I believe that health and fitness can and must be pursued from a spiritual standpoint. The breath and the blood, as part and parcel to life, are critical elements for physical activity. Specifically, the breath is referenced and engaged as an important element in many religio-spiritual traditions. From my point of view, the physicality of breath and the spirituality of breath cannot be separated. Bringing them together is a vehicle within which all actions can be elevated to a more spiritual plateau.
Existence on earth is predicated by movement
The earth is a moving, living entity. As such there is no part of the earth that does not undergo some type of movement. Mountains are built up due to tectonic shifting and are torn down by wind and water, Water flows and, due to the tides produces crests and troughs. Plants grow, annuals expire and grow again with the new year. Rocks expand and contract. Every living thing that exists on the earth must, by design, to a greater or lesser degree, move. Animals move naturally in response to nature. People in modern societies, though designed to move, choose to avail themselves of modern convenience. In many cases, movement is minimized, if not completely avoided.
Breath and blood operate harmoniously in support of physical activity
There are two components required for physical movement. First, there is breath. It is available to all who partake of it. There is no vertebrate or invertebrate being on earth that does not breath. Fish need water to access their O2, Land Animals must breathe air directly. The air or O2 that is taken in must be distributed throughout the body; blood facilitates this distribution. There is the breath for life. Breathing serves to bring O2 (more accurately, energy) into the body. Full breathing induces MANY benefits. Blood is the vehicle through that energy is completely extended throughout the body. Movement brings them both together as a functional team.
Breath possesses a higher spiritual quality
The breath contains a certain something that becomes infused into and sustains the body. In Christianity, it is referred to as the breath of life. Yoga terms it prana. In Taoism (Daoism) it is called Chi. In various Japanese Traditions it is known a Ki. The Kalahari Bushmen call it N/un. By many names it is known. Although Christianity limits this potency to humans only, it exists in all things, inanimate and animate, in all universes. Breathing fully promotes physiological and psychological well- being of the physical body. The Vagus Nerve, for example, facilitates positive parasympathetic neural responses and reduced stress through deeper and slower breathing. Awareness of and the ability to regulate breath is foundational to accessing and facilitating these and other positive neural responses.
Exercise, to me, is a spiritual endeavor
What is my recipe for a spiritual exercise format. Firstly, it is awareness. Much of exercise can be done on auto pilot. Not that such a scenario isn’t beneficial. It just allows for a shutting off of the brain, to a degree. I do a lot of balance activities (single leg deadlift, long stance split squats) . . . multi-planar movements and such that engage various muscle groups in abnormal positions . . . functional with a twist, so to speak. I still do ‘conventional stuff but getting bigger is not my goal so much now. I also am a yoga instructor but my focus is not so much on bendier as much as it is breath-oriented. I infuse Ana Forrest Yoga and Andre Lappa’s Universal Yoga into much of my asana practice. Yet I will do sessions predominantly focused on pranayama and abdomino-pelvic movements. Taiji Quan / Qigong / Martial Arts are also part of the equation. Swimming is also thrown into the mix. It is recommended by Andre Lappa (especially underwater laps and lengths) and well as by Selvarajan Yesudian (BTW – swimming wipes me . . . LOL). Meditation, although not exercise, per se, is very key to the supporting and developing awareness and fullness of breath. All of these activities are, to me, supporting of my spiritual journey and faciliatory of my capacity to breath fully.
One’s Spiritual essence can be expressed through their physical endeavors.
Exercise is . . . spiritual. Exercise, movement in general, elicits a connection to that which sustains us but is beyond our physical grasp. If we don’t breath, we don’t move. I will tell my yoga classes, or, more precisely, I used to tell my yoga classes that Not Breathing is NOT an OPTION (emphasis added). Another mindset is aroused when attention is given to breath. One feels the inflow and the outflow: the support of the All Pervading and Pervasive Source coming in on the inhalation and that same SOURCE being left behind within us on the exhalation. A lot of the issues that many experience, despondency, confusion, lack of self-appreciation, sadness, anger, depression(?) . . . could be helped with breathing and movement . . . by connecting to that which lies outside of one’s physical reach . . . . by aligning with the manifestation of spirit, the breath. At least, that is what works for me.
People flounder around, day to day, in what is affectionately known as ‘a meat sack’. Many are blissfully ignorant of the capacity to experience those powers that lie outside of but maintain the physical experience. All of the earth is rife with the capacity to move. The transporting of breath, via the blood, throughout the body facilitates physical activity. The spiritual nature of breath is recognized within many traditions. I strive to infuse my exercise with spiritual elements. Enhancing (one’s) quality of life, via the breath, can bolster a more spiritually enhanced outlook. One day at a time, one breath at a time. Everyday is an opportunity, Every breath is a universe.