As the levels of health awareness in the society are rising it is important for us to know which exercise regimen is better so that we can make a wise choice.
For this we have to first know about the true objective of exercise. The question to be asked is why should we exercise at all?
Objective of exercise according to Vedas
‘Charaka’ the ancient Ayurvedic sage has mentioned the true objective of exercise which is by far the most complete and holistic definition-
Right exercise is one which renders the body light, increases the capacity for work, gives firmness, increases tolerance of difficulties, eliminates impurities and stimulates digestion.”
He has also mentioned that we should exercise equal to half our strength. If for e.g. we feel tired after walking for one hour then we should walk only for half an hour till our stamina improves.
Important point to be noted here is that stress is laid on all aspects of health rather than building muscular strength or achieving finely contoured body.
Modern day exercises
Today the exercises focus on building strong and sharp musculature.
The person with the strongest muscles is the winner and others are losers. The harder one exercises the better it is considered. The motto is ‘no pain no gain’.
Yoga vs Body Building
We have to break free of the notion that health and strength are the same. In fact they are quite different. Building strong muscles does not guarantee good health.We could be very strong but still fall prey to many diseases.
Body building and vigorous exercises are totally contrary to the Vedic thought of exercise (Yoga) in every sense.
Here is a comparison of the two forms of exercises:
1) In Yoga the body’s own weight is used so that the weight lifted is in proportion to our strength. In body building external weights are used which are out of proportion to our strength.
2) One hour of Yoga leaves us light, fresh and ready for work while one hour in the gym leaves us fatigued and in pain.
3) Yoga requires us to eat healthy and light diet while gym requires us to eat heavily.The gym diet is heavy on our stomach as well as pockets.
4) Yoga requires calm and relaxed atmosphere while gym requires loud music and bright lights.
5) In a Yoga class everybody is so focused in oneself that he is not bothered how his compatriots are performing. In a gym everybody is competing with the other in front of the mirror.
6) Yoga teaches us to accept our limitations while in body building if you are lifting light weights you are a loser.
7) Yoga is for all ages but muscle training is not meant for seniors.
8) Yoga does not require any investment while gym requires weights, proteins, costly gear e.t.c.
9) Yoga requires us to stop once we are out of breath or fatigued. Modern day exercise culture requires us to carry on till we break in pain and fatigue.
The Final verdict
There are hundreds of points in which Yoga and Body building can be pitted against each other and in each point Yoga comes out the clear winner. While body builders and gym freaks will totally disagree with this but again they are confusing strength with health. If we consider exercise as a business then it must be said that Yoga is very little investment and all gain. Whatever exercise we choose it should make us ready for work ,it should not be a work in itself.
Author – Dr JP Guleria
HimVeda – Ayurvedic Hospital, Dharamshala HP