Innocent Choga Fitness
Words tend to change meanings in different times, in different places and to different people. Mention the word “ancestors” to some people and you could be regarded as a heathen who believes in medium spirits.
Talk about “culture and past practices” and you could be regarded as a backward pagan witch or wizard. I once had a hard time trying to convince some teenagers that it is beneficial to follow some of the health and fitness practices from the past, that eventually everyone will become an ancestor, so we all have a duty to leave legacies in this regard that our descendants will follow in order for them to realise their maximum potential. They did not want to hear those words and to them the processing of all foods is advancement in life.
Motivational speakers advise us to bury the past, and forget past successes in order to surge ahead. When it comes to matters of health and fitness, I believe in the Karma concept; the purpose of which is to improve ourselves through recalling and analysing the effects caused by the bad and good things one wilfully engaged in the past.
One of my regular health and fitness consultants Mac Mucadam (55), a herbal expert and a devout Muslim, is a great admirer of the diet and moral practices our African ancestors. He believes youth misbehaviour, neglect and ill treatment of elders due to culture erosion is resulting in elders being stressed up and dying early, unlike in the old days when they enjoyed immense respect.
Similarly, Zim’s Yoga Queen, Tendai Angela Jambga (25) is a devout Christian who also believes in the positive ancient practices. Tendai is obsessed with finding links between Ancient African Anthropology and yoga. Although the origins of yoga are said to be Ancient India she believes it all started in Africa. The interesting facts about yoga are that there are physical and psychological lessons that arise from each posture and these postures are said to be dynamic.
Some of the successful principles and practices of the past are simple feats we take for granted but have deeper meanings which may not have been explained to some of us. For example, cross-legged sitting (kupfunya chisero) is a simple feat that women can do easily with varying degrees of competency and muscular endurance depending on their fitness levels. According to Tendai it is an important part of yoga practice.
“Our modern life does not do much to help alleviate ‘tight closed hips’. Tight hips can be genetic, but more often than not they are a result of seating in chairs and spending a lot of time driving or seating in front of computers .
“Sitting cross-legged requires and therefore assists with perfect breathing patterns, flexibility in the back of the pelvis, and thighs, as well as external rotation of the hip joints. It calms the brain, strengthens the back, stretches the knees and ankles for better blood circulation helping with ailments connected to high blood pressure.
“This posture conditions the inner thighs, hip flexors, helps with balance and mobility which is beneficial for women with menstrual cramps and those giving birth. It was a natural posture for our great grandmothers who would cook, grind millet and do many other chores seated in this position.
“They would also carry things on their heads. Holding something like books on the head, and extending your arms up helps lengthen and strengthen the muscles in the spine; this also helps to ease back pain.
Because of globalisation, this has evolved and we now carry loads predominantly with our backs rather than on our heads. This is to the detriment of our spinal health. Anthropological medical literature documents that spinal degeneration did not usually happen until one reached the age of 50, but now many people below that age complain about back pain.”
Imagine someone regularly telling children to seat cross-legged on the floor and eat or asking young ladies to carry buckets on their heads. Would that not be regarded as abuse today?
Tendai says that the music used in yoga generally has healing frequencies. It helps to elevate all senses, to create and entice complete awareness in the here and now. The incense burnt during the yoga sessions acts as aromatherapy that activates the nervous system. Tendai has a qualification in herbalism; she views it as an art and a science that involves herbs, sound nutrition and optimal health practices that promote wellness and vitality.
She believes in the use of infused oils, which during times of great anxiety and stress help calm the nervous system and serve as a reminder that life is beautiful, and to stay present. She believes in using natural cosmetic ingredients and blending teas to avoid the harsh chemicals in cosmetics and hard toxins in tablets.
“Sometimes when we have ailments we leave behind herbs in our gardens and go out to purchase synthesised medicine made from the same garden plants because of our biased opinions on herbalism. I abhor some of the old practices but I embrace the good and fuse them with the good new practices,” she says.
Even musicians infuse new lyrics into old good beats and they also fuse the old lyrics from classic music into new rhythms.
“Eating for a yoga person should be simple, I do not believe in dieting. Nourish the body, give it what it needs. Food should always be nutritionally dense and satisfying. Mapfunde, zviyo, mawuyu, are my absolute favourite foods and I have these on a daily basis,” she says.
We cannot talk as if nothing good ever came out of the past eras. True, let’s not adopt the bad practices but let the good practices be our roots. One principle that reggae singers chant often is ‘know your roots so that you can stand firm in the future.’ Some old practices were done for good purposes. Fusion of good, past and new practices will help us and future generations enjoy quality lifestyles.
- Email:[email protected] Innocent Choga is a six time National Bodybuilding Champion with international experience. He is studying for a science degree in Physical Education and Sport.