desires manifest and our tasks get accomplished easily.
- Plunge into deeper meditations with Navratri fasting
Navratri is the time to spend time with yourself, meditate, and connect with the source of existence. Meditation and prayers are significant parts of Navratri vrat. When fasting decreases the restlessness of the mind, it becomes easier for it to turn inwards and meditate. These help you in calming your senses, body, mind as well as soul. However, make sure that you eat sufficient amounts of fresh fruits and other sattvic food to keep yourself energized.
In a nutshell, by fasting during Navratri, a person can exercise self-restraint, self-discipline, self-control, and last but not least spiritual awakening.
Note: Fasting is not recommended for certain body constitutions and health conditions. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a doctor before you fast. Also, keep in mind that you must fast only as much as you are comfortable.
10 Tips for Navratri Fasting
- Consume at least 3 liters of fluids on the days of the fast. You can drink water, buttermilk, tender coconut water, fresh juices, etc.
- Avoid packaged juices, cold drinks, and soda. They all have high amounts of added sugars.
- Start the day with a natural liquid, followed by 12-15 nuts and fruit. This will combat fatigue by providing energy, good fats, and antioxidants.
- Steam, par-boil or stir fry your food. Avoid deep-fried, high-starch meals such as potato chips, deep-fried sabudana vada, etc.
- Consume porridge or flatbread made with a mix of grains like sama millet, buckwheat atta (kuttu), and amaranth (rajgira) flour. This will give you energy and nutrients.
- Replace table salt or processed/refined salt with Sendha Namak because it aids digestion, boosts immunity, and keeps the body active throughout the day.
- For sweets, try to avoid sugar and jaggery if possible. Instead use dates, raisins, anjeer, and apricots as natural sweeteners.
- Consume curd and low-fat milk. They’ll provide you with protein and calcium, and also make you feel full because protein takes time to digest.
- To prevent a sudden blood sugar spike at night, eat small snacks throughout the day rather than a big meal at night.
- Try to consume raw, unprocessed foods when possible.
Navratri is the best time to rejuvenate and refresh your mood with tasty foods, fasting practices, and prayers for 9 days. All this doesn’t mean that Navratri food can’t be delicious. We have sourced some delicious yet healthy recipes for you to try while Navratri fasting (or any other time). So stay tuned for my upcoming blog on Vrat recipes to strike a balance between taste and health.