Close your eyes and picture Buddha. Are you thinking of a fat bald guy with droopy earlobes and a goofy smile? This is the image that has been popularized by little statues and restaurant murals around the world, but it is far from the reality. Born to the prosperous rulers of the Shakya Clan in the 6th Century BC, the man who would become Buddha was a prince named Siddhartha who stayed in top physical shape in the luxurious confines of his family’s palace. Outside of the palace walls, he fasted and ate only when it was necessary for his survival. We’ve assembled the top 10 health and fitness tips from Buddha, and none of them justify an endlessly expanding waistline, sorry!
- Clean Diet
In following the First Precept of the Five Moral Precepts, many Buddhists choose Vegetarian or Vegan diets because they do not believe in killing animals for food. Buddha recommended following a diet consisting of fresh fruits, nuts, and vegetables. It is also important to consume lean protein, healthy carbs, vitamins, minerals and fats.
A study published in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society; (Apr 1999, Vol. 58 Issue 2, p459-468, 10p) shows that Vitamin E plays an extremely important role in platelet, vascular, and immune health due to its antioxidant properties. Incorporating an adequate amount of Vitamin E in your diet will leave you feeling more energetic, clear-minded and will also improve the immune system.
- Always Begin Your Day With Breakfast
Many Buddhist monks have been observed consuming breakfasts commonly consisting of steamed vegetables, fish broth, and poached eggs. The purpose of a diet consisting of these items is to prime your digestive system for an energetic and highly productive day while feeding beneficial digestive flora and starving pathogenic bacteria and yeasts in the digestive tract.
Buddhism encourages ascetic practices–practices meant to teach self-discipline or self-denial in the pursuit of a spiritual goal.
Fasting helps you achieve self-discipline and acquire more self-control while detoxifying the body. Based on the Second Precept of the Five Moral Precepts, Buddha recommended eating once a day, in one sitting, taking care to reducing the amount eaten to avoid overconsumption. It was also recommended for monks not to consume solid food after noon.
The potential health benefits of intermittent fasting include weight loss, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, improved cardiovascular and brain function, improved risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke, and increased resistance to age-related diseases and insulin sensitivity.
- Wake up Early
It is important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule in which you go to sleep at and wake up at the same time every day. One of the main benefits of waking up early include increased energy, clarity of mind and productivity. Waking up early will also give you an early start and more time to work on your goals for the day.
- Maintain Physical Fitness
Siddhartha Gautama was born into the caste of warriors, rulers, and aristocrats of ancient India. As a result, Siddhartha Gautama underwent rigorous physical training to master archery, swordsmanship, and horsemanship. A healthy, flexible, and fit body will undoubtedly complement and support the pursuit of a healthy, flexible, and fit mind. Unsurprisingly, yoga and Buddhism are sister traditions that evolved in the same spiritual culture of ancient India. The beginnings of yoga can be traced back over 5,000 years ago to the Indus-Sarasvati civilization of Northern India and ancient monks used yoga along with pranayama (breathing the life force) to prepare their bodies for long periods of seated meditation.
- Meditate Every Day
Meditation occupies a central place in all forms of Buddhism. The Buddha was one of history’s major proponents of meditation, and Indian tantras (scriptures) mentioned meditation techniques around 5000 years ago.
According to the Buddha Dharma Education Association, the basic purpose of meditation is to calm the mind and train it to concentrate. The benefits of meditating each day include lowered blood pressure and allow for fewer distractions throughout daily life.
- Avoid Intoxicating Substances
Buddha emphasized the importance of avoiding intoxicating substances. Intoxicating substances are to be avoided because they cloud the mind, can be physically and psychologically addictive, and may increase the likelihood of breaking the other rules of Buddhism, according to the Five Moral Precepts.
- Practice Proper Breathing
Proper breathing techniques go hand in hand with yoga and meditation. There are many ways to practice proper breathing — one of the health benefits of mindful breathing and meditation include decreased Beta brain waves, which are associated with thinking, problem solving, and stress. With daily practice of proper breathing, you will increase Alpha, Theta, and Gamma brain waves, which are the brain waves associated with relaxed creativity and high mental state. Mindful breathing throughout the day has been shown to have positive effects on stress of the body and mind. In a study published in NeuroImage suggests that mindful attention to breath contributes to increased emotional regulation because of increased amygdala and prefrontal-cortex connectivity.
- Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness according to Merriam-Webster is defined as “the practice of maintaining a non-judgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis” and pertains to both bodily actions and the mind’s thoughts and feelings.
Mindfulness is a conscious direction of our awareness and is often synonymous with meditation. In Buddhism, mindfulness is a prerequisite for developing insight and wisdom. Mindfulness is an activity that can be done at any time and does not necessarily require sitting in one place.
- Practice Altruism
“O monks, wander! We will go forward for the benefit of many people…out of compassion for the world, for the good, welfare, and happiness of gods and humans.” — Catusparishad Sutra (Buddhist scripture)
“Someone may build a precious reliquary, as high as the world; It is said that training others to generate The altruistic intention is more excellent.” — Aryadeva (monk, 170-260 CE).
Many Buddhist organizations aim to give help and provide warmth and active caring to relieve suffering. The goal of adopting an altruistic approach to life is to extend compassion and loving kindness, or charity to others.