Responsible exercise — what is it?
The main theme of the "Juicing Book" is responsible juicing and I would like to transfer that concept of responsible juicing over the realm of exercise.
The reason why it's important for me to discuss this topic is because exercise, just like juicing, is part of a healthy lifestyle. However, many people are too lazy to exercise. Other people believe that they have to do strenuous exercise to get any benefits.
Just as being sedentary is not healthy, extreme exercise is not either.
I hope, that by discussing the concept of responsible exercise, that some of you who have been not in the mood to exercise will — and those who exercise in the extreme might decide less is better.
The reality is that not everyone is going to exercise and some people will always be extreme — it's just the nature of the person and there is nothing wrong with this if that's what makes you happy. But for those who want to incorporate exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, then the thoughts on this page will hopefully give you some focus, direction and enough will power to burn those calories.
Now believe it or not, but in some books on Chinese traditional medicine and health, you will actually read that exercise is not good for you! At first, one might think this thought is strange, but let's investigate a little. Why would anyone think this?
The reality is this — your body can only do so much and once it has done all it can, it begins to break down and that leads to death.
So by exercising, you make your heart beat faster — your heart can only beat so many times before it breaks down because your heart is, after all, a muscle.
If you go back in time, humans would perhaps walk a few kilometers every day to get water, go to the market, till the fields, walk the sheep to the pasture and so on. So in the past, people were getting exercise — they just were not going to the gym!
Realizing the above, we can now take into perspective what the Chinese were saying about exercise. After working all day in the fields, after walking a long way for water — why exercise anymore? If you were to exercise more after doing all that work then you will only wear down your body faster. Since the purpose of living a healthy lifestyle is not only to live longer, but to live with the least amount of problems, what the Chinese healers said made sense.
But here's the thing — people no longer walk to get water, it's delivered; people no longer walk to the market, they drive to the market; people no longer till the fields; machines do it — you see the point I am getting at?
The Chinese, going by the concept that exercise is not healthy for the body then created Tai Chi. This is a slow moving art which helps keep the body healthy. A fabulous art to learn for those who are interested. The point being is that the Chinese realized that although exercise was not good, the body still needed a type of exercise which did not add additional stress to the body but instead relieved the body of stress (because stress kills after all). The Chinese also realized that the body needed a type of exercise that helped to keep the joints loose, the body mobile, etc. Thus the reason why so many people practice Tai Chi to this day.
Others may find that Hatha Yoga, the yoga of stretching is beneficial for them. All yogas (Hatha Yoga is only 1 of the 9 types of yoga) in their purest form, are a tool to help one achieve self–realization. Traditionally, a Hatha Yogi (a yogi is anyone who practices yoga) would use Hatha Yoga as a tool to help achieve self–realization by stretching. When done properly, the Hatha Yogi will focus on the stretch so much that he or she can no longer think — the mind stops. When the mind stops, one begins to enter a meditative state.
Patanjali, the Father of Yoga, said chitta vritti nirhoda — when translated, this essentially means "annihilate all thoughts". Yoga is a tool that helps achieve this. Thus people find that something like Hatha Yoga is a great tool to not only keep the body flexible, but to help calm the mind. Hatha Yoga along with Tai Chi are great tools for helping to keep the body alive but without doing a strenuous type of exercise.
Hatha Yoga is the yoga of health. Anyone who is interested in health can learn a lot from a good book on pure Hatha Yoga (I suggest reading The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga by Swami Vishnudevananda). A really good Hatha Yogi can cleanse their bowels naturally as they have such awesome control of their colon muscle that they can, believe it or not, inhale water while sitting in a bathtub and then force the water out thus acting like an enema. Other Hatha Yogis have been known to swallow a long string like material. They would continue to swallow the string, perhaps about 6 feet of it, and then once all the way in their stomach, they would pull the string out thus cleansing their stomach naturally. Really fascinating in many ways and thus Hatha Yoga can teach one much about health — luckily not all of the techniques are this extreme! To the Hatha Yogi, a pure and healthy body helps make it easier to calm the mind, which if you stop and think about makes sense.
Anyway, while Hatha Yoga is a method to calm the mind by forcing you to focus and concentrate on the part of the body that is being stretched, the side benefit of Hatha Yoga is that you will gain flexibility. With flexibility comes improved blood circulation, the decreased risk of injuring yourself should you fall, less back pain and so on. Truly, Hatha Yoga, similar to Tai Chi, makes a good non–exercise method of exercising!
But here's the catch — the part many of you don't want to hear — you still need to exercise.
Yes, sad to say, you still need some exercise in your life.
What you don't want or need is extreme exercise and sadly, flipping the TV channels just doesn't get the body moving enough.
What we want to achieve with responsible exercise is enough exercise that we do our body good without doing our body harm.
As mentioned when talking about responsible juicing, the difference between poison and medicine is all in the dose. Thus exercise can be beneficial or harmful, depending on how much or how little you do.
If you don't do enough exercise, there is no benefit. If you do too much exercise, you can harm your body. We all know the dangers of being sedentary, but perhaps you are not aware that many marathon runners die of heart attacks?
So how can we achieve responsible exercise?
While the heart can only beat so many times before it fails and while exercise makes our heart beat faster, what happens is that we actually make the heart stronger when we get a responsible amount of exercise. The heart is, after all, a muscle. When we make the heart muscle stronger through exercise, it then allows the heart to beat stronger when we are resting. What this means to you is that at rest, the heart can beat less often and yet still push the blood through the body. Why? Because the heart muscle is now stronger. What used to take 2 heart beats can now be done in 1 heart beat, as an example.
Do you see where this heading?
While too much exercise makes your heart beat too much, thus exhausting your heart's life span, some responsible exercise will help make the heart stronger so it can begin to beat less often when at rest. An interesting concept, no?
When it comes to exercise, some might find it beneficial to think of exercise as walking to the market, tilling the fields, collecting firewood — all the activities we humans used to do, but no longer do.
You can go to the gym and exercise if you want but there are other options. Perhaps you join a walking club and begin walking more often. Perhaps you walk up the stairs rather than taking the elevator or escalator. Perhaps you get off the bus 2 stops before your stop and walk. Perhaps you walk the kids to school rather than drive them. Oh I know, these are not new or mind–blowing ideas, but are you doing them? Are you implementing the ideas into your life?
There are many opportunities and ways for you to get active and exercise. You don't need a lot of exercise, but you do need some.
Some people have, for some reason, the desire to be big and muscular — however, the reality is that too much muscles are an imbalance just as too little muscle is. While too little muscle doesn't give you the strength to complete some basic tasks and puts you at potentially higher risk for injuries, too much muscle creates an imbalance which can cause your spine to be misaligned, your bones to bend, etc.
As someone who types a lot, the typing has over developed my wrist muscles and, although not noticeable, this leads to the muscles in my wrist pulling my hands down. This can and does lead to my wrists being out of joint easily. This is how, even though you may not have thought of it, over developed muscles can cause problems. In my case, I have to strengthen the other side of my wrist to create more balance in the muscles around the wrist. I achieve this by doing a sort of wrist roll that forces my hands to pull a weight upwards.
Some want to be like the Incredible Hulk because that's their passion — fair enough. But for the average person, someone who just wants to feel good, responsible exercise just like responsible juicing, is a concept to grab and embrace.
When I was 20 years old, I spent 2 months tree planting in northern British Columbia. When I first started at the beginning of May, it was quite cold in the morning. I would literally go to sleep with all of my clothes on and I would actually wake up with ice inside my tent. The cold weather made me want to move to get warm. Later, as June neared and the number of bugs increased, walking faster than the bugs could fly got me moving too!
After 2 months of walking about 20 to 30 kilometers (6 to 12 miles) per day with perhaps 14 kilos (30 pounds) of trees around my waist, I was in the best shape of my life and all I did was walk — I walked a lot, that's for sure, but all I did was walk. That experience made me realize how "slow" exercise can have a powerful effect on the body. After 2 months of tree planting, I could have ran a marathon and I even thought about it too — but I then thought why? Really, when you think about it, running marathons can put the body under way too much stress.
In fact, for those that don't know the story, the marathon gets its name from the legend of Pheidippides, a Greek messenger, who ran from the town of Marathon in Greece to Athens. He was said to have ran the whole distance non–stop, delivered the message that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon only to die immediately upon giving this message. So thanks, but no–thanks, running a marathon is not for me!
Years after my tree planting experience I used to watch a lady walk by my house. Every day she would walk from one side of town to the other and then back. She walked on a regular basis and you could literally see her body transform over time further enforcing my belief that slow exercise is good — the thing with slow exercise though is that you have to do it longer. While a 20 minute run can get your heart moving, a 20 minute walk will not be as beneficial as perhaps a 60 minute walk. It's for this reason that still, to this day, I enjoy a good hike — combines both exercise and scenery together.
I'm also reminded of an elderly Chinese man who was with his wife in a shopping mall. Some muggers, seeing this couple as vulnerable, tried to mug them and take the lady's purse. The man, who was probably in his late 70's, all of a sudden did some techniques and broke the muggers knee caps. This elderly man practiced Tai Chi every day, a slow moving art, but this slow moving art allowed him to stay limber enough that when needed he could move fast. From what I heard, this elderly man just took a few Tai Chi moves, converted them into Kung–Fu, broke the knee caps and continued on his way as if nothing happened. To this day, this story makes me laugh a little but it also reminds me of the power of slow moving exercise.
Myself, I ride a bicycle as often as possible, I swim, I enjoy rollerblading and I do use the gym facilities as well. I used to practice Hatha Yoga for 2 hours every day and you sure can feel the difference when you stop. Even though I used to practice 2 hours a day, due to the fact it was non–strenuous and also meditative, you actually finished feeling refreshed. For most though, 20 to 30 minutes of Hatha Yoga is enough. Tai Chi is also an option too.
When I was 10 years old, I used to deliver newspapers at 5 o'clock in the morning on my bicycle. I used to take a path and in the dark I would see a man doing something. I didn't know what but I must admit, I was a little scared. Later I realized he was practicing Tai Chi — my first exposure to Tai Chi. His faithful practice is still, to this day, an inspiration to me.
Exercise helps to reduce stress. Exercise helps to keep your muscles alive, active and working. The more efficiently your muscle work, the more efficiently your body can burn fat. Exercise is needed and exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle — just be responsible.
As I tell people, simplicity creates consistency and it's the consistency that brings results — whereas complexity leads to inconsistency which leads to no results. So keep it simple, be consistent and just have fun!
Have you been wanting to do hatha yoga (stretching) but have found it either too difficult or you are not that flexible? If yes, and even if no, watch Jesse do some pure hatha yoga routines.
flow yoga, each pose in pure or traditional hatha yoga is held for a few minutes. While holding the pose, you focus the mind on the stretch. When you focus the mind, that's when you find silence.
Jesse is not flexible — never has been and probably never will be flexible like others. But it doesn't matter. In pure hatha yoga, how flexible you are makes no difference. It's all about loving the pose and focussing the mind on the stretch.
If you want to learn pure hatha yoga, now you can by following Jesse on a series of hatha yoga routines.
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