Exercising! Dieting… !
By Maxwell Pereira
maxpk@vsnl.com

There was a time, exercising came naturally, effortless. One did not need to be calculating calories of one’s intakes or the calories expended. The day’s routine and connected activities ensured the needful – kept one fit as a fiddle and trim as a tripod, or as a bi-pod if you preferred it that way! And for effect, erect as a ramrod! – though most ramrods one has seen in movies alone, have been used horizontally to ram bastions of castles and forts to gain access or entry – and not vertically as ‘erect’ would normally indicate.

But returning to the subject of discussion, one agrees that exercise is an excellent and necessary tool in the prevention of heart disease – believably the major killer of mankind – and offers dramatic benefits for heart patients. Exercise can slow or even reverse atherosclerosis, manage or lower (blood pressure), reduce cholesterol levels, help lose weight in a healthier way, reduce stress and depression and make you live a longer and more energetic life.

As one advances in age, one experiences the sands of time though have gradually evolved exercising concepts from the abstract unconscious to the tangible realm of the conscious, when not only is one conscious, but has to make conscious effort to exercise. And direct such exercise to specific targets – be it specific to parts of one’s anatomy or what’s internal to one’s anatomy. Like one’s aches and pains or other ailments, physical or mental.

With this evolution comes also the need for regularity, failing which adverse consequences are round the corner – and with this regularity comes the need to devote time, take time off to exercise.

The more conscious one gets, the needs increase. The ones who never jogged before find the need to jog. The ones who pooh-poohed yoga as mere mumbo-jumbo suddenly find virtues in it, start reading stuff on it, even taking pains to find a teacher to put you through the basics and processes. It is amazing how yoga has taken the western world by storm, for someone told me the other day that the American continent today has more teachers, institutes, research centres and published literature on yoga, than India has ever produced in all of its history over 5000 years!

But here, yoga is just an example. For some it may be yoga, for others it could be other forms of the same stuff being touted by a plethora of fitness gurus – in the form of the exerting physical yoga, elevating spiritual yoga, vipasana, the art of living, or whatever…. For many others, the truly old tried and tested constitutional, the morning walk. And to those who prefer, the evening walk too. And before you know, you have graduated to the Walkers’ Club, even getting passionately addicted to it, to wax eloquent on its virtues at every opportunity that presents itself.

For those bitten by the exercise bug when still young, the need to get a ‘high’ through more vigorous forms of aerobics, power dancing to synchronised dancing and so on, grip the mind. And lately, the young ones swear by Salsa dancing as one of the best forms of exercise for boosting physical endurance and range of motion; for weight loss and muscle gain by burning up to 10 calories a minute without harmful side effects caused by high impact exercises – all while enjoying the latest social trends of the jet-set salsa types.

Conscious exercising drags in with it the thirst for every other form of recommended habit, practices and therapies – be it hydrotherapy or physiotherapy that gradually spreads its tentacles to meander through trodden and un-trodden realms and paths, and into the passions and pleasures of the masseuse’ world. To reach levels of nigh addiction. Massage and especially the therapeutic ayurvedic type gets addictive, as it improves circulation, encourages healing of sports and age related injuries and assists with managing pain, headaches, fatigue and other chronic conditions. It also supports and encourages a more youthful, vibrant appearance, and assists in retaining healthy, supple skin and muscle tone. Massage is a comforting, supportive, soothing and stress reducing way to recover and heal from the demands of our modern busy lives, and enables us to refresh and return to our lives and loved ones with a new sense of calm, peace, composure and security.

And then, most importantly, the realm of diets! Talking of diets, being one of those subjected to regular and strict dozes through childhood to purgatives like castor-oil and Epsom salts, followed by concoctions of bitters from a variety of tree barks to zardaal nutmegs and kiraten herbs, to decoctions or kashayams of pepper and selected spices or a variety of herbals to ward off severe colds and headaches, and some others laced with hing-asafoetida to ward off stomach ailments or remove flatulence – I had thought I had seen it all.

But no! Into adulthood too followed the kashayams and brews to envigorate you periodically, and cleanse you internally by purification of the blood through calculated dozes of unadulterated karela applications, and ‘neem concentrates insisted on by my late mother – God bless her departed soul – to whose foresight and insistence perhaps I owe a fairly strong and sturdy, and a free-of-serious-ailment constitution even at the stage of superannuation from active police service.

Even so, I am afraid, there has now come a time when one finds oneself with a questioning mind, wanting to know “Oh why! Why do I need to punish my body so much?! Is there really no room left for a less rigorous routine, a mellowed doze to caress the senses and the weakening flesh, to a smoother nirvana?”

900 words: 15.03.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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