Exercise Is Important
An ancient Ayurvedic authority, Caraka, wrote that the bodily movement which is meant for producing firmness and strength is known as physical exercise and one should practice it in moderation. Experts, ancient and modern, agree that daily exercise is important. Modern research indicates that ten biological markers of aging can be improved by regular exercise: muscle mass, strength, basal metabolic rate, body fat, aerobic capacity, blood pressure, blood sugar tolerance, cholesterol/HDL ratio, bone density, body temperature regulation. Circulation improves as capillaries dilate. Even walking 3 times per week for only 20 minutes was found to improve the HDL/LDL ratio. Other research found that mortality rates were 3-5 times higher for people who led sedentary lives versus those who led very dynamic lifestyles. And people of all ages benefit equally.
One way to appreciate this statistic is to look at the lymphatic system. There is no pump for this system which circulates nutrients (even undigested fats, etc.) and white blood cells, etc. (immune system components). The simple contraction and relaxation of muscles provides the impetus for their circulation. It's a simple fact of nature that disuse leads to entropy. Activity is a way that one reminds the body-mind what its purpose is. Lack of purpose is cancer--purposeful activity is health. When we direct energy (work, exercise, etc.) in an orderly way the components, as well as the whole, behave and maintain orderly functioning. Order is an expression of intelligence and knowledge--both promote longevity.
Ancient experts of Ayurveda described many benefits of exercise (Su. Ci. XXIV.42-50):
It makes the body stout and strong, helps the symmetrical growth of the limbs and muscles, improves the complexion and the digestive powers, prevents laziness and makes the body light and glossy, firm and compact. The power of enduring fatigue and weariness and the variations of temperature, thirst, etc., are the virtues that are invariably found to follow in its train. It leads to a healthy existence and is the best means of reducing corpulence....
And another writes that exercise begets lightness, endurance, firmness, stability, improved digestion and diminution of impurities. In fact, exercise is the best at producing stability in the face of difficulties or adversities. The Ayurvedic understanding of why these occur rests in the application of the principle of heat. Heat is involved in the transformation of ama (that which interferes with physiology). Exercise causes cells to generate more heat and increased activity in the circulatory system provides the vehicle for the removal of wastes from the tissues and cells throughout the body. Ama, which collects in the body, serves to block the movement of nutrients and wastes (mental, physical, or emotional) so activity is a natural means for promoting balance and well-being.
And finally, Ayurveda rejects the maxim: "No pain, no gain." Exercise benefits most if done in the early morning and should be done only to 50% of capacity. When hard breathing, heavy perspiration, or the feeling of tightness of the heart sets in, or difficulty speaking arises, then exercise has gone too far; it should go to half of the effort that brought on these symptoms. If walking a mile does this then your safe limit is Ĺ mile.
∑ Donít exercise if hungry--this aggravates vata and pitta both.
∑ Donít exercise after meals--this interferes with digestion, creates ama, and drives it into deep tissue.
∑ In cases of deep ama, strenuous exercise may be anaerobic and may create more ama, than it eliminates.
∑ Don't exercise while listening to a Walkman, reading, watching TV (as when exercising on a stationary bike).
∑ Donít do strenuous exercise in cold weather--this increases vata and kapha leading to lung problems.
∑ Avoid strenuous exercise in conditions of air pollution.
∑ Best time for exercise is 6 AM to 9 AM when following an Ayurvedic routine of early to bed and to rise.
∑ Learn to enjoy all of what you are doing and how you feel all the time.
∑ Learn to promote balance in life with rest and activity done regularly and with moderation.
Copyright 1994 Michael Dick All Rights Reserved www.ayurveda-florida.com