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Read more about Physical Education from the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.

Importance of Physical Education

Physical culture is the process of infusing consciousness into the cells of the body. When we concentrate to make our muscles move according to our will, when we endeavour to make our limbs more supple, to give them an agility, or a force, or a resistance, or a plasticity which they do not naturally possess, we infuse into the cells of the body a consciousness which was not there before, thus turning it into an increasingly homogeneous and receptive instrument, which progresses in and by its activities. This is the primary importance of physical culture. One can say that any discipline that is followed rigorously, sincerely, deliberately, is a considerable help, for it enables life on earth to attain its goal more rapidly and prepares it to receive the new life. [1]

A generalisation of the habit of taking part in such exercises in childhood and youth and early manhood would help greatly towards the creation of a physically fit and energetic people. An invaluable result of these activities is the growth of what has been called the sporting spirit. That includes good humour and tolerance and consideration for all, a right attitude and friendliness to competitors and rivals, self-control and scrupulous observance of the laws of the game, fair play and avoidance of the use of foul means, an equal acceptance of victory or defeat without bad humour, resentment or ill-will towards successful competitors, loyal acceptance of the decisions of the appointed judge, umpire or referee. These qualities have their value for life in general and not only for sport, but the help that sport can give to their development is direct and invaluable.

Thus, by means of a rational and discerning physical education, we must make our body strong and supple enough to become a fit instrument in the material world for the truth-force which wants to manifest through us. [2]

It has for its aim to develop all the possibilities of a human body, possibilities of harmony, strength, plasticity, cleverness, agility, endurance, and to increase the control over the functioning of the limbs and the organs, to make of the body a perfect instrument at the disposal of a conscious will. [3]

A total perfection is the ultimate aim which we set before us, for our ideal is the Divine Life which we wish to create here, the life of the Spirit fulfilled on earth, life accomplishing its own spiritual transformation even here on earth in the conditions of the material universe. That cannot be unless the body too undergoes a transformation, unless its action and functioning attain to a supreme capacity and the perfection which is possible to it or which can be made possible. [4]

How to Prepare the Body?

When the body feels its miseries, its limitations, one must establish this dream in it—of a strength which would have no limit, a beauty which would have no ugliness, and of marvellous capacities: one dreams of being able to rise into the air, of being wherever it is necessary to be, of setting things right when they go wrong, of healing the sick. The body carries within itself the sense of its divinity. There. This is what you must try to find again in yourself if you have lost it. [5]

To reach this ideal goal, one must strictly shun all excess and every vice, great or small; one must deny oneself the use of such slow poisons as tobacco, alcohol, etc., which men have a habit of developing into indispensable needs that gradually destroy the will and the memory. One’s entire physical activity should be organised to help the body to grow in balance and strength and beauty. [6]

So, we must assume that animality in the human being should be replaced by another source of life, and this is quite conceivable—not only conceivable but partially realisable; and this is obviously the aim we ought to set before ourselves if we want to transform matter and make it capable of expressing divine qualities. [7]

Helpful Ways

A true organisation gives a place to each thing to the extent that it is required. You all know very well that with ten to fifteen minutes of well-coordinated exercises, you can give your body all the necessary training. This you have been taught here and it has been proved to you. For the balance of the body this is enough. [8]

Playing or taking part in tournaments and competitions, is a very good education, for it compels you to make a special effort and to exceed your ordinary limits a little. It is certainly an opportunity to make conscious many of your movements which otherwise would always remain unconscious. [9] In sports, if one has all sorts of ideas like being successful and earning a reputation for yourself—then that becomes something very egoistic, very personal and you won’t be able to progress—yes, you will make progress but still it won’t lead you anywhere. But if you do it with the idea of being open, even in the physical, to the divine Influence, to be a good instrument and manifest Him, then that is very good. [10]

Concentration is another important quality to develop for making the body supple. It is well known that the value of a man is in proportion to his capacity of concentrated attention, the greater the concentration the more exceptional is the result, to the extent that a perfect and unfailing concentrated attention sets the stamp of genius on what is produced. There can be genius in sports as in any other human activity.This extreme attention concentrated on a game or a physical activity like lifting, vaulting, punching, running, etc., focusing all energies on any of these movements which bring about in the body the thrill of an exhilarating joy is the thing which carries with it perfection in execution and success. [11]

Another most powerful aids that yogic discipline can provide to the sportsman is to teach him how to renew his energies by drawing them from the inexhaustible source of universal energy. The first is to put oneself in relation with the energies accumulated in the terrestrial material world and to draw freely from this inexhaustible source. Those who know how to receive and use these energies are usually successful in life and succeed in everything they undertake. But they are still largely dependent on their living conditions and their state of bodily health. The harmony created in them is not immune from all attack; it usually vanishes when circumstances become adverse. [12]

What has to be done with the body at first is to make it open to the Force, so as to receive strength against illness and fatigue—when they come, there must be the power to react and throw them off and to keep a constant flow of force into the body. [13]

Read more about Physical Education from the works of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.