Fasting has become all the rage in the last few years, with so many people doing it as part of their religious or spiritual practice, or either trying or interested in exploring the ever-popular intermittent fasting -- but there are other types of fasting that have nothing to do with the food you put in your mouth, where you fast from something else altogether, and Kourtney Kardashian knows all about it. Kourtney reported to Bustle that she recently went through panchakarma, the comprehensive Ayurvedic cleansing method I too went through several times, and which I studied clinically while getting my master’s degree in Ayurvedic medicine. And during panchakarma, it’s recommended that people refrain from having sex.
But before you go grabbing your rosary beads, let me explain when this can be beneficial. As I wrote about in my 2020 book, The Ayurvedic Guide to Fertility: A Natural Approach to Getting Pregnant, practicing a sex fast is beneficial when you are preparing your body for trying to conceive a child, but that’s not really the only reason to practice a sex fast.
Panchakarma is not a casual cleanse. Panchakarma means five actions, and these actions are cleansing and rejuvenating all of your sensory organs and channels and tissues of the body. Part of the reason people practice fasting from sex during a cleanse is because there is a lot of movement of blood and fluids, and obviously mental attention and energy, when someone has sex. When you do a cleanse intelligently, you are strategically moving blood and fluids through the body in a very intentional way, so having sex can interfere with the cleansing process. In a well-designed cleanse, you are cutting yourself off from sensory input, so that your body can get back into its natural state when it’s not influenced by so much external input. When we can forgo sensory pleasures – whatever their kind – then there is some serious healing that can happen.
A sex fast - when observed either during panchakarma or just part of your home self-care routine - can be practiced by both women and men, and it can be especially helpful for anyone depleted, dehydrated or suffering from various kinds of inflammatory issues. As I mentioned in my book, it can be a helpful practice for men when they are preparing to conceive a child with their partner because it can improve sperm quality, something we should all know about, considering that people seem to be having children later and later, while simultaneously the male sperm counts have been declining for the past several decades.
People who’ve trained to be a yoga teacher and learned any Sanskrit in the process are likely already familiar with the term brahmacharya, an idea that essentially encourages ascetic practice, including dialing it down in the sex department and other indulgences, for the purpose of developing more inward focus. And like I mentioned in my book, a sex fast may trigger anyone who had a strict religious upbringing, but it’s also an incredibly powerful self-study tool, as well as a possible therapeutic intervention for some types of mind-body imbalances.
Anyone can try a sex fast. All you have to do is, well, refrain from having sex. That’s also called abstinence. In my book, The Ayurvedic Guide to Fertility, I recommend that couples practice a sex fast for at least a month in the time leading up to trying to conceive -- just long enough to go through a full menstrual cycle for the female. But you can do it anytime you are trying to understand your own mind and body better. Set your intentions and try it!
The best perk of any fast? Maybe it's the increased sensitivity upon reintroduction!
Just remember, you can fast too long from things too, including from sex. At the end of the day, a balanced relationship with the pleasures of your senses is what you’re aiming for, unless you are on the path of becoming a monk.