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Vyayama – The Ayurvedic approach to exercising healthily and in moderation

Vyayama – The Ayurvedic approach to exercising healthily and in moderation

Ayurveda prescribes different exercise regimes depending on age, season and constitution
man doing exercise
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You might be familiar with exercise regimes that encourage you to work your muscles past their limit, or with workout schedules that take place at night. But the Ayurvedic approach to exercise would advise the contrary: Workout in moderation, never late at night, and curate your diet and exercise to the six seasons of the year.  

Ayurveda lists out the benefits of exercise – exercising brings about lightness in the body, improves stamina, strengthens body, tones up muscles, improves metabolism and reduces excessively accumulated fat. 

In the ayurvedic context, exercises were advised for only those who ate a high-fat diet and for  soldiers or warriors. However, in current times, exercise has been recognised as an important part of the day for all people.  

Ayurveda also advises it as an adjuvant therapy for those with obesity and diabetes. Their treatment plan includes exercises that help balance the energy intake and expenditure. 

An ideal time for exercises  

Happiest Health reached out to Dr Dhruva Prasad, an Ayurvedic physician from Sri Sri College of Ayurveda, Cuttack, Odisha.  

Dr Prasad says that the best time for exercising is the early morning hours. The body’s Kapha (water and earth element) is more active during early morning and is responsible for strength and stamina.  

“It is advised to go for abhyanga(an oil massage) before working out. When an oil massage is done, it prevents the wear and tear of muscles,” adds Dr. Prasad.  

He also specifies that ideally one should work out on an empty stomach, but water can be taken to prevent dehydration.  

How much of exercise is ideal? 

Everyone’s body type is unique, and so is the strength and capacity to work out. Not everyone needs to exercise for the same duration.  

Dr Prasad says, “A person should exercise until he has spent half of his strength. The body itself gives a cue that you have spent half of your energy. Feeling of dryness in the mouth, sweating on forehead, armpits and joints and breathing with the mouth are some of the signs.” 

He also says that ideal exercise includes slow and steady forms of exercise. If continued beyond the point, it will eventually cause debilitation and emaciation of muscle mass.  

Signs that you have exercised too little include: Eventual weight gain, fatigue even at rest, lethargy, drowsiness, and sense of heaviness in the body.  

Customise your exercise regime  

Kids and youngsters can indulge in various forms of physical activities such as sports, various dance forms, cycling and swimming. Those who are middle-aged can indulge in moderate exercises including brisk walking, wrestling, swimming, yoga asana and pranayama.  

For the elderly, less-intensive exercises such as walking, and yoga (mild stretching and breathing exercises) are advised.  

Seasonal exercises  

According to ayurveda, there are six seasons: Spring, summer, monsoon, autumn, pre-winter and winter. Every season has its impact on the body’s physiology. Ayurveda recommends lifestyle changes for every season to cope with the extreme variations in the environment, broadly termed ritucharya (seasonal regime). 

Mild exercising is advised during the summer and rainy seasons as your body’s strength is low during these two seasons. Moderate exercises are advised during autumn, spring and winter. Extreme exercising is not advised in any season.  

Points to note

  • Always plan an exercise schedule keeping in mind your strength, capacity, age, season, and underlying health conditions, if any.  
  • A set of exercises recommended for one individual may not apply to everyone. 
  • Exercise on empty stomach.  
  • Choose mornings over late nights.  
  • Choose milder exercises if you have joints or mobility issues. 

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