Exercise – the 3rd Pillar of Yoga

A healthy body is a flexible, energetic and strong body. The same goes for the mind. Yoga Asanas (the postures) is an excellent method to get all three at the same time. It strengthens the muscles, makes the body flexible and with the correct breathing is a good cardio workout, too, like running. Often we are the obstacle to our own exercise and health.

kranti-pose
Kranti Londhe, Pune India

Our bodies want to be used, but not abused. They cooperate with us and help us adapt to our environment. A cell that is not used is “told” to deteriorate and reintegrate with the ecosystem. We are meant to move and exercise in a gentle way. Some of us might feel good doing extreme sports, but the fact is that too much of them create inflammation. Not many know that marathon runners or triathlon trainers run a higher risk of certain cancer forms than the general public!

The yogic way to exercise is to listen to the body during the exercise, whatever it is, and also after.  How do you feel, sleep, digest, etc? It should be pleasant but mostly it should just be done. Find the time and if you haven’t got much time, do it at home. Run on the spot without going out, or dance wildly to your best beat. Running is time efficient and if you can’t run and it feels awkward, this is how you get started: walk fast, run for 30 seconds or until you hyperventilate, walk fast, run again, walk again, etc. Before you know it you can run for 30 minutes without having to walk and that’s all you need per day. This is called interval-trying, when you train your heart gently and not reach the point of loosing your breath for long.

Which type of exercise we like depends on our Dosha (metabolic type). Only lifting weights at the gym doesn’t seem to do much for our cardio health, and if one doesn’t stretch well after each machine it makes us inflexible too. Muscles need to carry us, to get a good safe posture, not make us stiff by putting pressure on joints and the spine. If you still want to do weights, make sure you stretch well after every machine, and don’t forget your heart – run!

Yoga regards the body as a ‘vehicle’ for the soul on its journey towards connection. Yogic physical exercises are designed to develop not only the body but also the mind, and in doing that the energetic part of us grows. The Yogic physical exercises are called Asanas, a term which means ¨steady pose.¨ This is because the Yoga Asana (or posture) is meant to be held for some time. However, this is quite an advanced practice. Initially, our concern is simply to increase body flexibility.

The body is as young as it is flexible. Yoga exercises focus on the health of the spine, its strength, flexibility and posture. The spinal column houses the nervous system. By stretching muscles and other tissues, it can let go of toxins. Circulation is also increased and the cells are ensured their supply of nutrients and oxygen. Asanas done with respect affect the whole of you, internal organs, the endocrine system, the brain and your awareness of life. I love it!

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