Vyayama – An Ayurvedic Approach to Exercise
By Denise O’Dunn
Vyayama, or physical exercise, is an essential component of Ayurveda’s system of preventative health care, rejuvenation and longevity. The ancient Ayurvedic texts describe Vyayama as the movements and body postures designed to stabilize and strengthen your body. Ayurveda suggests that a daily routine of proper physical activity, affects not only your body, but has a positive influence on your mind, emotions, senses and spirit. The benefits of Vyayama are achieved as you focus on your chosen activity in awareness of your breathing, physical responses, and sense of well-being. When you exercise according to Ayurvedic tradition, your energy and vitality are enhanced by the appropriate demands placed on your body and you are left with a feeling of joy.
AYURVEDIC GUIDELINES FOR FITNESS
Classically, Vyayama includes Gardening, Running, Walking, Swimming and Yoga in regularity.
Time of Day
Morning (Sunrise to 10 a.m.) is the ideal time to exercise as your body naturally has more strength, stamina, and coordination. Early morning exercise prepares you for your day with a clear mind, increased circulation and added strength to your digestive fire.
The Middle of the day is no time for exercising, the middle of the day (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) is time for eating as your ability to digest food is increasing and your body’s capacity for physical activity is in decline. Avoid exercising in the middle of the day. This is the time to eat your main meal of the day.
Strenuous exercise in the evening is out too. In the evening it is best to participate in gentle activities that promote restful sleep.
While it is recommended that you include outside activities in your regular workout to insure there is sufficient air flow, it is best to also consider the temperature and condition of the air. Air that is sweet, moving, and not too hot nor too cold is important, fresh air and exposure to nature are balancing.
Take slow, deep abdominal breaths through your nose to calm your mind and enhance your endurance during exercise. Remain fully engaged in your activity by allowing your breath to be your focus. Inhalations prepare you for exertion by providing oxygen and exhalations assist exertion by relaxing you and carrying away wastes.
Daily moderate exercise produces predictable and positive results. Irregular, intense exertion will place unnecessary demands on the systems of your body and create a stress response.
The essence of Ayurvedic exercise is to exert yourself to half of your maximum strength or capacity. This Ayurvedic principle is called balaardh. Balaardh helps to maintain a consistent energy through your workout. To maintain fifty percent of your capacity, never exert yourself to the point that you have to breath through your mouth.
Nose breathing is superior to mouth breathing because your lungs fill more completely with air and you’re your lungs are protected from harmful particulates by the cilia in your nose. When you exert yourself to the point that you have to breathe through your mouth, you lose good physical form. Balaardh allows your capacity for exercise to increase gradually without creating stress, strain or imbalance.
One of the most basic principles of Ayurveda is that we have our own unique body-mind constitution with distinctive traits and tendencies. This means that in our diversity we have different needs for our personal balance, including the way that we exercise. The important thing is that physical exercise should enhance you, adding to your relaxed, balanced and blissful state.
Disclaimer: This article was written for educational purposes only and is based on the tradition of Ayurveda. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, prescribe or heal any health condition or to replace standard medical treatment or advice.