Sunday 15 October 2017

Achieving complete fitness!

Close your eyes and think of the word "fitness." What is the image that conjures up in your mind? A man or a woman who is lean, muscular and athletic. That is definitely one dimension of fitness but not the complete package. Complete fitness encompasses both the body and the mind; that is, being physically fit as well as mentally calm and peaceful.  
What is mental fitness? Which gym membership does one have to enroll in, to get mentally and emotionally fit? This is the secret that the East has to offer in the form of meditation practices and breathing techniques (Pranayamas). A prayer is also a form of mental fitness, as it gives us peace of mind.  
Most of the time, one of these dimensions is neglected. There are those who focus on physical fitness and are regular with their exercise and gym attendance, yet neglect the mind. While there are others who are very regular in their meditation practice and prayer but neglect having a regular workout routine. 
The benefits of a regular exercise routine are well known, but the knowledge of how the breath and meditation impact our mind is still a little vague. Before I started meditating, I was like a volcano, ready to burst at the slightest provocation. I was living on the edge and was emotionally very charged. This had a significant impact on my health and relationships. After I started meditating, things started transforming slowly. A realization dawned on me and I was not blowing my fuse at the drop of a hat. Over time, my reactions turned to response, which helped me tremendously in my personal and professional life.  
Seekers who are on the spiritual path sometimes forget about the value of health and physical fitness. Swami Vivekananda once said, "You will be nearer to heaven through football than through the study of the Gita." He did not mean that one does not need to read Bhagavad Gita, but he extolled us to be physically strong. He went on to say "What we want is vigor in the blood, strength in the nerves, iron muscles and nerves of steel, not softening namby-pamby ideas."

Whether it in the realm of the body or the mind, workout requires discipline. We need to dedicate time in our schedule to our physical fitness as well as to the practices of breathing and meditation. These practices will enrich our lives and make us truly healthy.
Fitness reminds me of a saying from the Sikh tradition, "Sant Sipahi" (a saintly warrior).  You are calm and peaceful inside with a clean heart and fit and dynamic as a fighting soldier.  
Physical fitness brings about confidence and courage, while mental fitness brings out empathy, centeredness, and dynamism.  
Let us all strive to be "completely fit."

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