Everyone wants to have a healthy body. Health is wealth. A healthy body makes a healthy mind. No one likes to be ill, or tired and run down. No one likes pain and illness. A healthy body is an essential toll for living a happy and fulfilled life. Life is beautiful when we feel good and have plenty of energy. Life is dark and negative when we suffer continually from a malfunctioning body.
As yet, there are few, if any, perfectly healthy people. Our society is a sick society. Very few people do not have disturbances in their bodies and minds. Few feel totally alive and healthy. Why are we unable to fulfill our desire for health? Because we have lost the science of HARMONIOUS LIVING. There is an harmonious way to live a non-harmonious way to live. There are laws which govern the needs and functioning of the human body. If we follow these laws, then we live in harmony with our bodies and they will serve us well. If we ignore these laws of nature, then our bodies will degenerate and will begin to malfunction and create suffering and pain in our lives. This malfunctioning body will negatively affect the mind and make our personality less pleasant. In general our state of mind and relationships with others will degenerate.
WHAT IS A HEALTHY AND HARMONIOUS BODY?
A healthy body feels an abundance of energy. It radiates vitality and peace. All its systems function well in harmony with each other. It is a body which does what its master tells it to do, it can be controlled and be used effectively in performing whatever tasks the individual wants to accomplish. It is pleasant to look at the attractiveness of purity, which we see in new born plants, animals and human beings. A healthy body stays young and flexible, soft and agile. It is a pleasure to live in and work with. It is relaxed, but alert to take the body of a cat. Its reflexes are alive and attuned to the needs of the moment. But there is no tension or nervous or extraneous energy wasting movements. It is efficient in work and play. It is a beautiful instrument of creative self expression here on the earth. It is an instrument for expressing love and service to fellow beings.
A harmonious body is in harmony with itself, with the mind, with the spirit, and with the society around it. This is the requirement of total harmony; a balance between the needs and forces of the body, mind, spirit and the society. There can be no physical harmony if an individual has not also paid attention to and fulfilled his mental, social and spiritual needs. Harmony is a dynamic balance of all these aspects of the individual. Such an individual radiates health, vitality, peace, intelligence, love and compassion and service to his fellow man.
Thus a healthy body depends on creating harmony on the following levels of the human being:
1) Harmony within the cells and tissues making up the organs of the body. A body is only as healthy as the cells which make it up. If the cells are full of toxins, or are malfunctioning in some way (i.e. cancer, leukemia, anemia) then the body cannot be healthy.
2) Harmonious functioning of the organs making up the various systems of the body.
3) Harmonious functioning between the systems of the body i.e. the endocrine system, circulatory system, nervous system, digestive system, excretory system and muscular system.
4) There must also be harmonious communication between the physical body and energy body and the mind.
In addition the individual must also work on balancing the higher aspects of his being.
5) He must harmonize the various conflicting aspects of his personality.
6) He must learn to fit into the society in which he lives.
7) He must be at peace with his spiritual beliefs and aspirations.
8) He must be in good communication with God.
BODY IS A VEHICLE WITH WHICH WE TRAVEL THROUGH LIFE
The body is an instrument through which a spirit lives its life here on the earth. It enters into that vehicle and operates it through life fulfilling the various needs and desires, dreams and goals of his life until he arrives at his final destination which we call death. Ata death it leaves its physical body and continues its journey in a spiritual body. The quality of our life here on this earth will very much depend on the quality of our body. Take the example of the great philosopher Pythagoras. He compared the spirit to the guitarist and the body to the guitar. The guitarist picks up the guitar and plays what he likes. But if the guitar is not tuned or if it is broken he cannot play very well. He, as a spirit, has the ability and talent to play, but the un-tuned guitar will prevent harmonious music from being produce. In the same way our un-tuned bodies and minds will prevent us from living harmonious lives and from being as creative and productive as we could be.
Let us consider the model of the car.
1) The CAR is the BODY.
2) The ENGINE that moves the car is the MIND.
3) The STEERING WHEEL is the HIGHER INTELLIGENCE which should direct the mind and therefore the body.
4) The DRIVER is the SPIRIT who is using the body and mind to travel through and experience life.
The car cannot be allowed to travel on it own, or to dictate to the driver where it will go. The driver must care for the car and keep it in good shape, so that it will serve him. But in many cases our bodies and minds are not under our control. We make resolves to employ certain disciplines and habits which we know are good for our bodies and minds, but the senses and weaknesses of the mind distract us from our good intentions. This is like setting out to go from Athens to Thessalonika and then following every side road that one comes to and thus getting lost along the way. We all know what is good for us but we do not have the discipline and strength to overcome the negative habits, addictions, fears, desires and laziness which prevent us from living our lives in harmony with the laws of nature. What are these laws of nature which govern the functioning of the body? What do we have to consider in our attempt to create a healthy body?
THE NEEDS OF THE BODY
Let us compare the body to the car again and see how there are basic laws which apply to the functioning of all machines which move and function on the earth. We will discuss these needs briefly here. The proper and efficient satisfaction of each of these needs will be discussed later.
1) The car needs FUEL in order to generate energy for its movement. The human body needs FOOD in order to generate various types of energy, i.e. physical, muscular, nervous, heat, chemical, sexual, thought and even sound energy. No human function can be performed without sufficient energy. The quality of the fuel we put in our cars is also very important. Certain cars need regular, others can function only on super or on diesel. I remember one time when we ran out of gas visiting a friend in Kapandriti. In all kindness he filled our gas tank with the fuel he used for his electricity generator. What he thought was gasoline turned out to be petroleum. The car went into agony a few hundred meters down the road, coughing and protesting with various fearsome noises. It was truly unhappy with this unsuitable food. The same is true of the physical body. It has been made to run on a certain type of food in order to function in an optimum way. If we start putting all types of unnatural foods into our bodies, they will start acting like that car. The noise they make are the illnesses and pains that we begin to experience. Pains and illnesses are indications that we are not living according to the laws of nature.
The body needs a very special combination of certain nutrients in order to remain healthy and vital and useful. Nature supplies these in their natural form and they should be ingested in as natural a form as possible. The human body was made to function basically on whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and dairy products. These are the most suitable food sources for the human body.
2) In order for the fuel to be burned, the car needs a supply of oxygen. There can be no combustion of fuel and creation of energy if there is not the correct supply of oxygen from the air. In the same way the human body needs OXYGEN for the combustion of food and production of energy and other functions in the body. A man can live as many as 50 days without food and as long as three or four days without water, but he can live only a few minutes without air.
The average individual breathes with only 15 to 20% of his breathing capacity. He thus operates with 15 to 20% of his possible energy and clarity of mind. The process of breathing also has much to do with the mental state of the individual. We must all learn to breathe slowly, deeply and rhythmically. In this way, we will develop greater health and resistance to disease. There will be greater vitality, relaxation, peace of mind, a more pleasant personality and an increased spiritual awareness.
The practice of special breathing techniques can bring about a release of tensions and freedom from the many of the symptoms of psychosomatic stress such as high blood pressure, headaches, constipation, anemia, skin disorders, colitis, asthma and anxiety.
3) If the car is left unused, it will soon begin to accumulate deposits in the inner machinery and rusting and deterioration will ensue. The same is true of a human body. MOVEMENT and EXERCISE are essential for health. When the body is not exercised, circulation begins to fail, deposits begin to accumulate in the arteries, veins, joints and organs of the body. The body becomes tense and stiff, inflexible, rather cumbersome and not very useful for performing certain functions necessary for work, play and enjoyment. Many illnesses can be avoided by a regular discipline of a few exercises every day. One does not need to spend great amounts of time. A half hour a day is probably enough for most people. We are not interested in building muscles, but rather in keeping all the systems of the body functioning harmoniously so that our body does not become an obstacle to us in our lives.
We will discuss various types of exercises in this and future issues, indicating which are best for the various ailments or needs which different individuals may have. Suffice it to say here that there are two basic types of exercises. There are DYNAMIC EXERCISES in which one moves the body in harmony with the breath. These movements increase the circulation, develop greater lung capacity, release stress and stimulate a general detoxification of the body. STATIC EXERCISES are positions which are taken and held while concentrating on breathing slowly and deeply while relaxing the body. These are YOGA exercises which stimulate all the systems of the body by subtle pressures and rearrangement of blood flow, along with increased oxygen intake. These Yoga exercises seek to develop a harmonious functioning in the endocrine, nervous, respiratory and circulatory systems so as to bring vitality and harmony to all the systems of the body. The additional benefit of these exercises is that they have a calming effect on the mind and generate a general feeling of well-being as well as positive mental attitudes.
4) If a car is run for too long a period of time without stopping, it may likely overheat or over strain and breakdown. In the same way the human body needs REST, RELAXATION and SLEEP. Most people have lost the ability to consciously relax their bodies when they want to. Even when they sleep, they continue to experience an underlying tension and restlessness in the muscles and nervous system. The consumption of drugs increases steadily as people become slaves to various external aids such as alcohol, hashish, cigarettes, sleeping pills and tranquilizers for artificially induced relaxation. Yoga teaches techniques through which the individual can once again become the master of his nervous system and mind and learn to consciously relax whenever he wants to. In this way he does not weaken his nervous system and destroy his delicate chemical balance with these powerful chemical drugs. This regular relaxation begins to permeate his personality, making him a much more peaceful and pleasant person to be with. (Cassette tapes with guided relaxation instruction can be procured from various yoga and health oriented centers).
5) The car’s engine must be kept CLEAN ON THE INSIDE, otherwise it will begin to accumulate waste products. If this happens, fuel combustion will not be efficient and eventually the machine will start to break down. In the same way the inside of the body must be KEPT CLEAN. If the products of food combustion and various chemicals are allowed to accumulate in the body, then we have such problems as arteriosclerosis, galls stones, kidney stones, arthritis, rheumatism and varicose veins. The best way to keep the inside of the body clean is to put only pure, natural food into it. But sometimes this is not enough. Even the purest foods sometimes are not eliminated completely from the body (especially when the kidneys or intestines are not functioning well). Thus just as we may have the engine cleaned, we may also clean the body with the help of fasting, enemas, stomach washes, and washing out the sinuses. These special CLEANSING TECHNIQUES are very useful in the process of healing the body from illness caused by over-toxification of the body. They will be explained in future issues.
6) Any car owner will affirm to you that his car has a personality and that it likes to be cared for. It functions better when it is given love and attention; when it is tuned up and the oil is changed. The human body too thrives on attention, love and affection. It also needs sunshine, to walk in nature, to swim in the sea, to have intimate loving contact with others.
It must be understood that this is done not in the sense of body worship. The body in itself is not important. It is going to die someday, no matter how well we take care of it. We pay attention to al these factors so that the body can be a more useful and effective instrument for the soul’s journey and expression during its life here on the earth.