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The Body

The principle of physical culture*

The Mother

“The more you give, the more you receive,” it is said. Does this apply to physical energy? Should one undertake physical work which seems beyond one’s capacity? And what should be one’s attitude while doing this kind of work?

If one did not spend, one would never receive. The great force a child has for growth, for development is that he spends without stint.

Naturally, when one spends, one must recuperate and must have the time that is needed to recuperate; but what a child cannot do one day, he can do the next. So if you never go beyond the limit you have reached, you will never progress. It is quite obvious that people who practise physical culture, for example, if they make progress, it is just because they gradually exceed, go beyond what they could do.

It is all a matter of balance. And the period of receptivity should be in proportion to the period of expenditure.

But if one confines oneself to what one can do at a given moment... First of all it is impossible, for if one doesn’t progress, one falls back. Therefore, one must always make a little effort to do a little more than before. Then one is on the upward path. If one is afraid of doing too much, one is sure to go down again and lose one’s capacities.

One must always try a little more, a little better than one did the day before or the previous moment. Only, the more one increases one’s effort, the more should one increase one’s capacity of receptivity and the opportunities to receive. For instance, from the purely physical point of view, if one wants to develop one’s muscles, a progressive effort must be made by them, that is to say, a greater and greater effort, but at the same time one must do what is needed: massage, hydrotherapy, etc. to increase at the same time their capacity to receive.

And rest. A rest which is not a falling into the inconscient – which generally tires you more than it refreshes – but a conscious rest, a concentration in which one opens oneself and absorbs the forces which come, the universal forces.

The limits of the body’s possibilities are so elastic! People who undergo a methodical and scientific training, rational, systematic, arrive at absolutely startling results. They demand things from their bodies which, naturally, without training it would be quite impossible to do. And certainly, they must gradually go beyond what they could do, not only from the point of view of perfection, but also from the point of view of strength. If they have that fear of doing more than they are able, of overdoing things, they will never progress. Only, at the same time one must do what is necessary for recuperating. That is the whole principle of physical culture. And one sees things which for an ignorant and untrained man are absolutely miraculous performed by bodies which have been methodically trained.

* Heading provided by the Editor.

The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 8. Cent. ed. Pondicherry: Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust; 1977, pp. 195-7.

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