Anil Will Not Always Win the Match
Third Limb of Yoga
Asana, Postures and Physical Exercise
This story is about me, the young Guptananda and my brother Anil. Anil had left the family to live on the farm with our aunt and uncle. I was the eldest in the family and my brother, who was close to me in age, had left as a young boy to keep my childless aunt and uncle company. There was a certain friendly rivalry between my brother and myself. I missed him when he left home, but we saw each other every week or each fortnight at least. He grew fit and strong on the farm and was proud of his muscles. Aunt and Uncle adored him and fed him very well so that he could cope with all the hard work. I was always more studious than Anil. I chose to follow my father's line of interest and would spend a lot of time scribing passages from the holy scriptures, enjoying the perfection of the shapes of the letters and the wonderful meanings conveyed by the words. My body became fairly thin and weak and Anil gave up asking me to wrestle with him because he began to win too easily.
The time came when I decided to follow the teaching of a wise old man who lived ten miles from us. I would go to see him regularly, usually on my horse. One day he said to me:
“This learning is all well and good, but what is the use of a mind stuffed with information if the body is not fit to use that information?”
“I do not understand, Swami.” I replied.
“Well, you know what it is like when someone walks into a room and you look at them and think, ‘Now there's a strong person. He looks as if he could cope with any difficulty!’ Then someone else walks in who is weak and thin, you don't register the same impression of him. You have less faith in his abilities as a person to carry off any kind of physical challenge. When the strong person speaks with authority on any matter, one is inclined to believe what he says. When the weak person speaks, one may find oneself wondering whether this person knows what he is talking about. He is not an authoritative figure; he does not appear to be in command of his body, so one may think, ‘How can he be in command of his mind? He seems to neglect his body, so maybe he has neglected his mind too and these words he is speaking might be mere constructions of intellect.’ These same thoughts also occur to people who are faced with those who have over-indulged their bodies and have become fat. People are more reluctant to take them seriously. But in truth, these judgements are nothing more than that - judgements which people commonly make.
The real reason for looking after one’s body, the vehicle of the soul, is to keep the body healthy and free from pain and disease. If we are ill and suffering, it is difficult to concentrate on our higher aspirations. It is difficult to keep our minds working towards enlightenment if there are distractions of pain and worry. Every one should exercise the body adequately to keep all the muscles, joints, glands and organs working correctly. Everyone should be aware of their posture. A slumping body not only makes a person look unappealing, but also brings pain and tension into the muscles and joints. I suggest you pay more attention to your body, young man. Try walking to see me. Set off earlier. Let your horse walk beside you and ride him only when you are truly tired. Breathe deeply while you walk and walk tall. Fill your lungs with air. Bring the ‘life force’* into your body. You will find that you soon become fit and you will surprise your brother in your ability to wrestle with him.”
After six months of walking to see my teacher, I challenged Anil to a wresting match. He won again, but not without something of a struggle. He thumped me on the back and grinned from ear to ear.
'Well,' he said, 'All that praying and meditation can't be doing you too much harm!'