Ayurvedic Exercise: Are You Fighting to be Fit?


Stairmaster, squash court, running track... take your sweat-releasing, fat-searing pick. Start today, go at it for just 45 minutes a day, and you can tighten your muscles and lighten your body-mass within the next few weeks.

And why not? Stout is always out and thin is always in, so it makes sense to fit in.

Or does it?

An Unfit Obsession

A recent issue of Fitness magazine reports on some record-setting, seemingly interminable workout sessions. Among them were:

  • A member of the St. James Club in Toledo, clocked 30 non-stop miles on the treadmill.
  • A Cottonwood Club member in Lincoln, Nebraska, did the club's two-week Iron-man contest in one single day.
  • A guy deemed to "need a life" after a 6.5 hour stint at the Beacon Hall Athletic Club in Boston, MA.

Every day, more people are crossing the line between healthy and hurtful exercise. Gym junkies have been known to become exercise addicts, giving their workout priority over everything else in life. Not only that, but sports experts observe such exercise addicts suffer actual withdrawal symptoms if they are forced to go without their daily quota of exercise. But first, it is important to figure out if you are indeed addicted to exercise. Four ways you can tell:

  • Do you notice you go on treading the mill or doing the weights regardless of a stretched shin or an aching arm?
  • Do you plunge into and out of your workout without taking time to warm up or stretch?
  • Do you forget a dinner date or a dentist's appointment when you are working out?
  • Do you suffer lack of appetite, headaches, tension and irritability if you don't get your fitness fix?

All these are signs you are doing more than you should.

Fit Advice

Modern fitness experts recommend a 24-hour rest between vigorous exercise sessions, to allow the body to recover fully. Concerned at the growing number of "fitness freaks," they urge people to check their pace — even carry a heart-monitor to the gym, if necessary.

Pick up a magazine that specializes in physical fitness, and it will give you formulae for calculating your speed and strength. Some examples:

  • If your heart is thumping at an increased but safe speed, you're on the right track — this is your "target heart rate." Usually, this is about 75 to 80% of your maximum safe heart rate. But for workouts on ski machines and stair climbers, your heart rate should be about 60% of the maximum.
  • To figure out your 60% of maximum target rate, subtract your age from 220, and multiply the result by 0.6. You could also lug a mini heart monitor to the gym to check your progress occasionally.

Math vs. Mind

This is where ayurveda steps in. "Forget formulas," it says. "Listen to yourself."

Ancient ayurvedic healers advocated the concept of using balaardh, or just 50% of your total reservoir of strength at a given time. This does not mean you need to pull out a calculator each time you want to figure out if you've done "half" of your total capacity. It means keeping constant dialogue with your body and your mind.

When you start sweating lightly and breathing through the mouth, your body is telling you that it is going at a steady pace. When your mind is enjoying your physical activity — say a vigorous game of tennis — you know it is okay to go on playing. But when you start sweating profusely and can sense you are tired, don't push yourself to exert. Could it be any simpler?

Workouts That Work

People exercise for different reasons. Some want to lose weight, some to build muscle, and still others see it as part of a healthy routine. Whatever your goal, you can achieve it the ayurveda way — without burning yourself out.

Being a holistic system of healing, ayurveda likes exercises that involve both body and mind. That is why ancient healers like Charaka praised walking. It does not tax the body overmuch, it relaxes the mind, and it improves overall balance.

Yoga, which comes from the root word "yoke" or unite, is of course an old-time favorite of the Vaidyas (ayurvedic experts). It gives you an all-body workout at a steady pace. It is also a great calmer — who can act or feel frantic while stretching the body so deliciously? A short session of yoga will always leave you feeling refreshed and happy, not tired and ready to crash.

Herbs That Help

Lack the get-up-and-go to begin thinking of a yoga session? Find yourself exhausted after just 20 minutes of walking? Coffee and steroids are not your answer. What your system really needs is the wake-up, feel-good power of nature's own healing herbs.

Herbs like Ashwagandha, Brahmi and Arjuna; spices like black pepper and fenugreek; nuts like almonds — all these combined in the right proportions and blended in precise, traditional ways can take the exertion out of exercise. They revive the body, improve fat metabolism during a workout, nourish the mind and imbue the whole being with a zest for life. Formulations like Premium Amla Berry from Maharishi Ayurveda are designed to give you all these health benefits, without any side effects.

You're now ready to Go!

The sole purpose of these articles is to provide information about the tradition of ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have any serious acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the medical advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or e-mail us for the number of a physician in your area. Check with your doctor before taking herbs or using essential oils when pregnant or nursing.