The wisdom of Hindu texts on Anna and Vyayama, contributing to ‘Fit India’

On the occasion of Sports day, PM Modi has initiated Fit India campaign. To be fit is to be free from ailments. Food and physical exercise are the two important components of fitness.

In Hindu culture both ‘anna’-the food and ‘vyayama’ – physical exercise find a special place. These two are integral part of ‘dinacharya’ – routines which must be followed daily.


In our culture food is regarded as offering to the agni inside one’s body. Hence for Hindus its not mere ‘eating’ or ‘ingestion’ of food but its a yagna.

‘Anna’ is a word from Sanskrit, the root word is ‘adhyathe’ and ‘athi’

“annad bhoothani jayanthe jathan Annen vardhanthe |

Adhyathe athi cha bhoothani tasmad annam taduchyathe ||

Every living being takes its form from the food, food is the reason for its survival too, food is,

Adhyathe-the one which nourishes

Athi-the one which destroys

As its meaning itself goes food can nourish a body, and it can also bring illness and ailments to the same body, when consumed not taking quality and quantity into consideration.

In Hinduism, food (annam) is considered Brahman – “annam parabrahma swarupam” . The whole material existence is symbolized as food. The Upanishads says that by creating different types of food, names, forms and functions, God himself manifested in diversity.

The physical body is called the annamaya kosha, because it is made up of food only.  The Atma is eternal, self-existing and independent. But the physical body invariably depends on food.

According the brihadaranyaka Upanishad, “Prajapati created seven types of food. Of the seven, one is the elemental food which is common to all, five are breaths (prana), which is the cause for functioning of the senses. The one which was given to animals was milk which is used by humans both as food and offering in the sacrifices. Gods receive food through breath in the body and vayu in the bramhanda.

Thus, in Hindu culture food is not just what we eat. It also includes what we breathe, and what we accumulate in the mind and body as virtue (punya phalam), desires, sin (papa phalam), attachments, karma and material possessions.

The rules for preparation and consumption of food are mentioned in the vedic texts.

Acc to which,

The solid food should only be consumed half of the capacity of stomach

One quarter of the total portion must be for the water/liquid food.

The remaining quarter must be left for the easy movement for ‘samana vayu’ which facilitates digestion.

If one simply follow this rule, there will never be a chance for overeating, and thus obesity and related problems.

The modern dieticians always advice to consume freshly prepared food, which has all the components like carbohydrates, proteins and fat.

Traditional Indian food, is a combination of all the rasa(tastes), shami dhanya(Source of protein), shuka dhanya(source of carbohydrate and fibre), lavana(salts) and mainly ghee a nutrient fat. It is said that food should be consumed immediately after preparation.

The quality and quantity are both taken into consideration. Hence we do not need any fad diets to keep our body healthy, we just need to follow what has been given to us as a gift by our vedic texts.


Vyayama is referred to any action which can bring ayasa(tiredness, exertion) to the body. Vyayama is described as Balavardhaka(which improves strength)

Kantivardhaka(which improves complexion) and Agnivardhaka(which improves digestive capacity).

The history of Vyayama in Hindu culture can be traced from a remote past, the references are available in Mahabharata, In all the brahatreeyes of Ayurveda. Acharya Charaka defines vyayama as, the body movement which is meant for producing firmness and strength is known as vyayama, and he says one should practice it in moderation.

Vyayama compulsorily should be followed daily by all the age group people says the Acharya Sushrutha. Only precaution one should exercise is not to involve in over exhausting exercises which may lead to the debilitating effects on the body.

Ayurveda says,

For a person who knows proper way of consuming food and is indulging himself in physical activities to keep himself fit, doesn’t require any medicine.

And for a person who doesn’t not follow proper food habits and keep himself fit too doesn’t need any medicines because he will be in such a condition that no medicine will act on him.

A person who is physically fit will have an alert and peaceful mind. He can enjoy life to fullest. By incorporating minute changes our habits we can keep diseases at bay.

When Parvathi was doing penance to have Shiva as her husband, disguised as a Brahman boy Shiva approached Parvathi to test her dedication. In the following UmaMaheshwara samvada, lord Shiva says, one should always take care of physical health, so parvathi do not weaken yourself.

“Sharira maadhyam khalu dharma sadhanam”

Every goal in life can only be achieved by a fit body.

Dr Sindhu Prashanth