Just like everything else, physical exercises are neither good nor bad. If it is being performed with some basic knowledge and understanding of how to perform the exercises with care and attentiveness, as well as without the influence of egoism and attachment, then it will bring benefits to the body and mind. If it is being done under the influence of egoism and attachment, without the basic knowledge and understanding, nor with care and attentiveness, then it might cause unnecessary tension, stress, damages or injuries to the body and mind.
At any stages in life from young to old, the physical body needs to be performing some forms of regular physical exercises to improve and maintain its good health and fitness level. The intensity of the exercises should be within the effort according to the physical condition and ability in that moment. Some forms of gentle exercises for about half an hour to an hour a day will be sufficient to achieve the benefits of physical exercises. Over exercising or performing strenuous physical exercises that is beyond the effort of the physical condition and ability in that moment can cause short term or long term damages or injuries to the physical body.
The body needs certain degrees of ‘stress’ to maintain its bone density and muscular strength. But excessive ‘stress’ that can cause over-stimulation to the entire body systems, energy depletion or over-exhaustion, and muscular tendons injuries, isn’t necessary. What’s the point when we try to make the body fitter and healthier, but being disappointed, or dissatisfied, or frustrated, or unhappy about oneself imposed by some negative judgment, comparison and expectation coming from oneself towards one’s physical condition and ability, or the physical performance and achievement.
Yoga is not a physical exercise as some people think it is. Yoga asana practice is one part of the many types of yoga practice. Yoga asana practice involves physical movements that will give the similar effects of performing any physical exercises. These effects of physical exercise that we attain from performing regular yoga asana practice is just a side-effect from the practice, it is not the goal of the practice.
Physical exercises don’t guarantee anyone to be peaceful and compassionate. But yoga, which is the mental exercises or internal observations, if being practiced with the correct understanding and attitude, can bring oneself to realize unconditional peace and compassion, that is undetermined by the physical conditions and abilities.
Yoga asana practice is like everything else, it is neither good nor bad. It has no quality nor intention to generate pleasantness or unpleasantness, positive effects or negative effects to the practitioner. Yoga asana practice being performed regularly without the influence of the egoism and attachment will bring oneself towards peace beside getting the physical and mental effects of physical exercises. If it is being done under the influence of the egoism and attachment, it might cause tension, stress, damages or injuries to one’s body and mind.
Although regular physical exercise doesn’t guarantee us to be free from ignorance and egoism, or be free from unhappiness and suffering, it can help us to develop higher energy level, strengthening the body systems, improve physical stamina, physical strength and flexibility, to lower the risk of incurring diseases and lower the risk of physical injuries, promote good health, alertness, positive thinking, cheerfulness, determination, perseverance and tolerance to deal with unexpected or undesirable situations that may arise in everyday life more efficiently and easily.
The effects of physical exercises are beneficial for both physical and mental health and fitness, to allow us to enjoy a better quality of life, to allow ourselves to have the good physical and mental condition, the clear thinking ability, the strength and mobility, and the higher energy level to perform selfless service for oneself and others. But no matter how much we try to maintain the good condition of this physical body, it is still subject to changes, decay, injury, pain, discomfort, stiffness, weakness, old age and decomposition.
Appreciate and take good care of this physical body as well as the mind, but without identification with the body and mind as who ‘I’ am, and without attachment towards the impermanent changes of the body and mind. Allow the impermanent changes to be what they are, without craving for particular conditions, nor aversion towards certain conditions. Make good use of the good condition of the body and mind that is available now, to be doing something beneficial for ourselves and for others, without identification with the actions and the fruit of actions, without attachment towards the actions or the fruit of actions.