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A healthy body is a blessing. Many of us go to great lengths to keep ourselves physically fit. Joining a fitness challenge programme is a great way to boost physical strength, like the one currently on — the Dubai Fitness Challenge. As you join the fervour, know that the physical wellness goes on to enhance mental and emotional fitness. Or, vice versa. The vice versa (ie mental and emotional health) is important as it prevents you from falling off any physical fitness programme.

The body is driven by the mind. The nature of holistic well-being incorporates mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual wellness, apart from just physical fitness.

This has been propounded in yogic texts long ago. Maharishi Patanjali’s Yoga sutra, for instance, mentions eight limbs of yoga (Astang Yoga) or eight-fold path for complete wellness. This includes: restraint, observance of rules, body postures, cosmic breath expansion, moderation in consumption, concentration, meditation and finally, the self-realisation — in that order. In original terms these are called: yam, niyam, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhayan and samadhi.

The Eight Prescriptions

These eight prescriptive ways of healthy life starts with cultivating certain virtues, such as honesty, non-violence (in thoughts and actions), non-hoarding (material things, negative thoughts, emotions), non-covetousness and purging (external, internal). It also includes feelings of: contentment (abundance), self-reflection (self-inquiry) and self-discipline among others.

It is the third limb (or conduct) of astang yoga that talks about asanas or physical postures. Asanas alone are not sufficient for complete wellness. Along with mental cleanliness (ie virtues), one has to follow pranayama practices as well. Pranayama (the fourth limb) is the expansion of the cosmic life force in the body to aid yam and niyam practices (purification of thoughts and actions).

The energy present in our pranic, that is, the etheric body, is connected to our mental/emotional realm. How does this work? Well, manifestation of an illness in the physical body takes place long after it has arisen in the emotional body. This means that one has been emotionally nurturing toxic thoughts, feeding them through negative feelings and because of this single-minded attention, the discomfort would creep into the physical reality, the physical body.

Note, however, that as one nurtures good feeling thoughts and opens up to innate virtues, the body feels good. Emotions feed thoughts and through thoughts, we create our physical reality (manifestations). For example: with the thought, “I am not feeling well today,” you go on to create a lethargic body. The opposite is also true.

Proficiency in asanas and pranayama are important as they enable one to sit in concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhayan), leading to advancement toward the sixth and the seventh steps of holistic wellness.

Mind-Matter Connection

To understand how important concentration is in any fitness goal; ask an athlete, how wavering even for a split second can seal the difference between being a champion or not. Focus is important to attain the goal. Period. And whether you are a gym-ing aficionado or not, daily meditation helps to focus. When the mind, body and spirit come in alignment, fitness is attained.

What about the fifth conduct, pratyahara? This is a virtue. Without observance of pratyahara or moderation in consumption, which means disciplining the mind and controlling the whims and fancies of the sense organs, your fitness is fragile. This applies not just for a disciplined eating habit but observing mindfulness in consuming (non-serving) news, information, literature, associations etc. If the mind is consuming excesses of non-serving information, it is impacting your brain and body negatively.

When there is a surge of toxic emotions in your body, as anger, hatred, resentment, guilt etc, it directly impacts the vital organs of your body such as kidneys, liver, digestive system, heart and other parts. If, however, you choose to retain good thoughts, your body relaxes into homeostasis, that is, a balanced state.

Here is a 40-day challenge for your fitness goal. You are the jury and judge of your progress.

1. Set your goal. (Example, avoiding procrastination or weight loss, or any other).

2. Make a list of thoughts required to accomplish your goal. Start living them to cultivate them further.

3. Be into the enabling emotional state. Let your thoughts and emotions guide your actions.

4. Take relevant action plan.

5. In case of a lapse, restart, day one.

Take the challenge from the spirit of playfulness, as saying: “What if?”: “What if, I complete 10 laps of the swimming pool today?” “What if, I leave my seat and finish this job in the next 20 minutes?”. Bring in excitement. Be self-inspired with “no matter what”; “no matter what — I am in the gym today.” “no matter what —- I choose to smile today.”

Disclaimer: Urmila Rao is a chakra balancing meditation coach, Theta Healer and a sound therapist. All the ideas expressed herein are her own and not professional advice or medical prescription. She can be reached at: