Ayurveda’s Take on Exercise
I’ve always been a big fan of exercise, and can be found hiking, riding my horse Bella, doing yoga or chi gong, or something almost every day of the week! I think exercise is important not only for a healthy body, but for a balanced mind as well – I know it helps to keep me sane. That said, Ayurveda offers some basic principles to follow in order to optimize the benefits that we get from moving the bod.
WHEN to Exercise:
According to Ayurveda, between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. is the “Kapha” time of day, and when our bio rhythms are best suited for exercise. Kapha’s qualities are heavy and grounding, so by exercising and moving during this time, we are creating balance in the body (opposite qualities create balance). The second best time is EARLY in the evening, around 5 or 6, but not too close to bed time, otherwise, it may affect your sleep.
When not to exercise
- when you are exhausted
- when you’re sick
- When you are overly hungry or thirsty
- Right before or after meals, except for taking an easy walk after a meal, which helps your digestion
- According to Ayurveda, and I have a difficult time with this one, women should exercise only lightly or not at all during menstruation, pregnancy, and for some time after childbirth.
Here’s another principle that Westerners don’t always adhere to:
50% of one’s capacity = maximum benefit
Too much exercise can be just as unhealthy as too little. Yet what is the right amount for you? Most medical experts recommend exercising up to 75-80% of one’s maximum heart rate. But Ayurveda gives a simple rule of thumb: when you begin to sweat profusely, or when breathing begins to be heavy or labored (when you can no longer breathe through your nose but must instead breathe through the mouth) – at that point you should stop or slow down.
Exercise should above all contribute to maintaining the inner balance of the physiology as a whole, strengthening all organs and making the immune system more resistant to disease. Exercise enhances well-being, and should reduce rather than increase stress. Over time, this is more enjoyable, and in the long term is healthier than pushing one’s body to the limit. After exercise you should feel better and more energetic than before. According to Ayurveda exhaustion is a sign of “unhealthy” exercise.
I’ll write more on this later, but at least you’ve got some food or movement for thought!
*Some of this material is sourced from Maharishi Ayurveda