Greek Philosophy on Exercise
Only exercise when you’re going somewhere!
Zen philosophy offers a similar idea –
It is not necessary to walk unless you are going somewhere……..
Solon when asked to go to the Games to see an athlete who could swim like a fish, jump like a deer, run like a hare – he declines, saying it is not comely he thinks, that man should imitate animals, but if there was a man who could think like the Gods – he would travel to see him!
There are differing opinions upon the importance, the type and the potential health benefits of deliberate physical exercise.
Those who are already engaged in physical labour and tasks demanding physical exertion are of course less concerned about conscious exercise as a self discipline. But for the majority in the western world of our time, exercising has become an extremely popular pastime. We are bombarded with many contraptions, with exercise bikes and other machines for use in the home. To attend a gymnasium is essential in the trendy social and commercial worlds if you are concerned with your physical image and muscle tone.
In the midst of this, yoga classes quietly continue to offer a peaceful, gracious and stress free method of building muscle, stretching tendons and revitalizing one’s being through the application of breath control together with dynamic body movements and the use of controlled static postures or Asanas.
The two systems are very different. Each has its value but the first is demanding and requires repeated effort and discipline that is twinned with a philosophy of ambition that aims to accomplish a goal.
The yogic approach is more passive, requiring a non-aggressive attitude of persuasion. This is in line with its unique philosophy and system designed to help an individual achieve self mastery of the body through a harmonious co-operation of mind and muscles.
Yogic exercise is based upon a limited number of traditional exercises – the prime one being the Sun Exercise or Salute to the Sun. This comprises a flowing of 12 successive movements to 12 static positions together with specific use of the breath.
All dynamic exercise is instructed to be balanced and rhythmic. Breath control is co-ordinated with each movement.
All exercises are performed with equal attention to the balanced polarization of right/left; up and down; standing/lying; upright/inverted so that the entire body is involved.
A brief relaxation is taken between exercises to become aware of how the body is feeling and responding after the exercise.
The most important factor that identifies the difference between the commonly known exercise programmes and the yogic approach is that the mind and consciousness is turned inward, not outward to outer display. The mind and consciousness is totally engaged with the practices which are not in any way competitive.
Last is the factor of the speed or rate of body movement. Yogic exercise is seen as more elementary if the movement is quicker and more advanced the more slowly the exercise is executed. In this it is similar to the philosophy of its cousin system, Tai Chi.
Skill in yogic techniques allows slow physical controls that are more difficult that dynamic movement. The system is designed to help also slow down the rapidity of the mind and assist consciousness to arrive at stillness.
We test the validity of this system by our own experience.