When we think of spiritual progress, most of us think about meditation, prayer, temples, and holy beads. If we talk about exercise, you already know its physical benefits and may even have heard about the emotional or social benefits of exercise.
But did you know that sweating in the gym could actually help you progress spiritually? It turns out that physical fitness and spirituality are closely interlinked, spiritual fitness is something you must have if you want to live your life to the fullest.
Wait, what does spiritual fitness mean?
I was first introduced to the concept of spiritual fitness (or spiritual strength) by Swami Vivekananda, an Indian Hindu monk. Here he talks about how physical fitness is a must if you wish to accumulate inner strength:
“Strength is the sign of vigor, the sign of life, the sign of hope, the sign of health, and the sign of everything that is good. As long as the body lives, there must be strength in the body, strength in the mind, strength in the hand.”
So, what are the spiritual benefits of physical activity?
- Physical exercise helps you grow spiritually by building your discipline. When you step into the gym and do what you intended to do, you become disciplined physically and spiritually.
- Studies have shown that regular workout results in increased motivation, focus, and energy in the long term.
- Exercising allows you to challenge yourself and expand your comfort zone by accomplishing new milestones you set for yourself.
- It also helps in detoxifying the body, which in turn, increases your vibration.
- Physical activity will help you get a sense of purpose, be more present, and have a quieter mind.
- And many more…
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Spiritual Benefits of Physical Activity
Oh, you’re still here? Let’s dive a little deeper into these benefits so that you can get inspired to devote time to your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being with the help of exercise.
We have already talked about the role of discipline in one of our other articles How to Not Give Up So Easily. Increased discipline is just one of the many mental benefits of exercise. But how exactly does it help you in building discipline?
When you stick to your workout routine regardless of the physical sensations, you are basically telling your mind that you’re going to do what you want to do. It is not only about building discipline by sticking to your routine, but each individual workout is a test of your will.
In every workout, you will have two options: push through and finish it or just give in and quit. There will be times when a part of you wants to give up and rest, but you have to overcome those temptations to strengthen your resolve. By regularly enforcing your will in this way, you will gradually gain control over your mind.
It is usually true that people who are disciplined physically are also disciplined mentally, financially and even spiritually. Increasing your physical discipline will have a direct effect on your spiritual discipline.
Exercise improves your focus and gives you more energy, in the short term as well as long term. You start to feel more energized. By exercising regularly, your muscle strength and endurance will improve, and you will have much more energy to think clearly and come up with new ideas and solutions. This benefit, again, is both short term and long term.
Exercise can also help you become more focused on your day-to-day activities. A study conducted on kids concluded that in a short time, exercise increases focus and cognitive control for the next 2 to 3 hours. In this study, students were asked to do moderately intense exercise for 20 minutes, and the researchers found that students who exercised could understand better. In fact, the improvement in their reading comprehension skills equated to almost a full grade level.
How does having more focus and energy help you spiritually? Your level of physical and mental energy contributes directly to your spiritual practice. Believe it or not, you need a lot of energy to meditate correctly, at least in the beginning. Being more focused will allow you to not get distracted by stray thoughts and stay concentrated on your practice.
Getting physically active can sharpen your ideas and intuition. Research done on Dutch primary school children showed that intermixing lessons with 20 minutes of aerobic-exercise improved the attention span of the students.
The hippocampus is the center of the learning and memory systems of the brain. Studies have revealed that the hippocampus responds very strongly to exercise. Physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has been proven to increase the structure of the hippocampus in adults.
A greater attention span will not only help you during your meditation sessions but in your professional life as well.
When you are focusing on exercise or engaging in any activity that involves mental effort, you can not think of your boss or be anxious about your upcoming deadlines or bills. You can’t do any of that. Physical activity, whether it is in the form of sports, yoga, or workout, requires you to be focused in the present moment.
Exercising will help you to not worry about the future, past, or other seemingly overwhelming problems of life. You will be completely in the moment and fully present. This allows you to easily convert your physical fitness routine into spiritual practice by being present throughout the exercise.
Pro tip: You can do that with all of your daily habits. It will have wonderful benefits for your mental health.
This is one of the lesser-known emotional benefits of exercise. Regular exercise trains your brain to stay put even in stressful situations. When you fail to follow your workout plan or complete your workout routine, but get back up the next day and finish it off, you’re teaching your brain to be resilient and not give up in the face of difficulties.
Your doubts, fears, may rise against you when you’re out there sweating in the gym. This, of course, happens in your life as well. So, your physical practice essentially mirrors the difficulties of your life. And by overcoming these difficulties in your workout routines, you’re also training your mind to face stresses and get over them in real life.
Studies have also proven that physical exercise even helps fight depression in the long run. Regular physical activity triggers the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, allowing the brain to receive an increased blood supply. It also spurs the creation of new neurons in the brain’s memory center – the hippocampus. Not only that, it even boosts the level of molecules that nourish neurons. Simply put, exercise leads to an individual with more, better-fed, healthier neurons. Healthier neurons will lead to better nerve cell connections, which help relieve depression.
Exercising doesn’t just alleviate symptoms of depression. A fresh supply of blood and oxygen is sent to your brain when you are fully engaged in exercise. It clears your mind of stress, sadness, depression, anger, and anxiety.
When you’re in an optimal emotional state, you’re able to stay true to your core principles and practice virtues like compassion, gratitude, etc. more effectively regardless of how the other person behaves.
Exercise helps with detoxification of your body, detoxification in turn helps to increase the frequency of energy in your body. If you want to raise your vibration, you need to get rid of all those low-energy toxins in your body. These could be waste products from your food or in your blood from metabolic activities.
The lymph, or lymphatic system, is the waste removal system of our body. It keeps our body fresh and healthy by removing wastes from it. However, the lymphatic system doesn’t have any automatic pump as our heart does. It requires activity and movement from outside to get it to function.
You have to move your muscles for the lymph system to get activated. Exercising does exactly that. The more regularly you exercise, the better your lymphatic system will function. And the more the lymphatic system detoxes your body, the higher your frequency will be.
The higher your frequency, the better you will feel. It will allow you to connect to your body in a deeper more spiritual way. Your frequency has a direct impact on every aspect of your life. By the law of attraction, when you have a higher frequency, you attract similar things and experiences into your life. You become more capable of creating your own reality as like attracts like.
As you can see, physical exercise has numerous physical, emotional, social, and even spiritual benefits. There are many reasons to start exercising, and it doesn’t need to be a session at the gym. You can start small by exercising for 10 minutes a day in the comfort of your home.
There is more than enough evidence showing that being stationary for long periods is detrimental to your physical and mental health. Don’t stress too much about finding the perfect set of exercises, getting a gym membership or anything like that. Just pick something you enjoy, then get up and start doing it regularly. Once you begin noticing a difference in your life, you can scale it up as you like.