An age old proverb says:“Your body is the sole medium to achieve whatever you desire, so respect it and care enough so that it can enjoy the fruits of your labour”. But working tirelessly, earning bountifully, eating heartily and enjoying like there is no tomorrow, has becomethe ultimate summarisation of a successful life. Many of us have even achieved this feat and are living enviable lives. But as the old saying goes, ‘all that glitters is not gold’, there has to be a blot on the perfect picture. In the pursuit of ideal lives we forget about something very important i.e. our body.
Ayurved has taught us to maintain equilibrium throughout our lives. Guidelines about the ideal way of living in terms of DINACHARYA(daily regimen), RATRICHARYA(night regimen), and RITUCHARYA (seasonal regimen) have been given in the texts which are relevant in today’s era more than ever. This is pioneering information as far as preventive medicine is concerned. If we were to follow it today, almost 90% of the deadly disorders, human kind is suffering from today will vaporize in thin air. Along with basics like how to eat or sleep ideally, there is ample information about how to exercise or work out too.
VYAYAMor in simple terms, “Exercise” is considered to be crucial and should ideally be an inseparable part of one’s DINACHARYA(daily regimen) according to Ayurved. Definition according to Acharya Charak is:“Such a mannered physical action which is desirable and is capable of bringing about bodily stability and strength is known as VYAYAMA.” It underlines the importance of physical fitness thousands of years ago and in today’s era too wherein lifestyle disorders like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, arthritis are a part of everybody’s life.
Benefits of exercising everyday are unlimited. Physical exercise gives lightness to the body, increases its stamina and endurance, stability and potential for tolerance. It helps in elimination of the bodily toxins/ defects and augments the appetite. It boosts the immune power, imparts vigour and vitality. Physical exercise is a must to avoid or reduce obesity. It improves muscle and bone strength, strengthens the nervous system, improves blood circulation and induces sweating. Regular exercise helps in healthy functioning of the autonomic nervous system which is an easy target in this hectic and stressful era.
Although the benefits are plenty, Ayurved has warned against inappropriate exercising with respect to indications, contraindications, ideal time, ideal quantity and ideal place of exercise.
Physical exercise should only be done in a place which is well ventilated, with plenty of sunlight and not in too cold or hot, closed, clogged chambers. An air conditioned fitness centre wherein many people are working out together is not an ideal place to exercise according to the guidelines of Ayurved.
Quantity of exercise is also an important point which cannot be ignored. All individuals differ from each other and so the time should differ too. Ayurved has answered this question in a very interesting way which says, one should exercise till one has attained ‘BALAARDH’. BALA- ARDHA is half the capacity of an individual and this is how to assess our BALA- ARDHA. When an individual starts breathing through mouth (gasps), when sweat appears over the forehead, nose, in arm pits and on the joints, one should stop exercising as he reaches bala-ardha. This fact is ignored in today’s work out regimes wherein the focus is shifted from health and fitness to visual display of physical assets. But the side effects of exercising beyond capacity are gruesome like severe weakness, circulatory failures, cardiac weakness, recurrent dyspnoea, fever, respiratory weakness and weakened joints.
Exercise is contraindicated for those who are exhausted and emaciated due to excessive physical labour, sexual activity,walking and for those who are in grip of anger, grief, fear, exhaustion and for children, aged people and for individuals having VATA constitution.Professionally,individuals who have to talk a lot are also contraindicated from exercising as it further leads to VATA PRAKOP. Also, one shouldn’t exercise when hungry or thirsty as well.
There are seasonal guidelines as well. It is advised to avoid exercising completely in summer season, to do moderate, passive exercises in rainy season and swimming should be done in autumn. By the onset of spring one should resort to full-fledged exercising. VYAYAMA should ideally be done in the morning before 10 am when the climate is cold and pleasant. Noon and afternoon should be avoided. Evenings can be resorted to passive exercises and techniques which will promote good sleep.
The type of exercise to be performed is also of utmost importance. According to Ayurveda it largely depends upon ones constitution, age, country, etc. People with KAPHA constitution are comparatively strong and tending to be obese. They can do heavy exercises and work out.
Individuals with PITTA constitution should do moderate exercises whereas VATA people being thin and frail should do slow and mild forms of exercises.
Exercises should indeed be an integral part of our daily regimen but in the process of being fitness jerks we should not forget about exercising our minds as well. There are many exercise forms and types e.g. Aerobics, Gym workouts, Pilates, Zumba, Garuda, Power work outs and many more. People club in YOGA also along with these types. But even after being globally accepted as the way of life, Yoga has been totally misunderstood by many. Yoga the term implies ‘to join’, joining of body with the mind, joining of the outer being with the inner one. It celebrates the conglomeration of the individual spirit with the universal spirit. But the term is easily being taken for the physical aspect of it ignoring the deeper meaning beyond. The various asanas, pranayamas, kriyas that are being taught in every nook and corner are the initial steps of the process of ENLIGHTENMENT desired by YOGA. It is indeed beneficial to learn them and practice in everyday life but that needs to be done with eyes wide open and with a broader mind-set. In today’s era of overwhelming emotional, mental and physical and mental stress it is the need of the hour for every individual to learn yoga and incorporate it in daily life.But yes, it should be LEARNT and not practised watching some live yoga workshops on TV or CDs or magazines.
Exercises or Yogic practices of any kind should be done only after giving a thought to your constitution. Healthy or otherwise, if you are not used to any kind of physical activity, it is due time now to include some in your daily schedule to enjoy the benefits of a long and healthy life. Similarly,if you are suffering from disorders like spondylitis, arthritis, cardiac anomalies, circulatory disorders, nervous disorders, respiratory disorders or other acute illnesses it is better to consult the specialists and learn those techniques. Self-prescription of any kind is wrong. There are multiple cases of pain and anomalies as a result of faulty exercise patterns. Just listen to your body and go slow. Today the concept of HEALTH & DISEASE MANAGEMENT is changing. Not just medication but LIFESTYLE INTERVENTION has become the need of the hour especially in chronic illnesses.VYAYAMA or EXERCISE forms an integral part of the same.
Dr. Sujal Torgal Patil
TRAYA NATURAL HEALTH CENTRE