Blog-4 – Surya Namaskara VS Jogging

According to Dr. B M Hegde, jogging is not a good exercise, but it could even be dangerous. In an American Heart Journal years ago, the then editor and a famous American cardiologist, George Burch, cautioned people about that “run to death.”  However, the multi-billion jogging shoe and outfit industry advertises jogging so much that common man falls a prey to it. It is a pity that the truth does not percolate to that level. Many studies have shown the futility of jogging. The same good effects could be obtained by walking without the side effects of jogging.

What is this fitness fad all about? Lawrence Moorehouse, the then chief of exercise physiology at the NASA, in his book Total Fitness has a chapter captioned “Fit for What?” wherein he explains clearly that fitness and heath are not synonymous. If one runs every day he is fit to run. If one plays tennis he is fit to play tennis. Physical fitness is a different thing altogether. Physical fitness of the highest order could be maintained by a simple walk, daily.

Sudden death is another dangers of jogging, although rare. The motivation to jog is such in some fanatics that they finish their job irrespective of any signal coming from the inability of the body to cope up with that amount of running. The two messages that come are breathlessness and at times, pain in the chest, mild though. When the motivation stimulates the brain so much that all other impulses coming in are suppressed by substrate competition. Eventually the compensatory phase of heart’s performance may be outdone and the heart might stop. One of the causes of death during the Bhopal gas tragedy was discovered to be this kind of running away from the gas in fear and ignoring the distress signals coming from the heart of breathlessness.

At physical level:

  1. Surya Namaskara employs all the major joints in the body, giving movements in the right direction; whereas, walking/ jogging mostly employs only the lower extremities.
  2. In the upright position, as while walking/ jogging, the spinal column undergoes compression due to gravity. In addition to this, shocks traveling from the foot through the ankle, the knee and the hip joints, though absorbed at these joints, induce little more compression on the lower back. Brisker the walk, greater the compression force on the back.
    Surya Namaskara is a compilation of scientifically well-sequenced postures, designed in such a way that, the involving muscles and joints undergo various degrees of compression and extension, and movements in different planes.
    For example, while Bhujangasana gives a nice back bending to the spine (with the highest compression in the lumbar spine), Adho-mukhashvanasana introduces good stretch to the entire spine and the hamstring musculature.
  3. Walking helps improving the functioning of the heart and the lungs, while Surya Namaskara does it better. Postures such as Adho-mukha-shvanasana, Uttanasana introduces inversion of blood to the heart increasing the blood flow to the heart. While, Chaduranga-dandasana, Bhujangasana helps opening up the chest cavity and improves the health of the lungs.

Good coordinated breathing with compression and expansion of the abdominal area not only tones up the abdominal muscles, but also helps strengthening the lower-back muscles.

At psychological level:

Any healthy habits such as walking, jogging, practice of Surya Namaskara, that have to be carried out regularly, demands determination and enthusiasm. It requires a level of mental discipline to be regular at practice. At the same time, getting into a regime with gradual increase in the period of practice, helps in building an attitude that aids regular practice.

Any activity when carried out in silence, with complete involvement always helps calming the mind. Practice of Surya Namaskara has a much higher psychological effect than walking/ jogging.

Our knee joints already bear our entire body weight. Brisk walk or jogging will only increase the compression load, gradually hurting the joints and the cartilages that acts as shock-absorbers. Not only the knee-joints and hip joints are put under undue pressure, the shock further travels up causing undesired stress on the entire back. The load is going to be more for a person who is overweight.

Giving more work to the heart should not be the only motive. We should also keep the other joints and muscles healthy and intact.

There are people who keep talking during their walk, sometimes at higher volume. Any activity without complete involvement never helps. In fact it may work adversely, in the sense, an unconscious step put in the haste of talking may hurt badly.

Any physical activity without involvement may give work only to the body. Whereas, practice in silence helps also the mind.

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