Monthly Archives: June 2012

Fitness Articles : The Fighter Within Part I

Martial arts, once thought of as the domain of the aggressive and violent actually is a good workout in itself. In ancient China, Shaolin monks were pacifist and practice martial arts as a form of strengthening of the body rather than for use against bullies (though it helps in standing up to oppressors). Martial arts are also thought to build physical strength and character through hardship, instilling virtues like humility and self control.

“The Sweet Science” is not just violence, but endurance, strength, strategy, forethought and all “heart”. Life has always been compared to a fight, and rightly so, because its never easy and to win we need to take hits and keep on fighting.

Contrary to popular belief, the better a fighter a person becomes, the calmer and more self-controlled he/she is. Because swinging blindly into a fight would only get you knocked out from a well timed punch. Most fighters naturally learn that self control and techniques as well as relentless strengthening of the body quells their anger, and naturally makes them better fighters and people.

The physical benefits are also astounding.

Cardiovascular – One of the most important exercise benefits is cardiovascular health. A weak cardiovascular system usually  results in shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, in worst cases a heart attack. One of the best ways for cardiovascular health is doing prolonged and (slightly) strenuous activity. Not most people love jogging as it might be too solitary and slow paced. While group sports require alot of coordination as well as meeting the timing of all participants before it can happen (joining a class helps). Martial arts training is solitary and includes the benefits of being more interesting than jogging and less dependent on the timing of others like group exercises and games. Plus, its always fun to kick or punch at something. 30-40 minutes of light/medium activity like shadow boxing or heavy bag boxing does wonders for the cardiovascular system.

Increased muscle tone –  Martial arts combines cardiovascular activity (moving around ) with anaerobic activity (punching hard and fast). The anaerobic effects of martial arts are very suitable for women who do not want to gain excess muscle mass because of the relative intensity and requirement for full body movement (compound exercises). So usually a muscle like the arms or leg would not be dominantly trained like it would be for weight bearing exercises. And the requirement for agility and speed would also ensure that a good martial arts program wouldn’t see you packing on muscles like a body-builder. For men, the workout can be also made more challenging by using heavy punching bags and complemented with weight training for increased muscle bulk and punching power, and can improve muscle tone as well as be a terrific core workout as well.

Weight Loss –  One pound of fat equals to approximately 3,500 calories. To lose one pound of fat a week, we must eliminate 500 calories from our diet. An hour of moderate martial arts training would burn equal or more than 500 calories a session. And 7 days of training would easily blaze through a pound of fat. Together with the learning component and the thrill factor, keeping interested and committed to martial arts is easy and would aid you greatly in weight loss.

Improved reflexes and hand eye coordination –  Fast reflexes are required for martial arts training. There is no doubt about it and research also shown that martial arts not only improve your reflexes for martial arts related activities, it helps in daily activities in your life as well that require reflexes and co-ordination and might even save your life when you drive a car.

Improved moods –  There is nothing so satisfying that the dull thud of a punching bag with a well executed punch and the deep breathing and body slick with sweat kind of feeling when you participate in martial arts training. Researchers have also found out that a regular exercise routine is one of the best ways to improve your mood. Punching and kicking at life’s problems is not only a good way to relieve stress and frustration, but will make you happier. The endorphins released by physical activity from martial arts training or intense physical activity can be active in your body for as long as four hours. Its better than coffee !

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Mind Article : Fitness and Kindness

I think the two really are like chalk and cheese. Fitness and kindness are quite different things. But are they ? Recently i was listening to a French Monk (Matthieu Ricard) talk about happiness. He was talking about basic philosophies of happiness or well being, it seems no one wakes up thinking they want to suffer the whole day. Consciously or not, whatever we hope and dream its related to a profound desire for happiness. There is incredible diversity in happiness, fleeting or vague and each of us to define it in our own terms. But if its something to determine our destiny and what we feel , then we need to know what it is, when we seek it we want to know we are running to it.

Matthieu Ricard, philosopher on the state of happiness.

Is happiness pleasure ? Pleasure depends on an object, its very fleeting and it always diminishes in value, i mean its fun if you do it once, exhilarating, and a cheeseburger or chocolate cake would seem to be less pleasurable as time passes. So as much as we think that junk food makes us fat, it stems from an innate desire to be happy but this happiness is short lived and expensive. Conversely, a fit body would only be as beautiful until we begin to point out flaws no matter how perfect it would be. We need a deeper sense of fulfilment than just looking good and being fit, we need to push boundaries and be better versions of ourselves in mind and body.

I think that happiness is a deep sense of fulfilment, called Eudemonia. A sense of well being, a sense of kindness. Matthieu Richard says the mind translates things into pleasure or pain, and we would do well to train it. Because if we do not build the inner conditions, no matter what your outer conditions are, you would not be happy. We have heard of people who have auxiliary happiness but their mind is unable to translate this happiness to them, they have the nicest house or best spouse and children and health but they are not happy. They are successful but not flourishing. If you give them paradise, they would probably find a way out of it because they cant translate this paradise into happiness.

I feel happiness is a sense of calmness, a way to transform our mind, a way to change the destructive emotions into constructive ones. We need to proceed with positive emotions, finding inner freedom, exercising loving kindness towards hatred. Finding a general cure for our problems inwards. If we spend a large portion of our lives to study and exercise to get successful and fit, then maybe we should take more care of what matters even more, the way our mind functions.  A way is by being completely open and kind towards ourselves and others. By making someone happy without recognition, having a sense of integration with our deep nature.

Being aware, or in Buddhism, being “mindful” or in a state of “mindfulness”. Being more cognitive, and understanding of our own emotions is important, because if we could not identify our emotions, then what different are we from a stone. When we look around we see people obsessed with how their body looks or performs, if you can lift 100 kg and if I lift 110kg I am stronger than you therefore I am better. If I win, you lose, if i can’t hit my goals i lose.

You life is a miracle. Why not make the best use of it ?

We must be aware of such destructive thoughts and emotions that seek to break our calm, telling us we are “less than” and giving us a lot of pressure, allowing us only meagre happiness when we achieve our goals, we must be kinder to ourselves. We should proceed in life with mindfulness with a kind of happiness and sense of duty with deeper sense of happiness in who we, what we are becoming and where we are moving towards, that is the only thing that can sustain and withstand the hardships and adversities in life, having a stronger frame of mind.

What I am saying is that we should look at our rules and make things kinder for ourselves, we never lose per se, but we do become less calm and confident and when we are not mindful. Goals push us, but only in being better people and not just being better at things. Maybe the reason why you run is fighting a battle with yourself, putting pain and discomfort on the line, pushing boundaries, for YOURSELF. You are not lesser off by not having the dream and athletic body you prefer, but rather you would be poorer off if you gave up being a better person because it was hard to achieve.

In the end, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about reaching your limits. Being kind to yourself, playing for the ultimate victory, the victory over yourself, becoming the best version of yourself. Being the kindest, calmest, most confident and ultimately the happiest version of yourself.

Mind Article : The Perfectly Imperfect You

We are constantly bombarded by perfection, we see bodies of models who had undergone serious diets or steroids paraded as though it is the norm. And told that a herculean or lean and toned body is the way to go, that the only place to get fit is an expensive gym and that the admiration and acceptance of others can be earned by a rock hard body, that being beautiful on the outside would make us beautiful on the inside as well.

Valeria Lukyanova, a real life person who painstakingly built herself to be a real life Barbie through plastic surgery, makeup and photoshop.

Well its a bitter pill to swallow but in this age of mass media creating a wave of aneroxia and self obsession creating a singular goal which is that of a beautiful body by the standards of the media. Not by our OWN standards but by other people’s standards. If there is a single muscle that we could train to make ourselves happier, its not the muscles on the outside that matter but the world on the inside.

Anthony Robbins once said : “The only true security in life comes from knowing that every single day you are improving yourself in some way, that you are increasing the calibre of who you are and that you are valuable to the people around you”. This is what I feel is the key to true happiness, by stilling the surface of a pond full of ripples can we than actually know and feel what we really want.

Ask any person who has undergone a serious makeover (with or without plastic surgery. And most of the deepest reason why the would do it is because they want to gain acceptance. Acceptance from themselves to some arbitrary idea of beauty of acceptance from friends or family or a potential spouse. The largest and most compelling reason why people would want to improve their bodies resorting even to go under the knife or drug use is to gain acceptance. But what use is acceptance of others when we don’t accept ourselves ? 

If there is one thing i would like you to remember if you forget anything else on this website or article is that we need to accept ourselves for who we are. If we don’t take that first step, then the best fitness plan or plastic surgeon could never make us happy. We have to accept the perfectly imperfect us first before we take steps to make changes. Once we achieve that any upside would be pleasure and joy and the journey would be an educating and fulfilling one. On the flipside, if we don’t accept ourselves and subject ourselves on some far flung and media portrayed standards on what is beautiful then every step is a downside, with each painful step leading you to realise how far you are from your goals, filling you with frustration and self denial.

Inspiring and motivating people, with a heart bigger than most

Nowhere is this more clear in the book by Nick Vujicic “Life Without Limits” when he illustrated his experiences in public speaking when he said these simple words to kids who listened to him speak in schools, who do not know him at all. Who like all of us have their little imperfections. He said a few simple words:

” I love you just as you are. You are beautiful to me”.

And the reaction he got was described as ” a muffled whimper or a smothered sniffle… Then the powerful emotions would sweep across like a contagion. Tears will flow down young cheeks. Shoulders will shake from stifled sobs. Girls will huddle together. Boys will leave the room to hide their faces”.
All this he got from a simple and honest and heartfelt word to them. God forbid that we be able to say this to ourselves, but what if we could. What if instead of having a stranger tell us that we are beautiful. We allowed ourselves to tell ourselves these few words:

” I love you just as you are. You are beautiful to me”.

How would our lives change. And how would we see ourselves ? You have to stand up for yourself love yourself for who you are and live the life that you feel is right for you. Beauty is blind, Vanity is Hilarious, but you are REAL. So take what’s real in yourself and make it better. WE are all perfectly imperfect human beings, with all our painful flaws and histories. But having a perfect face wont bring you happiness, being admired wont do that either. You already have what it takes to be loved and valued, and it just takes a bit of reaching deep inside into the wells of strength, to find that kindness, love and accepting ourselves for who we are and working our way up from there.