Our physical body is the ground in which all our lives are based. Without the physical body, we are only spirit, unable to learn and advance along the path of enlightenment.
Our body is therefore the first most important body to develop and take care of when undertaking a spiritual path. It is a temple, and must be respected and revered as a sacred chalice that holds the secret of our life.
There are several aspects to physical fitness-cardio-vascular fitness, strength and flexibility, body control and skill, efficient bodily function.
Cardio-vascular fitness is
necessary for endurance-the ability to use your body for extended periods of time without tiring. Your heart, lungs and muscles need to be able to tolerate stress and work at elevated levels for some time and high levels without immediate failure. This is accomplished by continuous low-intensity activity of large muscles. The important item to recognize here is time. The exercise must continue for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week.
Many types of exercise are good for cardio-vascular fitness. Some of them are: walking, cycling, swimming, skating, jogging.
Strength is important because of the need to use your muscles for work. Also, muscles need to be stressed or they lose their tone. The most efficient way to strengthen your muscles is through lifting weights. To properly strengthen your muscles, three things need to happen: first, the muscle is worked through its full range of motion; second, the muscle is worked hard where it is strong, less hard where it is weaker; and third, the muscle is worked until it fails. This type of strength training should be done 3 times a week.
Flexibility is the ability of your muscles and joints to stretch and move in unexpected directions without damage. Stretching is best done both before and after exercise, and ideally once a day as well. Stretching should be a consistent routine every time. It should process from the head to the toes or vice versa. Each stretch should be held a minimum of 10 seconds without pain. A good source of stretching exercises is hatha yoga.
The ability to make your body do what you will it to do is very important. This is done through activity which builds skills. Training in non-repetitive motion, muscle memory and fixed motions allows control over your body. Some important skills to learn are: balance, hand-eye coordination, precision movement, quickness, reflexes, strategy, use of power and finesse, ability to absorb punishment. Activities that promote these skills include: martial arts (soft and hard), ballet, tennis, rugby, golf, playing a musical instrument, typing, competitive driving, surfing, skating, hockey, among many others. In short, most any skilled activity is useful, but a balanced mix of activities is important to proper skill building.
Making your body work in the best manner is the goal of all these things. One final thing remains, and that is the health of your body. Proper diet, dental care, monitoring of cholesterol and regular checkups, in addition to preventive care will ensure that your body provides a good foundation for further development.