Swasthyavidya- The Knowledge Of Being Healthy
A paradigm shift is when the most basic knowledge we have on any subject needs renewed foundation based on newer understanding. For instance, there was a belief at one point in history that the earth was flat. That very foundation was shifted with the understanding the earth is round. There was a belief that the earth was the centre of the universe and sun and all other planets were going around it.
Copernicus and Galileo had to dedicate their lives at different points in time to facilitate the paradigm shift of the earth going around the sun. Similarly, the belief that fitness is merely for maintaining your body needs to change to the realisation fitness implies the holistic wellbeing of a person integrating his physical fitness, his mental wellbeing, emotional health and social connectedness.It is time for a paradigm shift in man's understanding of why he ought to be fit.
In this context I would like to introduce the term `Physical Literacy'.
Although the term has been in existence for over 50 years, it internationally started a new movement towards holistic health in 2010, thanks to the efforts of Dr.Margaret Whitehead, Founder of the International Physical Literacy Association, (IPLA) UK. Physical Literacy is described as the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.
The concept includes addressing the physical, affective and cognitive domains through exposure to a wide range of activities that create the willingness and self discipline to be active for life. In a recent dialogue between Indian Prime Minister Shri NarendraModi andMr.MukulKanitkar during a Fit India Movement interaction, the latter beautifully pointed out that health or Swasthya in an Indian context includes physical, mental, emotional and even spiritual wellbeing - a rather lofty ideal that the Indian subconscious has always aspired for. Quoting Swami Vivekananda that mental wellbeing comes from the presence of just an ounce of unselfishness, the need to create a connection between the individual's fitness and their purpose of life was well established.
When an individual's mental health is in sync with their bodily fitness, they in turn are capable paradigm shift is wh of contributing to the family's wellbeing. A healthy family is the pillar of society which is the building block of a healthy nation, presenting the opportunity for the Nation to promote and contribute to the wellbeing of humanity at large.
Mahatria, diviner of the path infinithesim, enumerates how we are each a composite of five distinct personalities - our physical body, our mental persona which is the flow of our thoughts, our emotional dimension, our intellectual personality and the spiritual essence that gives us life. Integrating all these into a focussed singular direction without any split, propels us to peek performance. That is, when there is no conflict between one's actions, thoughts, emotions and intellectual discrimination of right and wrong - when there is no split between one's own personalities, he or she is in a state of wellbeing to give their best.
Very often our body cannot cooperate with our desires; our feelings are in conflict with our conscience; our actions are not in sync with our thoughts and we are in state of Kurukshetra internally, fighting innumerable inner battles to achieve even daily tasks. The first step to resolve such conflict is awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to focus on ourself, to watch how our thoughts, actions and feelings align or don't align with what we consider as valuable.
The concept of the embodied nature of the human being may be new to western thinkers, but it is the very essence of the Indian philosophy `advaita' or non-duality
knowing it intimately, knowing what agrees, what bothers, what promotes health and what doesn't. And that value cannot be borrowed - it is the value I have for my body, the value you have for your body, for your life by being in touch withit.Valuing our body means we realise it is irreplaceable. So self awareness helps understand the value of the body which in turn helps us realise the sanctity and dignity of the body. I use the word sanctity, because in addition to the quality of being sacred, it also means inviolability - meaning it must be respected and cannot / should not be violated. And I use the word dignity because it implies you are in control. It is the quality or state of being worthy.
One of the primary philosophical underpinnings of physical literacy is the perspective of the embodied nature of human beings. Dr.Margaret Whitehead elaborates how the body is not a tool or an instrument that needs to be deployed in functional situations like doing manual work, participating in sports or even activities for health maintenance. According to her, `embodiment' is not an adjunct to human life. It is the primary basis of our existence. To embody means`inherently inside something'. It is the realisation that you are the body! Not I have a body but I am the body. Becoming aware of our embodied nature means to be constantly conscious that every act of life happens through our body; to make our body concrete and perceptible in every movement and at every moment.
The concept of the embodied nature of the human being may be new to western thinkers, but it is the very essence of the Indian philosophy `Advaita' or non-duality. Just as how the dancer and the dance are indivisible or we find a sports person in his zone when his movements are in a flow, to embody implies to become the activity rather than to do an action. Situations in life have kinaesthetic, logical and collaborative components.
Solutions therefore need to be born from every individual being intellectually, physically, emotionally and socially engaged. Swasthyavidhya or the knowledge of health is in achieving holistic wellbeing by addressing the quality ofconnectedness between our physical body, our flow of thoughts, our emotional state, our intellectual perspectives and our sanctity for life.