Shravan or Sawan is the indication of monsoon season. With rains and greenery all around it gets serene and magical and close to nature. The monsoon comes along with many festivals and it’s a time of real celebration. Many times, these festivals are associated with Upwas (following fasts). We can observe that across different communities across India, upwas is suggested on different occasions which is inherently related to health.
Ayurveda explains the benefits of Langhan to which upwas is a subset. Upwas is one of the main key factors associated with metabolic health. In 2016, Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research on autophagy (a result achieved by fasting), a process where body cells regenerate themselves by removing dysfunctional components. Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz about the health benefits of upwas and calorie restriction. Intermittent fasting was the top Google diet search trend in 2019.
Upwas is nothing but a holiday to our digestive system to give it some rest. But understanding why and adopting scientifically is the need of the hour. Langhan practices are ‘energetic withdrawals’ and offer lightness to the body.
Need of Upwas:
Seasonal changes, lifestyle changes, and wrong food habits are crucial factors affecting the balance of Agni (Digestive Fire). In Monsoon, it is already at a minimal level. Weakened Agni is responsible for the assimilation of metabolic toxins and metabolic disorders including fat storage, weight gain, prediabetes, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and even cognitive decline. Hence upwas with minimal intake is recommended in monsoon. Ayurveda states that following fasts enhances Agni by reducing accumulated toxins. This is nothing but autophagy.
Festivals, upwas and health importance:
In India, Monsoon falls from June to September (Hindu months starting from Ashadh to Ashwin). Chaturmas is the period of these four months, during which many communities strictly follow some diet restrictions for balancing health. Broadly we can say that there are two methods of upwas:
- Half-day fasts which are to be concluded with light meals at night. E.g. Shravani somavar, Chaturthi, Nagpanchami, Janmashtami, etc.
- Full-day fasts which are strict for the whole day with upwas specific meals and are to be concluded with a light sweet breakfast on the next morning. E.g. Ekadashi, a few days of Navratri.
If one observes this, it can be understood that fasts are periodic and illustrated in such a way as to maintain health. This is a unique diet design associated with rituals and traditions with the application of Ayurveda principles.
What should be your ideal Menu Plan during upwas in monsoon:
- Do not remain on an empty stomach for more than 6 hrs because it is responsible for an increase in Pitta and Vata.
- People complaining of acidity, heaviness, and headache should avoid or consume less heavy food like sabudana/sago, fried food, milkshakes, fruit salads, excess tea, coffee, curd, excess use of groundnut, tamarind, etc.
- If you have controlled and mild diabetes, then upwas can be done with proper precautions. Intake after every four hours is recommended for such people. Do not use food items like sabudana, potato, sweet potato, and fried food items. Milk is recommended because it reduces the chances of sudden sugar drop. Restrict sugar intake properly.
- People with health conditions should consult the expert before following upwas.
- If you are already on a diet for weight control, then upwas is very useful. Here you can modify your upwas day with the principles of intermittent fasting. You can eat a more liquid diet, fruits and milk for the whole day followed by a light meal at night.
So, for this Shravan month with functions fasting keep your health in check. For more such interesting Ayurveda updates stay tuned with us at Nadi Tarangini.
Dr. Gayatri Kulkarni – Mulye, (MD Ayurved)
Shruti Kulkarni (Nutritionist)
Vaidya Tejaswini Bhale-Borse (Ayurveda Physician)