Our reader Siglap Yogi attempts a fast in Koh Samui, Thailand.
It seemed like a good plan. Spend the week before Christmas doing a monitored fasting program. Even before the festive season I had been feeling toxic, with too many parties, lack of sleep, and more than the usual caffeine. For someone who generally eats and exercises well, I felt like a strict program was something needed with the downward nutritional spiral of Christmas and the New Year looming.
After looking at various options, I chose Dharma Healing, a well-known, independent outfit headed by the vivacious Hillary Hitt. The course was straight forward – spend seven days fasting, with a daily routine consisting of nutritional classes, yoga, and meditation, and daily colonics (gulp). I could stand to lose two or three kilograms, but the aim was to get back on track with my health. I signed up the week before, and flew in late on the Sunday.
Day 1 – Monday
After getting to know the rest of the group, which consists of a couple from Brooklyn, some execs from the UK, Switzerland, and Singapore, a yoga teacher, and a stay-at-home mom from Dubai, our international crew sit tentatively, waiting for the course to begin. The group is a mixture of well-seasoned fasters and some who have never attempted to skip a meal, let alone do a cleanse or a fast.
We are given our basic instructions on how the week would go – daily doses of bentonite clay to clear out toxins, followed by a homemade blend of herbs to kill bacteria and parasites, shots of vitamin C as well as a self-administered coffee colonic. Two coconut waters a day are allowed.
I tentatively swallow the bentonite clay. Rather than the gag reflex coming into play, it is surprisingly ingestible. The herbs are not as kind. The mixture is extremely bitter. Hillary explains that the bitter taste actually creates a response in the body which stimulates cleansing. Modern life unfortunately has skewed us to sweet tastes, suppressing the sour and bitter.
An overview on nutrition and the role it plays in our bodies is the focus for the afternoon. By then, I am noticeably hungry. By dinnertime, very much so. I have my first complimentary Thai massage on a bale near the beach, which feels wonderful. The evening sharing time consists of a homemade broth (with all vegetables strained out). The broth is bland, but warm. I add as much lime juice and chili as I can muster, thinking the calories will do me good. Sleep comes early, and the hunger is overwhelming.
Day 2 – Tuesday
The day starts with the familiar routine of walking to get fresh water and coffee (not to drink but for the colonic!). Then drinking of clay, the self-administered colonic, and herbs. The entire process takes upwards of 90 minutes, and I find myself rushing for morning yoga. The rest of the day we learn about the importance of enzymes and raw food. More vitamin water, herbal tea, and a coconut.
A headache comes up in full force, rare for me, which I learn is a common occurrence for those detoxing from coffee. All I can think about is my daily Starbucks Vanilla Latte.
Another massage on the beach completes the afternoon, and the evening has a guest speaker discussing the benefits of a Regression session. I am not convinced, but quietly slurp my evening broth, which is pumpkin flavor. It tastes exactly the same as the cumin soup from the previous evening. I wonder if it is really one and the same, but quietly soldier on.
Day 3 – Wednesday
The low point. I wake up with every joint in my body in pain. Theories pop into my head, ranging from excess acidity in my cells coming out and attacking the joints to simply having slept in a wrong position. Either way, my head and body hurt, and I wonder if I have done myself a disservice.
My shorts are noticeably baggy, and I know I have already dropped at least five pounds. I lie down while listening to the morning discussion on food combining and protein structures.
Although today is the day for our liver flush, my girlfriend and I have booked in with the colonic guy on the island – Chalong, who is about an hour away. We travel to him in the afternoon and embark on a three-hour escapade – consisting of a 90 minute massage and a 90 minute colonic treatment. It is well worth it. Coming out, my head is clearer, and I feel a bit better. We sneak a fresh squeezed green juice on our way home, and go to bed early, missing out on the evening discussion on astrology.
Day 4 – Thursday
Energy starts to return. The joint pain is less. Morning yoga, followed by a day of preparing raw food in the kitchen.
Photos from left to right:
Sprouted wheat; homemade dough from the sprouted wheat; making dehydrated “raw” crackers
We drink a wonderful juice, made with fresh pineapple, greens, carrots, ginger, and chili. The influx of calories is delicious and brings back a lot of energy. Suddenly the fast seems easy and doable. The afternoon is spent relaxing on the beach. That evening, we are lucky to experience the seaweed soup, as the chef has left behind a few morsels of nori, kelp, and wakame in the broth. After being away from food for so long, it is amazing how in tune your body is with any type of food, and absolutely grateful for it.
After the broth, we settle in for Yoga Nidra, a lying down version of yoga where the instructor brings us through several mental poses. Our instructor drapes mosquito nets above us, and the mood is very convivial, with some of the group joking about memories of camping as children.
I sleep soundly for the first time that week.
Day 5 – Friday
We do our liver flush that we missed on Wednesday, which consists of drinking Epsom salts followed by a juice made with orange juice, olive oil, and cayenne pepper. It tastes delicious. The tummy starts to gurgle quickly and we soon realize our movements may be limited. As it is a free day, I spend the time sourcing raw nuts from the local market, and relaxing on the beach. Some people opt for bodywork or regression sessions and all come back with raving reviews.
Day 6 – Saturday
The week is almost complete. I finish the nutrition course, and begin packing.
The rest of the group will be breaking fast Sunday night. As I am leaving early, I will be doing it in Singapore. We are advised on how to break the fast, slowly, with one food at a time, while the body assimilates.
Strangely this is the first day I feel I have my full energy back, and I haven’t eaten in almost a week!
The week has been good and informative but the course isn’t tailored to each individual, and while I feel clean and healthy, I am slightly concerned about the amount of weight I have lost, which weighs in at a final total of 6 kg. More than I anticipated.
Conclusion: As a basic course, to get a thorough understanding of nutrition, why fasting is good for the body, and how to nourish your body going forward, highly recommended. However, as someone who isn’t necessarily looking to lose weight, next time I will opt for a slightly more flexible program such as a cleanse, which would include juices throughout the day.
Cleanses at Dharma Healing International, Koh Samui, Thailand – from 20,000 baht per week.