My earliest memory of Yoga or any form of fitness, is associated with my grandfather. I remember him as a simple man; silent, smiling and ever caring. As a kid, whenever we visited my grandparents, one distinct memory I have is of seeing him coming back from his morning walk/jog by the time the rest of us awoke. I even joined him on his walks on a couple of occasions and each time I was struggling to keep pace with him, leaving me amazed at his stamina at the age of 75+. More recently, when I was going through old photo albums, I discovered some photos of him doing yoga asanas with his friends. He was a super cool Thatha. He would have given any influencer today a run for their money.
In my brief fitness journey so far, I have learnt a few things.
Being thin is not the same as being fit - I was always thin and mistook that for fitness. The first time I went to the gym was for fun, with a few girl-friends. Although it was a lot of fun, most of us soon realized how low our fitness quotient was! We were huffing and puffing, gasping for breath next to elderly 60-something women who were, like my grandfather, killing it on the exercise floor. I discovered many forms of exercises at the gym - group exercises, treadmill, elliptical cross trainer, etc. But the first time I fell in love (yes, I fell in love) with any fitness activity was when I went running outside. Running in a light drizzle or fresh morning breeze amidst the trees is a whole another experience. From there, I slowly and steadily moved towards the mat ... to build my core and muscle strength. And the journey still continues.
Fitness as a culture - Growing up, other than my grandfather (who we only saw during vacation days), yoga, exercise, running or jogging was not a part of daily routine for anyone. For us kids, exercise was synonymous with PE (physical education) class or more often, in the form of punishment. (Remember rounds around the playground or the uthak-baithak/ sit-ups?) As a society, as a family and as parents we need to change the way we look at fitness. We need to start early, make it fun and make it part of everyday routine, just like taking bath, or reading or playing. We need to be role models to our next generation and show by example that it’s fun and it’s part of our life… a very essential part.
Everything is not about numbers and statistics – Talking about making exercise and fitness fun, there is one thing that can take away the fun element. Over obsession with numbers and statistics! Pace, fat burning zone, mins/mile or mins/km, VO2 max, resting heart rate, etc and the list goes on and on. And each fitness activity comes with its own set of jargons. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t bother about it at all. Use these statistics to help understand and improve performance but don’t become obsessive about it to the point it becomes all consuming.
Food is fuel and we need good quality fuel - One of my fellow runner shared this analogy. If you have bought an expensive car, would you fill it with a cheaper fuel of lower grade? You wouldn’t because you know it will impact the efficiency of the car and/or could lead to engine damage. In this analogy now replace the car with your body. No amount of Yoga, running, exercising will help if the food we eat is not healthy.
Take care of your environment - It has been recommended time and again that fitness is a balance of exercise and food. However, we are forgetting one crucial element in the wellness trifacta - Environment.
At the offset, this does not seem to be directly related to fitness but when we talk about taking care of our body, our environment is but an extension. The air we breathe, the surfaces we touch, the water we drink, all of these contribute towards our overall well being. Unfortunately today everywhere I look and everything I read tells me one more thing that is not safe. It is shocking how ignorant we all have been. And our environment is the most neglected aspect of our well-being.
I read somewhere “Take care of your body, it's the only place you have to live in” (Jim Rohn). I have discovered that my grandfather had it right and I now have to continue down this journey that will take me back to my roots.