Why Exercise ?

Some principles which help in determining the need for and the right kind of exercise:

  • The theory of use and disuse by Lamarck states “that which is put to use develops and unused degenerates and disappears.”
  • Various parts of the body – from organ system level down to cellular level need exercise. The physical body is built of trillions of cells, each cell containing a miniature life and energy for a definite function. Individual lives are really only bits of some degree of intelligence enabling the cells to work properly.
  • Various cells of the body, which are used like building bricks, get their energy and nourishment through the blood stream. Ensuring proper circulation and supply of oxygen is thus an important purpose of exercise.
  • The  physical body is not on its own. It is closely connected and influenced by the mental body/state. Hence the right exercise regimen should also have a positive effect on the mental domain.
  • The yogic philosophy takes this a step forward and states that it should have a positive effect on the pranic energy as well. It is well-known fact that all the three – physical body, pranic/vital energy and mental state of an individual are closely related.
  • The five factors that influence the efficiency of a muscular act – the initial stretch of the muscles, temperature, the viscosity of the muscles, the speed performance and fatigue.

With this background let us take a look on the right kind of exercise needed for our body.

Right Exercise

The modern physical fitness programs are designed to develop the muscles. Fitness experts try to enhance fitness by mechanical movements and exercises. Muscular development of the body does not necessarily mean a healthy body, as is commonly assumed, for health is a state when all organs function perfectly under the intelligent control of the mind. Yogic exercises apart from developing the body also broadens the mental faculties. Through this one also can develop the ability to master over the involuntary muscles and systems in the body.

The main purpose of exercise is to increase the circulation and the intake of oxygen.  This can be achieved by simple movements of the spine and various joints of the body, with breath awareness and deep breathing but without violent movement of the muscles. During strenuous exercises, for instance, we are unable – even though respiration is deeper and faster – to breathe in enough oxygen to meet muscular demands. An oxygen debt is created.  This debt is the difference between the amount of oxygen actually needed by the active muscles and what is actually received. In moderate exercise the oxygen supply can keep pace with the oxygen used and no oxygen debt results. The only residual effects will be a depletion of the carbohydrate reservation and a need for more protein to be used in rebuilding the cells that broke down in activity.

In strenuous exercise programs, the greatest limiting factor for the maintenance of severe exertion is the oxygen supply. Even though the spleen is stimulated to contract and discharge red blood cells into the blood, the intake of oxygen cannot meet the muscular demands for it, so, lactic acid is accumulated in muscle and in blood. Without enough oxygen to reconvert, fatigue sets in. There is a limit to the size of the oxygen debt that an individual can incur and here is where slow-motion exercises of yoga help.

Moderately, loading a muscle is the most efficient way of getting the most work done. When not stretched enough, the muscle is not very efficient. Although viscosity is wasteful of efficiency, it is really an inherent reason of safety.  It acts as a brake to prevent muscles from responding so fast as to tear themselves apart. A moderate speed of performance is, therefore, more efficient. It is now being recognised that driving a man at his work to the point of exhaustion is not practical, with regard to the health of the person, or about getting more and better work done.

Moderate and consistent Yogic exercises, aside from making you feel better and relaxed, can help your body to become more adequate for the demands placed upon it.  Moreover, a well-trained body helps a great deal to train the mind.

Most common causes of fatigue are heart trouble, diabetes, kidney infections, and glandular disorders. Most of these symptoms could be easily removed with natural diet, relaxation, breathing, and Yogic exercises.

Yogic exercises pay great attention to the spinal column and other joints.  Moreover, they keep up an even supply of blood to every part of the body by helping to increase circulation and keep arteries elastic. The elasticity of the arteries also plays an important role in preserving health for it maintains the pressure between beats of the heart.  It keeps the blood flowing steadily.  The flow of the blood would be intermittent with inelastic arteries; a spurt would seem with each systole. With elastic arteries, the blood is forced steadily along the capillaries and veins.

Yogic exercises are mainly designed to keep the proper curvature of the spine and to increase its flexibility by stretching the anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments.

Long before the modern scientists knew anything about the endocrine glands and their functions, the Yogis advocated exercises for these important endocrine glands.  Yogis knew that the endocrine system affects the emotions of the mind, and vice versa. Yogic postures help to strengthen the endocrine system through exercise, and bring the emotions under control through concentration and relaxation.

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