“Mens sana in corpore sano” – you have probably heard this piece of Latin wisdom, and if you have not, it is high time you acted on it. Regular exercise has manifold benefits for both the body and the mind: beyond ensuring regular heart rate and blood pressure, promoting weight loss, bone density and muscle strength and aiding exchange of matter in the body, physical activity is the best cure for anxiety, depression and stress. And with the mind sharp, balanced and focused, the door to the spiritual plane is already halfway open – so keeping your body in shape actually translates as keeping your mind sound and your soul fit for divine truths.
The four humors: A pitch-perfect balance
According to the ancient Greek lore, the four natural elements (air, water, fire and earth) are reflected in the main metabolic agents in the body, i.e. blood, phlegm and yellow and black bile. These four agents govern digestion and shape the personality of an individual. The harmony of humors is manifested as good health, physical and psychological growth and positive outlook on life (eucrasia). If, however, the humors fall out of balance, the human body and mind are at risk of excess and extremes (dyscrasia). Regular workout regulates the level of the four metabolic agents in the body, so it is the best way to preserve equilibrium of the four humors, and that is the prerequisite of a happy, fulfilled life.
Eastern teachings: The way of the yogi
Another time-honored philosophy concerning the link between the body, mind and soul is found in Eastern religions. For Hindus and Buddhists, the practice of yoga constitutes the path of development for the body, mind and soul, so its effects are far from merely physical. By definition, yoga means unity – a union of the mundane and divine, the individual and the universal, the still and the fluctuating, the ego and the spirit. The origins of yogic philosophy rely heavily on the role of movement in cultivation of awareness, which makes activity inextricable from meditation on a quest for higher truths, compassion and unity with our true nature, other beings and the universe as a whole.
Contemporary medical research: The body of the mind
Recent medical studies also back the link between exercise and mental health. In addition to their role in the biochemical processes in the body, aerobic exercises help channel stress and anxiety, boost self-confidence and improve mood, all of which are necessary for peace, satisfaction and intellectual growth. On top of keeping weight, mood and hormonal status in check and promoting healthy sleep patterns and seamless digestion, gym workout releases pent-up energy and shifts the focus from rambling thoughts to the present moment, i.e. movements and breathing, insomuch resembling the effects of yoga. For this reason, you should make exercise a priority even when traveling – shuttling between different environments and cultural contexts is inevitably stressful, so you should definitely hire a reliable personal trainer in Dubai, Moscow or Japan the next time you set out to explore the world and all its different cultures.
Divine truth and mental clarity are inseparable from balance, peace and willingness to grow. From the ancient beliefs to the present day, exercise remains an integral part of a balanced lifestyle – and an essential element in the quest for tranquility, joy, emotional and spiritual well-being. And even though one of the greats of British philosophy and theology, John Milton, said that “(…) they also serve who only stand and wait”, all evidence, both past and present, points to the contrary: the best service to your own inner divinity does not come from standing or sitting, it comes from movement as a universal engine that promotes intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual development.