Written by: Sara Bowes
‘Tis the season of revelry and feasting. As much as it is universal to indulge at this time of year, is it common to be thinking in the back of our minds how we will reconcile, how we can make it up to our bodies after all of the indulgence is over. Thus, the seeds of New Years resolutions get planted. Such is the nature of a culture of extremism, of feast or [often self-imposed] famine.
Perhaps a more balanced approach to optimal health is regular short fasts. With a healthy diet consisting of real, whole foods, there is no need to crash diet, nor is there a necessity for prolonged fasting. It is, however, an often overlooked must to give our digestive systems, and in turn, our entire bodies a break from consumption. Just like we, as human beings, will often go crazy without vacation, so will our digestive systems.
This all came to my attention the day after Thanksgiving. Despite the fact that my health-conscious guests supplied the table with after-dinner digestive teas and concoctions, and despite the fact that I managed to get out of the meal without feeling stuffed to capacity, and despite the fact that I felt surprisingly light the next morning and ready to eat breakfast, Friday, as it progressed, became a day of uncomfortable indigestion and bloating. Like I said, I cannot attribute this to overindulgence at Thankgsiving dinner for the reason that my indulgence the night before was unusually in check.
It was not until the evening that I was standing in my kitchen, gazing rather blankly at a calendar on the wall given out by a local Hindu temple, that I noticed it was Ekadasi. What is Ekadasi, you ask? The word means eleven in Sanskrit, and refers to the eleventh lunar day of the bright (shukla) and dark (krishna) fortnight (paksha), or fourteen days of every lunar month as the Hindu calendar has it. This biweekly occurrence corresponds to the times in which the moon is both closest to and farthest from the earth. For this reason, these are also the times of high tide and low tide, respectively.
In Hinduism (especially Vaishnava traditions) and Jainism, Ekadasi marks a particularly auspicious time, in which devout peoples will choose to fast. The day is usually devoted to meditation and divine worship. There are many stories that explain the significance of these days. Just as fascinating, however, is the correlation between the lunar rhythms, and the effect of the water in our bodies. Given that our bodies are at least 60 percent water, it only makes sense that we must be affected in some way by the rhythms of the moon. Some sources claim that digestive secretions are at their lowest on these days due to the magnetic pull of the moon on our bodies. For similar reasons, our minds are said to become affected. For these reasons, it is best not to burden our body with food and even water during this time.
In my travels in India I had heard of such ideas. I read about Ekadasi, and found it completely fascinating. I thought, at the time, that perhaps I, too, should observe these days by fasting.
I never did.
I did, though, have the idea of Ekadasi in the back of my mind. I did reflect on the effect the moon must be having on my body. And I did start to pay attention to when my digestion felt “off”. I would check, just out of curiosity, at the Hindu calendar on my wall, and more often than not, find that the days in which I felt bloated and as if anything I ate would just sit in my stomach and expand, were in fact Ekadasi! Noteworthy is the fact that I more often than not could not find anything to attribute my indigestion to—no unusual foods eaten, no other illness, no regular correlation with menstrual cycles, etc.
Here marks my new exploration into the affect of the moon on my own body. In attempts to realign with the macrocosm and the forces of nature, and to employ a regular gesture of lending my system a chance to rest, and my spirit a chance to connect with something greater with just a little more ease, I am choosing to observe Ekadasi for the next year. I am starting my New Year’s resolution a month early. And I am abandoning all temptation to do an extreme crash diet to combat my holiday indulgences, that will only end up in me scrambling for a box of chocolates come February. Instead, I am choosing a much more sustainable approach, that my body seems to have been asking me to do for some time.