Observing Ramadan

by Neda Ahson

Neda is the Director of Customer Service and Events at the Collective, and along with other managers and teachers she has been observing Ramadan. In our admiration for their dedication to fast each day until sundown, we asked if she would teach us more about this holy month and what it means to her and others in our Bella Prāṇa Community.

The famous mystic poet Rumi once said “fasting blinds the body in order to open the eyes of your soul”. Approximately 1442 years ago, fasting – or refraining from food and drink (yes, even water) was prescribed to guide us to self-restraint. As time progressed, there became more and more distractions and temptations in society which could be consumed- both physically and mentally, and this practice, extending over a month-long period for every day from sunrise to sunset was intended to enact self-restraint and enable community, where many others around the world are engaging in the same act to “purify” themselves and potentially form habit (as it takes 30 days to form one).

Ramadan, or the holy month of fasting and forgiveness is the ninth month of the Lunar calendar, where it is believed that the Abrahamic God gave the Prophet Muhammad the Qu’ran, Islam’s holy book, in 610 A.D- placing him in charge of carrying God’s message across the Arabian Peninsula. It became a month to commune more deeply with God but also the self- a beneficial opportunity to become more aware of God’s mercy and to seek forgiveness. In this month now, I find time for requisite pause, a reset of daily routine, and a respite to orient our lives toward the healthy path – reminding us of the reality and triviality of our temporal world, how distractions and temptations will come and go, but our connection to our highest self- all that is good & real- will always remain. 

Refraining from food and drink while practicing yoga has definitely had an effect on my practice but it’s not anything I’d change, as it makes me have even greater appreciation for all of the luxuries we do have and forces us to have empathy for those who are less fortunate. Willingly fasting and feeling hunger pangs reminds that it is all too common a feeling for so many- as our Hot 26 instructor Maryam Bakht said “there are many worldwide who do not have the choice to eat or not eat or drink or not drink”. She also said that it gives her good insight into her own experience as an instructor, generally being impervious to the heat- but now without water, she says she appreciates the students’ intense experience, and is “very proud of their resilience”. 

The ability to refrain from indulgence in the material world can also be explained through the yogic principle/yama brahmacharya, or moderation- taking the middle path rather than swinging between extremes, using self-restraint, and freeing the mind from domination by the senses. Practicing self-restraint in this form helps liberate us from the cycle of grasping, clinging, and aversion. Rather than allowing our energies to be depleted by things that are transient, meaningless, or that do not truly serve us, we conserve inner resources for pursuits that take us further on the path of higher consciousness. 

Additionally, the connecting threads to the original wisdom are also formed by the principle/niyama of saucha, or cleanliness or purity in all forms of living but particularly as quoted in the Yoga Sutras “through cleanliness and purity of body and mind comes a purification of the essence, a goodness and gladness of feeling, a sense of focus with intentness, the mastery and union of the senses, and a fitness, preparation and capability for self-realization.” This inner work/cleansing is the work that will allow us to become the best version of ourselves- it is tempting to look to a book, lecture or person who can give us the answer of what we should do. However, in order to find true peace, we should try to reflect on what makes us feel most pure, enabling the best of intentions which will lead to the best outcomes. 

The biggest takeaway from halfway through this month of self-restraint at this point in my life is that I am completely surrendering to the ‘greater good’ and not forcing anything- the rituals and acts are only as good as the intent, and that is all I can control- what I intend. The act of surrender, or submitting one’s will to the ‘master plan’ or whatever you believe, is truly admirable and honorable in my opinion. It’s what I’ll continually work on in this journey- bowing & surrendering to the source of all good- everything else, I’m simply allowing to happen, and watching it all while singing songs of gratitude. 

by Neda Ahson, at the Bella Prāṇa Wellness Collective in Tampa Florida, a yoga and meditation studio.