Exercise & Its Significance

Words: Dr Kundan CHAUDHURI

Vyayam [exercise] has been an important part of the Ayurveda routine for thousands of years. Our ancient scholars often emphasised on it because it has several benefits on mind and body. Nowadays, people are suffering from a host of diseases, such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, joint disorders and diseases due to aging etc.

The cause of these diseases are primarily due to lack of proper exercise. Exercise, in a proper way, enhances firmness and endurance in the body; it increases our ability to do work. It pacifies all three doshas and creates balance in them when conducted according to one’s prakriti [constitution], age and season.

Vata types need less exercise, so lighter activities such as walking are best. Pitta types need moderate amounts of exercise, such as swimming, for example, and kapha types need more intense exercise, such as jogging and aerobics, in order to stay in balance.

As regards the seasons, if one wants to increase exercise, winter and spring months are the best. During hot weather, one needs to decrease exertion and stay away from the hot sun. As for age, children have the added capacity for exercise and older people the least, although daily exercise is essential at any age. Exercise enhances digestion, and, if done properly, it dissolves impurities [toxins] in the tissues. It enhances immunity, eliminates fatigue, stops early aging, and impedes weight gain and can, thus, improve one’s quality of life [QoL].

Introduction

Ayurveda is an ancient holistic science of life. It not only describes the principles of preservation and promotion of health, but it also states the treatment of various ailments. According to Ayurveda, a person is regarded as healthy when the doshas, agni, dhatus and malas of their body are in equilibrium and, in addition to these, the soul, mind and other sense organs are in a pleasant state. As for keeping the body and mind healthy, Ayurveda prescribes specific regimens, viz., dinocharya, ritucharya, swasthavritta etc.

Vyayam [exercise] is a unique practice described in Ayurveda in detail. It is good for the mind, body, and soul. And, it is not possible for one to keep good health without proper exercise. But, excessive exercise is not good for health. It should be performed according to one’s prakriti [constitution], vaya [age], ritu [season], desha [habitat], kala [time] and patya [diet] described in Ayurveda; otherwise, the person may invite, or suffer from. disease.

Definition Of Vyayam [Exercise]

The work involving exertion of the body is known as vyayama [physical exertion]. After doing it, one should press the body gently all over. Maharshi Charaka defined exercise in the following way. Such a physical action which is desirable and is capable of bodily stability and strength is known as physical exercise. This has to be practiced in moderation.

Advantage Of Exercise

According to Maharshi Charaka, the utilities of exercise are as follows:

Physical exercise brings about lightness, ability to work, stability, resistance to discomfort and alleviation of doshas [especially, kapha].

Effects Of Excessive Exercise

Physical exercise in excess, according to Maharshi Charaka, causes exertion, exhaustion, consumption, thirst, bleeding from different parts of the body [raktapitta], pratamaka [a type of dyspnoea, or difficulty in breathing], cough, fever and vomiting.

Salient Features Of Proper Exercise

Perspiration, enhanced respiration, lightness of the body, toning of the heart and such other organs of the body are indicative of the exercise being performed correctly.

Contraindications Of Exercise

Exercise is contraindicated for persons who are emaciated due to excessive sexual activity, weightlifting and travelling on foot, or are in the grip of anger, grief, fear, exhaustion. It is also contraindicated for the children, for old persons and others who are having vatika constitution and in the profession of speaking too much. Also, one should not do exercise while hungry and thirsty. Most Ayurveda acharyas suggest that exercise may be contraindicated in indigestion and also diseases caused by vata and pitta doshas.

Types Of Exercises & Their Benefits

Morning walk. Morning walk is the first and most common exercise. It is suited for almost all constitutions. Diabetic patients should do morning walk regularly as it is good for their health.

Gymnastic exercises. One must do gymnastic exercises only under the guidance of an experienced trainer. Gymnastics may be positively injurious to weak constitutions.

Yoga. Yoga helps us to control our mind as well as body. Yoga is a mixture of physical, mental and spiritual exercises. Yoga is good for everyone. One must do yoga regularly. To give more importance to yoga now in our country, Yoga Day is celebrated on June 21, every year.

Free-hand exercises. These are simple exercises that can be easily followed by everyone.

Aerobics. Aerobics means using, or requiring, more oxygen. These exercises are performed to make the body consume more oxygen. Aerobics helps to improve the condition of the circulatory system and the heart. Examples: cycling, swimming etc.

Anaerobic. It means not using, or requiring, more oxygen. These exercises are highly intensive and, therefore, performed for a short duration of time. Example: weightlifting.

Flexibility. It means to stretch one’s body as much as one can without any difficulty. These exercises are performed to improve joint flexibility and muscular mobility. Example: stretching.

Conclusion

Both mental development and physical exercise are very much essential for a healthy and happy life. Exercise is necessary for having a sound mind in a sound body. It increases energy levels and delivers oxygen and nutrients to the whole body, while helping it to work more efficiently and, in the process, boosting one’s endurance. Limbs grow stronger by constant physical work. But, excessive exercise is detrimental to health. So, taking out some time to rest is as important as exercise and one should perform exercises according to their prakriti [constitution], vaya [age], ritu [season], desha [habitat], kala [time] and patya [diet]; otherwise, it may cause health issues.

Mental and physical development are important to succeed in life. Exercise, therefore, is essential for our overall development and progress in life.

Dr KUNDAN CHAUDHURI is a Reader in Panchakarma, G J Patel Ayurveda College and Hospital, New Vallabh Vidyanagar, Anand, Gujarat, India. This article was originally published in ©Scholars International Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, June 2019; 2[4]: 57-58, under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License [CC-BY-NC].

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