Fitness and faith may seem like a strange match, but who knew your devotion could help you burn a few calories and stay fit, too?
What if someone told you that your faith can help you keep off the pounds and stay fit? Sounds like a catch? Well, the problem is, religion is such a personal thing that we often refuse to mix it with any other benefits than pleasing Gods. However, it’s a fact that kneeling in the church burns around 68 calories per hour, or that climbing temple stairs is a great cardiovascular exercise because climbing just eight flights of stairs lowers the average early mortality risk by 33 per cent. The five standard prayers (Salat) that are mandatory every day for Muslims is a continuous sequence of body movements (rakats) consisting of standing, bowing, kneeling and sitting. It’s considered as a form of physical activity that enhances fitness.
Many people back these ideas of religious practices, rituals, and rules related to health, wellness, exercise, and diet. “Namaz not only gives me mental peace and tranquility but also energises me physically. The various postures of namaz such as ruku and sajdah are the best forms of a physical workout, which involves bending at the knee and going into prostration. It’s the basis of a gym workout for a tummy tuck and stretches. I feel that performing namaz not only cleanses your mind but also imparts a sense of physical rejuvenation,” says Dr Sameena Ali, a dentist.
The spiritual texts suggest that taking care of the body has always been considered a sacred duty — a way of honouring higher power. Dr B. Vijay Kumar, senior general physician, Yashoda Hospitals, explains, “Physically travelling to a temple and climbing steps and pradakshinas add to the exercise component.
Praying involves many cleansing activities like bathing, thus removing germs and dirt. Offering Sandhyavandana, which involves chanting mantras like Gayatri Mantra and Pranayama, thus decreasing feelings of anger, fear and lust. Certain rituals like Kapalbati increase the production of certain gut hormones improving digestion and preventing obesity — a job which is presently done by bariatric surgeries. Performing daily rituals and chanting Om prevents Alzheimers,” says Dr B. Vijay Kumar.
“The idea is to keep mankind fit by exercise. Those who don’t offer Namaz or walk long distances in penance or walk up the hill to a temple should exercise to keep their body and mind fit,” says Shehzad Abbas, race horse trainer and breeder.
“The word of God in the Bible says that our body is the temple of the Spirit. As Christians, we give importance to prayer in our life. Be it kneeling, or dancing in the church (during songs) or even other forms of physical activities. During prayers at home or at church, kneeling may stress the body, but it’s something we do to express devotion to the Lord. If this devotion does help in burning calories, that is definitely an added advantage.
We consider physical fitness as an important aspect of our lives. Especially during the times of praise and prayer, the worship band of the church sings groovy songs so all of us dance, jump, clap and move here and there. It is also a great form of a cardio exercise. At our church, we even form groups of 2-3 and go for prayer walks all around our colony once a month. We pray for the families and communities who live within the residential area,” says Supreeth P, ZION Fellowship.
Divine health benefits
1. Praying in the temple by crossing arms and holding the earlobes between the tips of the fore and middle finger synchronises the right and left side of the brain. It sharpens intelligence and helps those with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, learning difficulties and other behavioural problems.
2. Kneeling down in the church not only brings total peace but also provides a deep stretch for your lower body and is often used as a meditative pose to lower heart rates and relieve pressure points. It is no coincidence that we kneel during the consecration or in a state of adoration.
3. Everyday activities like walking and climbing stairs are closely associated with improved health. Climbing stairs is recommended by health authorities: Seven minutes a day of stair climbing can halve the risk of heart attack over 10 years, and two minutes extra can stop average middle age weight gain.
Walking is like pranayama: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, spiritual leader
There is a scientific reason behind constructing the temple on top of a mountain. When you climb or walk such a great distance, your blood circulation greatly improves and the pace of your breath also changes. It becomes sort of like doing pranayama. When you climb the great distance to reach the temple of Vaishno Devi (a temple in Jammu and Kashmir), then you feel you have done a lot of pranayama in reaching the main temple. The moment you reach the temple after walking so much, your mind instantly becomes empty and you go into a meditative state. When the mind becomes empty, then any wish or desire that you have at that time instantly manifests. This is a great secret. When you finish doing the Sudarshan Kriya, then at the end your mind becomes so empty and at the same time, such happiness dawns from within. You feel so strong and energetic. When all this happens, then any sincere wish or desire that you have starts to manifest and come true.