The Purpose of Exercising:
Under normal circumstances, exercising one’s body Sportstech would not be necessary. Man, like every other animal, was meant to live in nature, have plenty of fresh air, and be involved in enough physical activity to keep the body fit and vital. Technological and economic advancements, however, have led to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, which requires physical exercise to keep our bodies healthy and strong.
The purpose of physical exercise is not just to prove to ourselves that we are able to defy the aging process, look good, or prevent a heart attack. Exercise also enhances our capacity to digest food and eliminate physical and emotional impurities. Furthermore, it increases firmness and suppleness, as well as our ability to deal with stressful situations. The lymphatic system, especially, which drains toxic and noxious substances from the connective tissues of the organs and muscles, depends on the daily movement of all the parts of the body. Unlike the blood, which has a heart to circulate it around the body, the lymph fluid has no such direct pumping device to do the same. The lymphatic system heavily relies on the breathing mechanism and how well we use it. When the muscle responsible for the breathing action of the lungs (diaphragm) extends into the abdomen, it exerts great pressure on the intestinal lymph vessels, thereby squeezing their contents. This forces the lymph to move through the lymph ducts, such as the thoracic duct. Thus, each inhalation and exhalation acts as an indirect pump for the lymphatic system. Shallow breathing that results from a sedentary lifestyle (and intestinal congestion) has a detrimental effect on proper lymph drainage. Exercise can greatly improve lymphatic functions and thereby prevent a multitude of diseases.
Physical exercise is a great immune-stimulant if done in moderation, and it also improves neuromuscular integration in all age groups. Its effect of boosting self-confidence and self-esteem stems, to some extent, from the improved oxygen supply to the cells and the resulting well-being in all parts of the body and mind. Exercise is an excellent means of increasing happiness in life, especially if it involves challenges that require creativity.
The conventional approach to exercise promotes the belief that a good workout takes you to the limits of your endurance, leaving you exhausted and tired. This is not true. Exercise that exhausts your body is an indirect act of violence that the body perceives as a kind of punishment for not performing well enough. The pain that shows in people’s faces when they struggle through a tough workout program is an indication that the body is suffering from overexertion. This sort of exercise defeats its purpose. Any form of strong physical exertion upsets Vata and causes the secretion of abnormal amounts of stress hormones such as adrenaline; this leaves the body restless and shaky. The body, thus depleted of energy, is unable to do the repair work that arises from the demanding workout, leaving the cardiovascular system weak and vulnerable to other stress factors.
Post-exercise exhaustion is a serious cause of illness that affects many unsuspecting people who think they are doing themselves a favor by pushing their bodies to the limit. In the excitement of competitive sports, you may not be aware at first how strenuously you are exerting yourself, but once the adrenaline rush is over, the side effects start kicking in. Besides exhaustion and possible injury, professional athletes are more likely to suffer from a deficient immune system, which makes the body prone to infections and other ailments. For this reason, athletes consume a much larger quantity of prescribed drugs than the average person does. The thymus gland, which activates lymphocytes and controls energy supplies, may actually shrink in size and leave the body weak and debilitated as a direct result of over conditioning the body and stressing the mind.
Exercise According to the Doshas:
Exercise is best done according to one’s capacity and psycho-physiological body type. A Vata type, who has the lowest capacity for exercise, benefits mostly from such easy ways of keeping fit as walking, dancing, bicycling, taking short hikes, balancing and stretching. Vatas generally do well with Yoga, Tai Chi, and Chi Kung. Since Vata types experience energy in bursts, they should be particularly careful not to overexert themselves. When their energy suddenly drops, they can feel depleted for a long time afterward. This often results in depression.
Pitta types, being competitive by nature, are equipped with more drive and energy than Vatas. They generally are not satisfied with the more ordinary forms of working out. To achieve physical satisfaction, they need a more goal-oriented exercise program. However, they also do not have boundless energy and are better off exercising in moderation.Pittas feel challenged by hiking in the mountains, skiing, jogging, swimming, playing tennis or engaging in other sports that generate in them a sense of achievement.
In sports, you can easily recognize the unbalanced Pitta types. They are often bad losers and may get angry if they feel they are ‘not good enough’. Pittas who get angry while performing should look for a less competitive exercise program to increase their level of satisfaction. Since excessive heat is a sign of unbalanced Pitta, swimming, which has a cooling influence, is one of the best forms of exercise for them. A walk in the cool forest is another excellent way to pacify an unbalanced Pitta type.
Kapha types are the ideal candidates for a good or moderately heavy workout. Weight training, running, rowing, some aerobics, long distance bicycling, dancing for a long time, playing football, basketball and tennis are all very suitable for a Kapha. The Kapha type’s steady energy gives him the necessary endurance and stamina to last through long competitive games without feeling tired. Exercise will clear out any excessive Kapha congestion, remove excessive water and fat, and improve general circulation. This will leave him feeling refreshed and buoyant afterward.
Basic Guidelines for Healthy Exercise:
It is best not to exercise at more than 50 percent of your capacity, whatever that means to you. The purpose of exercising is not to prove to others how capable you are, but to derive personal benefit and satisfaction from it. If you are able to run for 30 minutes before you are tired, then make the choice to run for only 15 minutes. Getting tired during exercise defeats its very purpose. Feeling refreshed, revitalized and energetic afterward indicates that the workout has been successful. In due time, your capacity for exercise will naturally increase on its own.
Stop exercising when you feel the need to breathe through the mouth. Once you are forced to breathe through the mouth, rather than through the nose, you have gone beyond the 50 percent threshold of your capacity for exercise at that time. This is a sign that your body has moved into the adrenaline-breathing mode, which uses up your basic energy reserves and depletes cellular oxygen. You have reached your limit when you feel your heart pounding violently, you begin to sweat profusely, or your body shakes. In that case it is good to finish off with a short period of walking and breathing normally. The basic rule is always to breathe through the nose and not through the mouth. Exercise to the point of perspiration once a day.
You need good, strong muscles to meet the typical demands of the day, such as climbing stairs, carrying groceries, picking up young children, cleaning your home, riding horseback, swimming in a lake, going for a hike or bike ride, or performing other natural activities, without being at risk for injury. The best way to increase muscle tone and strength is to quickly raise heart and muscle activity to the point of panting, followed by a period of low activity (called ‘active recovery’). One to two-minute intervals (of activity and rest) are ideal. Doing this for 10-20 minutes per day has more benefits than engaging in hours of strenuous exercise. Besides, it increases muscle tone, lung capacity and heart health. During the panting phases, the body uses up its complex sugar reserves in the muscles. For those who desire weight loss, this method causes you to lose weight after exercising, as the body tries to replenish its lost sugar reserves by breaking down fat deposits while you are resting. Weight loss achieved during strenuous endurance exercise programs, on the other hand, tends to be reversed because the body tries to quickly replenish the lost fat deposits in order to prepare itself for the next energy-depleting round of exercise. The body perceives the strenuous exercise as a threat. Vata and Pitta types are those who are affected most negatively by strenuous exercise. Pure Kapha types are the only people who can benefit from it.
It is best to exercise during daylight hours. The best capacity for exercise is available during the Kapha period in the morning (6:00-10:00 a.m.) and at the end of the Vata period in the afternoon (5:00-6:00 p.m.). The benefits of exercise increase dramatically when it is done in sunlight.
Ayurveda discourages exercising after sundown. Allow the body to slow down in the evening and prepare itself for a restful and rejuvenating sleep. Never exercise just before or after a meal, as this impairs AGNI, the digestive fire, and causes indigestion. However, walking for 15 minutes after meals works as a good digestive aid. Always drink water before and after exercising to prevent the blood from thickening and the cells from becoming dehydrated.
A note of caution about aerobic exercise:
The medical journal, Lancet, reported that aerobic exercise can cause deadly arterial clogging and heart disease in those who had never before had heart trouble. According to The American Journal of Cardiology, jogging has similarly caused some runners to drop dead from heart attacks. Their autopsies show severe coronary artery disease. Any regular, strenuous form of exercise actually does about as much damage to your heart as continuous stress does. The heart literally comes under constant attack via the excessive exercise sessions. Marathon runners are known to lose muscle mass, both in the heart and the rest of the body. Many have dropped dead just after reaching the finishing line. Short distance sprinters, on the other hand, develop healthy muscles and strong hearts.
Vigorous weight training can be equally damaging. It leads to abnormally enlarged, bloated muscle fibers that actually become dysfunctional and prone to injuries. Oversized muscles constantly use up a lot of precious energy (complex sugar reserves), energy that your body requires for its more important activities. Weight training also adds excessive muscle tissue to parts of the body where it was never designed to be, thus hindering natural patterns of movement. Lifting heavy weights can also raise your blood pressure and increase the risk of strokes and aneurysms. By nature, the human body was not made to deal with the additional gravitational force imposed upon it while lifting heavy weights. Frequently stressing the joints, muscles and tendons causes them to age prematurely. Excessive weight training can cause permanent damage to the body.