August 13

Physical culture or development of the body is as important as the development of the mind, will or memory. If the body is not kept strong and healthy, vigorous and active, no culture is possible. All cultures depend on a sound body. There is a wise saying: “A sound mind in a sound body.” The body is the temple of God. It should be kept scrupulously clean by daily bath, a good scrub with a clean towel – this opens the pores which may have been clogged by sweat and sebum.

There are different types of physical culture. Select one according to your needs, taste, temperament and capacity. A man in poor health should take long brisk walks, morning and evening. Always walk alone; then you feel the presence of the almighty everywhere and you can be in perfect harmony with nature. Morning walks are pleasant. The cool breeze is refreshing and the fragrance of the flowers is invigorating. Finish the walk before sunrise. The walking itself should be brisk; you should have good perspiration. Only then it is exercise. Walk at least three or four miles a day. Do pranayama whilst walking. Inhale for six steps. This is good practice.

Be strictly regular in the performance of the exercises – this is essential for rapid progress. Those doing vigorous exercise should take substantial, nutritious food – otherwise their muscles will waste. They should take plenty of ghee (clarified butter), milk, butter, nuts etc. Those who practise the head-stand should take a light meal about ten minutes after they have finished the asanas. Weigh your body once a month and keep a record. Do exercise both morning and evening. Then rest for half an hour before taking your bath.

Observe brahmacarya (celibacy) as much as you can. If you remain a strict celibate you will attain astonishing results. What is there in a woman? What is there in repeating the same old act again and again which is so disgraceful? Are you not ashamed of all that? Do you not realise that it is all the play of avidya (ignorance) and false moha (delusion)? Strengthen the body and then do spiritual sadhana (practice). You will enjoy real bliss. I beseech you-learn to be wise – at least from now on.

Treat this body as your servant and instrument. You are distinct from this physical body which is only made up of the five elements and is subject to decay and death. You are in essence the reality, the all- pervading, imperishable atman (self). Identification with the body is the root-cause for bondage, for human misery and suffering. Do not become the slave of the body.

Swami Sivananda

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