Exercise is another necessary component to a healthy, spiritual lifestyle. In our modern society, many people lead mostly inactive lives due to work, school, and entertainment, and spend the vast majority of their days sitting at a desk before coming home to relax in front of their televisions. In many cases the former is unavoidable, but almost everyone can find at least a little bit of time to dedicate to some form of exercise, even if they have to make a few recreational sacrifices. The bodies we inhabit are not designed to be sedentary, and an inactive lifestyle can lead to fat gain, physical and mental health problems, and improper energy management, all of which can prevent us from attaining the height of our spiritual potential.
As we gain fat, not only do our bodies become weighted down and therefore less efficient, but we place ourselves at a higher risk of numerous health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and many others. Excessive fat can manifest as a form of energetic protection and shielding from others, and highly sensitive and empathic individuals can often develop weight problems. Obesity is also an unconscious method of hiding your true self from the outside world. As spiritual beings, once we recognize that we are all divine sparks of the same highest form of perfection, there will no longer be a need to protect ourselves from others. In the meantime, exercise can be an effective way to expel excess energy instead of storing it to convert to body fat.
The sedentary nature of Western society fails to promote proper energy management practices, and this neglect can create many different outcomes besides fat gain. Not everyone will unconsciously choose to hold onto energy to store as fat, but in these cases people may unknowingly find unsuitable methods of regulating it. Since many people haven’t found an outlet to get rid of excess energy, it can build up until it has to be purged. This buildup may manifest itself as anger, frustration, anxiety, or other less desirable emotions until they have an outburst in the form of shouting, road rage, panic attacks, or other violent reactions. Oftentimes, these feelings and reactions are uncharacteristic of the individual, but afterwards they will find themselves at ease from this release and wonder what had come over them. In many cases, once they find a more appropriate outlet to expel this surplus of energy, these people will find that their outbursts decrease in frequency until they eventually completely cease.
In essence we are all energetic beings, and so learning to properly manage our energy is an essential part of life in this reality. Exercise is unquestionably one of the best methods of doing so because it affects you mentally as well as physically, and as we have seen, a clear mind and body creates a channel for our souls to shine through. Establishing a proper exercise routine promotes mindfulness, as you are concentrating on the task at hand and not thinking about any issues or worries that you may be otherwise experiencing. During a good workout, you enter a meditative state that can help promote mental clarity, which will allow you to remain an open conduit for spiritual energy. Since many people today find it difficult to schedule time for meditation in their busy lives, the similar state that can be reached during exercise is an effective substitute with many additional benefits.
Exercise doesn’t just improve your mood by allowing you to release pent-up energy that may be manifesting as negative emotions, but it also promotes a chemical reaction in your brain that helps relieve stress and pain. When we perform strenuous physical activities, our bodies produce endorphins, which are naturally-occurring brain chemicals that generate feelings of euphoria. This sensation is often referred to as a “runner’s high”, and it promotes a sense of well-being that can provide added incentive to perform regular exercise. In fact, endorphins have also been shown to be released through meditation, so this reaction may actually be the cause of the meditative state that can be reached during a satisfying workout session. Not only do endorphins stimulate euphoric feelings and relieve pain and stress, but they can also act as sedatives. This is another way that exercise can help people experiencing less desirable emotional states like anger, anxiety, and depression.
Physical activity can aid us in releasing more than just energy and negative feelings – it can also help our bodies get rid of some of the unwanted toxins we may have accumulated from exposure to pollution, unhealthy additives to food and water, and even drugs and alcohol. Detoxification involves the cleansing of these unwelcome products from our internal organs, including the liver, lymph nodes, colon, kidneys, and lungs, as well as our skin. It occurs in many different ways, such as using the washroom, perspiration, air filtration during breathing, and many other more complex functions. Some of these processes occur automatically, but others, like the circulation of our lymph systems, depend on our body movement. Exercise also promotes digestive regularity and helps our bodies to transport blood. During a healthy workout, we increase our body’s propensity to perform the more involuntary tasks as well – we breathe in a larger amount of oxygen and sweat more heavily as a result of intense physical exertion. As our lung capacity increases, our carbon dioxide output follows, and the perspiration allows our skin to expel many different toxins from inside of our bodies. As we shed excess body fat, we also reduce the body’s tendency to store these undesirable substances, as they often accumulate in fatty tissue. An excessive buildup of toxins can affect the function of our minds and bodies, and hinder or even prevent our spiritual development, so taking the steps to promote detoxification is highly advisable.
Like in the case of nutrition, different spiritual teachers have their own preferred forms of exercise that they will recommend for everyone, but once again we must listen to our own bodies and souls to determine what works best for us as individuals. The most commonly suggested are the more energetically conscious systems like yoga and qigong, which are somewhat similar in essence. Yoga began as one of the major schools of thought in Hinduism, and is discussed in their texts like the Bhagavad Gita as a way to learn to control the mind. Different forms of yoga not only promote flexibility, improvements in posture, and increased strength, but can help create harmony between mind, body, and spirit, as well as balance your subtle body and chakra system to allow for a better flow of energy. The ancient Chinese practice of Qigong is also more of a holistic health system than just a form of exercise, and it too involves physical posturing, breathing techniques, and meditation to improve energy management. While the energy of focus in Yoga is prana, qigong focuses on qi, although both terms refer to the life-force energy that is present in each of us. All of these aspects of both make them valuable tools for spirituality and self-growth, which is why they are so commonly recommended.
Although a teacher may recommend a certain system for everyone, different forms of exercise will appeal to particular individuals depending on many factors like activity level, athleticism, flexibility, time, location, and most importantly, the end result of how they make you feel physically and mentally, which is always reflected spiritually. People who are less athletic and have a lower activity level may find it best to start off by just walking, or even swimming if they have access to a pool. Light swimming or performing other aquatic exercises can be especially beneficial for those who are quite overweight, as the water can make your body feel lighter and cause less stress on the joints than most other forms of exercise. A wonderful next step is to perform more strenuous cardiovascular exercises like jogging, running, cycling, jumping rope, or more vigorous swimming if your body is capable. Regular cardio exercise can be extremely advantageous, because not only does it help burn a lot of calories, but it also improves your mood, increases the amount of oxygen in your blood, lowers your blood pressure, strengthens your immune system, and provides many other additional benefits.
Another great form of exercise is resistance training, whether using bodyweight or additional weight with machines, dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells, and much more. While many people rely on cardiovascular exercise to burn calories and lose fat, resistance training is often performed with the goals of strengthening or building muscle tissue. While these exercises also burn calories, partaking in them may require a bit of an increase in food intake, especially if muscle gain is desired. Strength training and cardio complement each other, since adding muscle mass increases the body’s ability to lose fat, as it burns more calories when resting. When beginning resistance training, it is best to start off with bodyweight exercises before moving onto the much more difficult weight training. This helps you learn how to properly perform the necessary movements and provides an ample amount of resistance for a beginner. Some of the best techniques to learn include squats, push-ups, pull-ups, dips, sit-ups, and more. When commencing resistance training, it is paramount to learn proper technique and form before progressing with additional reps or weight, and there are many excellent online resources that can be of great assistance. Once you have mastered the bodyweight movements, it is appropriate to proceed, but some people may even prefer to maintain this style of routine instead of moving on to training with additional weight. Remember that it is most important to stick with the system that feels right for you.
In addition to yoga, qigong, cardio, and resistance training, sports and other physical activities can be rewarding and enjoyable forms of exercise. If you love playing a particular sport that requires lots of movement, then it may be an excellent idea to include as part of your exercise regimen. Whether you prefer hockey, baseball, soccer, or any others, sports can help you achieve a satisfying workout while having fun. Although they may not necessarily be considered sports, the martial arts can be physically, mentally, and spiritually rewarding forms of exercise. Many different disciplines are based in systems of Eastern philosophy and spirituality and teach you to be more energetically conscious as you learn to gain better control over your mind and body. A vast array of other physical activities from rock climbing to dancing and gardening can present pleasurable and rewarding exercise experiences – whatever resonates with you as an individual and raises your heart rate.
Emotions act as a spiritual guidance system to show us what is in our souls’ best interest and what is not, and we can put this into practice when discerning which styles of exercise are best for us. If you experience joy when you partake in yoga, for example, it is your soul directing you to pursue it, but if you detect anxiety at the thought of lifting weights, this may be a warning for you to avoid it. Once you have discovered the workout routine that is in your highest interest, your soul will respond by sending you feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment, and your confidence in yourself will increase. As you continue along the path and begin to see the physical and mental results of your efforts, these feelings will increase, providing you with additional incentive. If you haven’t already, at this point you may feel compelled to start increasing the time you spend on physical activity, but you must remember to move at you own pace and avoid overdoing it. While a lack of physical activity is problematic in western society, there can also be an issue with excessive exercise. The appropriate amount will vary between individuals with different paths, but forty-five minutes to an hour of working out three to five days per week seems to be quite sufficient to aim towards. As with preferred forms of exercise, our souls will direct us towards the amount that will provide us with the most evolutionary benefit for our individual human experiences. No matter what direction you are guided to follow in your own path towards fitness, it will present you with the necessary tools to achieve your highest potential in this lifetime.