A few years ago my best friend (who is also a physician) and I were discussing our concerns about fasting long June days while seeing patients in the clinic all day. It wasn’t the refraining from food that we were worried about, or even the busy schedule of Ramadan. Our thoughts were on having enough energy to make it through the day without our caffeinated beverages of choice. What would prepping for Ramadan look like if we tried balancing our total well-being: mind, body, and soul?
As Ramadan approaches, there is a buzz of excitement in the air about getting ourselves spiritually prepared for the blessed month, so that we can maximally benefit from the Mercy pouring down upon us. The second wing of this preparation is that of the body. Although the fasts are getting progressively shorter, who doesn’t want an abundance of energy stores to be able to enjoy tarawih prayers, work, and even suhur with the family!Energy is a mind, body, and soul affair affected by energy drainers and energy creators. I strongly believe in ‘mind over matter’ as that is where it all starts.
In a demonstration of divine choreography, as I prepared for my course on energy, I happened to be listening to an audiobook in which the author proposed that our bodies can actually be full of energy, but it are being blocked. Blocked by overthinking, worry, and not being present in our bodies. This struck a chord with me as I recalled how, on a drive to work, I could see a billboard for ‘Dave’s Hot Chicken,’ which led me to think about how my grandfather had chickens at his house in Pakistan, to then think about how one of my cousins scared me with a chicken…..How did I end up there?!! Before I know it, I’m at my destination, and I missed the beauty of soaking in the colorful fall leaves dancing in the sunlight.
Prepping the Mind for Ramadan
How can we break the cycle of overthinking, worry, and stress? Staying in the present, so to speak. Hasan al-Basri’s famous quote –“O son of Adam! You are nothing but a number of days. Whenever each day passes, then a part of you has gone.”– is a good reminder to cherish each moment, because it will never come again.
Here are a few ways we can bring ourselves back to the present moment, and out of our constantly distracted states:
- Deep breathing. One method is the 4-7-8 breathing pattern, which involves breathing in to a count of four and filling one’s abdomen with air, holding it for a count of seven, and then breathing out at a count of eight. This activates the vagus nerve which sends out the ‘rest and digest’ signal to the body. When we focus on our breath, it gets us out of our heads. We can take it a step further by putting our hands on our hearts as ‘energy flows where intention goes.’ Our hearts are where our love for Allah , joy, and many other beautiful things live.
- Movement. Any kind of movement can help stagnated energy flow through our bodies and release stress. Even gentle stretching can be supportive. Physical activity can deliver oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and helps the cardiovascular system work more efficiently. Our heart and lungs can be considered energy powerhouses in our bodies.
- Awareness. Just becoming aware of when we are not present in the moment is enough to bring us back to the present moment.
- Presencing joy. Even if it’s a few minutes out of the day. Becoming familiar with the small things in life that bring us joy supports us in practicing them throughout the day. Activities that activate the vagus nerve (examples are singing/humming, reciting Quran, doodling, drawing/painting, deep breathing) puts our bodies into a relaxed state and are keys to accessing joy and presence.
Prepping the Body for RamadanWhen it comes to our physical bodies, fasting by itself is healing, leading to lower blood sugar levels, rest for the digestive system, and the balancing out of hormones. Fasting is also supportive of our mitochondria which are the energy powerhouses in our bodies. Leading up to Ramadan, we can focus on foods that support the mitochondria as well as the thyroid. Some of these foods include: green tea, foods rich in ALA (beets, broccoli, brussel sprouts, organ meats), foods rich in B vitamins (meats, nuts, seeds organ meat), foods rich in carnitine (asparagus, beef, chicken), foods rich in CoQ10 (broccoli, cauliflower, fish, lentils, meat), foods rich in selenium (brazil nuts, chicken, eggs), and foods rich in zinc (pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, oyster seeds, turkey). Of course ‘eating the rainbow’ of colorful fruits and vegetables is also supportive, providing important antioxidants and phytonutrients (apricots, asparagus, avocado, bananas, beets, carrots, grapefruit, grapes, guava, kale, oranges, pecans, pumpkins, rutabaga, spinach, strawberries, and watermelon).
Many people these days suffer from ‘food anxiety’ with so much information -some of it conflicting- floating around the internet, and often with an angle of deprivation. Focusing on adding healing foods and those that will support our bodies, rather than what we shouldn’t eat (excess sugar and simple carbs) can help to alleviate that anxiety. Everyone should consult with their own doctor regarding their own personal health plan, but a general rule of thumb I share with many of my patients is to eat a lot of veggies, some healthy fats, and lean protein. Although our nutrition can come mainly from our diets, it is useful to look at levels of certain vitamins that can affect energy such as vitamin D and B12.
Although food is important, it is highly unlikely that people will not eat enough food in Ramadan. However, many people struggle with drinking enough water. Dehydration is one of the most important causes of fatigue. and he time between iftar and suhur is not very much. There are various recommendations and formulas about how much to drink, however, a good rule of thumb is one-half to one ounce of water per pound of body weight.
Ramadan is the month for our souls. Ultimately it is what will be presented to Allahin the hereafter. Paying attention to our bodies and minds is with the aim of allowing our souls to flourish. By Allah’s s beautiful design, fasting supports us to attain some of the higher vibrational frequency states such as gratitude and love.
May we all be granted a Ramadan that fills our hearts with the joy of knowing Allah.
– Mindful or Mind-full? Going From AutoPilot to Aware
– Ready, Set, Go! Food & Nutrition for a Healthy Ramadan
Source: Muslim Matters