Tao of exercise

Classic advice for sustainable fitness

The Tao of Eating: Classic Guidance for Dietary Wellness was presented to you in the preceding edition of Australian Natural Health. What you are now reading is its continuation, which will naturally usher us into the environment of fitness health and sustainability.

Diet and fitness are irremovably connected in activity. The manifestations of our burned energy and our actions are possible and in myriad ways specifically defined by calorie intake and, of course, our particular pursued aims.

Our dietary discourse leads to and concerns our ensembles of daily movements because eating is physiologically associated with craving, appetite, and digestion, which are triggered by time and our eating events in existential (i.e., in our personally responsible) ways. Thus, our genetic heritages, and all our fears related, become in important ways dissociated from us when we wilfully choose and construct ourselves as active and creative individuals who are in control of choices within our range of effectuation.

Lao Tzu explains in the Tao Te Ching that the way of the sage, the undivided master of individualism and self-possession, is the way of understanding the negative and positive forces of inner and outer natures. Within our context here, this means gaining an understanding of how we personally store and burn energy, both in and out of our bodies. The advice following does not contain a prescription for supplements or fitness regiment, but will help you implement an enduring understanding of your body in your immediate and changing environments.

The propositions of food and exercise below are therefore underlying expressions not specific to yogis, swimmers, trekkers or any other athletic denomination. They are simply meant for the refreshing self, the active you who wakes up every day and regularly examines life through personal insight, perception, experience, understanding, and, of course, the lifestyle of your movements.

Broaden the horizon of your sensations, one experience at a time
Eat a multicoloured range of global foods and food groups. If upon travelling to new lands the diversity of the local cuisine is not enough to expand a narrow palette, try smelling local spices and dishes and exploring goods at the market so to lure your senses across the chasm of the culinary unknown.

Within each gastronomic style and region lies a host of domestic nutriments traditionally fit to nourish and sustain the native population. Of course, populations can steadily grow unhealthier over time due to regressive farming and nutritionally depletive eating practices; the obesity and cancer rates in the USA posing as one firm upshot. Alternatively, populations reclaim their food rights and eating autonomy by planting home gardens and buying goods from locally produced farms, wherein they can engage in direct correspondence with farmers or close representatives over the gifts that are marketed. In direct opposition to food produced from mega-farms, locally produced goods yielded from small to medium-sized farms will provide your body with a more healthful and potent spread of vitamins and minerals for which you can tackle your daily tasks, sleep better, and mollify disagreeable emotions that loiter your day.

Be adventurous: experience new tastes. In particular, know that you should decide the nutritive benefits of foods based upon your reactions of physical performances. Simply let your senses guide you towards ingestive awareness while you think through your eating choices. In times of dietic planning, one should ask: What immediately available ingredients and activities will enhance holistic health? What activities will complement my diet and augment my bodily development?

Along with your eating lifestyle, be adventurous in your activities. Diverse scope of movements – some scheduled, some impromptu – will customise your body effectively and ideally for your environment.

In exercising, allow yourself to burn, then douse your guts with pure water

It matters less how you motivate your exercise, whether you listen to music, read an inspirational piece, warm up slowly, even lazily, or jump right into it; what is essential, however, is that you stretch well during and after exercise, and polish, through the joys and pains of exercise, your physical self, so you can just see who you are in honest evaluation.

In regards to discipline and major physical renovation, know that what you already do will maintain your present shape or deteriorate it if your habits are destructive. The burn that you feel during your workout melts your fat and tones your muscles – it is immediate confirmation that you are gaining results.

Nevertheless, be dexterous so all your muscles can work and you stay sharp to prevent injury. Before you get careless and maladroit, stop and stretch, well.
In the end, replenish your body’s water so the body stays lubricated and keeps contaminants flushing throughout the day. The energy drinks are just for show, synthetic high, and dysentery; keep them on the shelves otherwise.

Exercise routines and their repetitive movements are effective in early transformative stages or when accompanied with improvised activities

Lao Tzu says: “Keep on beating and sharpening a sword, and the edge cannot be preserved for long.” Fitness must be fun, seductive, and convenient enough. Eventually, repetitious acts become droning and tedious. Whereby you might rely on exercise tapes, advice, and classes to keep you fitter, you will probably need to expand beyond your routines if you are serious about long-term fitness.

A well-known yoga instructor in Bali takes a popular stance on the matter. She says, the green of her eyes brilliantly illuminated by her leafy surroundings:

“Repetition is important and discipline is essential. I have a life that is discipline and do rituals. Rituals encourage and punctuate life so that you can stay centred and focused,” Somewhat conversely, Lao Tzu says that “ceremony fusses but finds no response; then it tries to enforce itself with rolled-up sleeves.” After the Tao, ceremony is the last approach people resort to, according to Tzu.

The fussing that repetition, ritual, and ceremony exemplify is initially positive if it simply gets one on foot, or is the only thing that will keep one there, but if exercise is truly about inward deepening, then it is imperative that yogis eventually find their own original marks of expression beyond ritual – inimitable marks of the physical, mental, and moral.

Once the fire is indeed ablaze, the rubbing of sticks becomes an obsolete fixation.

Exercise is a symbiotic relationship with one’s environment
Your environment is a living organism that hosts a montage of gymnastic possibilities. Besides climbing the local mountain or cycling nearby hills, one can, especially those of us who are professionally sedentary or physically enervated, utilise the things that are spatially available in close proximity to get fitter. Simply occupy your space. Hang on a beam. Walk into your garden and become inspired by the perpetually operative microcosmic workings there. Knowing your spatial surroundings is key to physical fulfillment and dietary success.

To yogis and those who work out in-doors, the environment should be good but has a subordinate significance. An attractive feature of yoga is that you can do it anywhere. When you are travelling within and practising pratyahara, sense withdrawing, the outer space is supposedly not important. Alternatively, we seek to enhance sensory capacity and build intimacy with the body and its relationship to its environment.

Acceptance of your entire being – active and genetic –
is imperative for progressive movement
Recognise the full worth of your body’s uniqueness. Lao Tzu says: “Just because he competes with no one, no one can compete with him.” If his wisdom is entrusted and activated, you place yourself on the existential point of your own horizon; you take full responsibility for yourself and do not renounce your freedom in what Jean-Paul Sartre calls “bad faith”.

Personal acceptance will help evaporate the anxious, often superfluously imaginative images you create of other people’s perceptions of you. What will remain is eventive clarity: the ability to deal effectively within events with self-possession. You become deliberated action, quite purely.

If you are willing to see yourself in the world without the adulteration of rejective attitudes, your capabilities and willpower become very transparent, and your goals – extraordinarily realistic.

Author: Brannon Gerling; photo credit: Thinkstock


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