Causes and Solutions for Physical Fatigue

In the field of medicine, there is a practice known as ‘differential diagnosis’ which examines symptoms and looks at the variety of potential causes before suggesting a remedy or curative action. The classic example is one of headache, which can have innumerable potential causes, including tension or stress, indigestion, a variety of disease conditions, physical trauma, concussion, eye strain, etc. Depending on the underlying cause, a solution is then proposed and implemented.

Similarly, when physical fatigue overtakes the body, there can be a variety of different causes, and each one would have a different potential solution. We tend to overlook the causes by fixating on the symptoms alone. Yet there cannot be any true resolution without addresing the underlying cause.

Sri Aurobindo takes up the question of physical fatigue and outlines three major causes and the solution of each.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “Physical fatigue like this in the course of the sadhana may come from various reasons: 1. It may come from receiving more than the physical is ready to assimilate. The cure is then quiet rest in conscious immobility receiving the forces but not for any other purpose than the recuperation of the strength and energy. 2. It may be due to the passivity taking the form of inertia — inertia brings the consciousness down towards the ordinary physical level which is soon fatigued and prone to tamas. The cure here is to get back into the true consciousness and to rest there, not in inertia. 3. It may be due to mere overstrain of the body — not giving it enough sleep or repose. The body is the support of the yoga, but its energy is not inexhaustible and needs to be husbanded; it can be kept up by drawing on the universal vital Force but that reinforcement too has its limits. A certain moderation is needed even in the eagerness for progress — moderation, not indifference or indolence.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Weakness, Fatigue, Inertia, pp 309-311

Spiritual Practice Requires Strength of Body, Life and Mind

Many people mistakenly believe that those who take up the spiritual life and withdraw from active involvement in the outer life of society, marriage, familiy, commerce, governance, etc. are somehow weak or unfit to succeed in society and they are “taking the easy way out”. It is true that some who experience a life of difficulty and failure turn to the spiritual life as a refuge of sorts. The misconception lies in the idea that one can succeed in the spiritual life with weakness of body, life-energy or mind. On the contrary, the spiritual Force can create tremendous pressure not only for the mind, but even for the nervous being and the physical body. A seeker who is unprepared to hold that energy can experience nervous breakdowns, imbalances in the mind, emotional disruptions, or even physical illness and death.

Another issue that arises is the idea that one must exercise the mental will to force the life-energy and particularly the body, to exceed their normal frame of action. It is true that eventually these parts of the being must be able to respond to the higher force and adjust their mode of working; it is not, however, advisable to create so much pressure that the body breaks down. The analogy of the violin is apropos. If the strings are too loose, there is no music. If they are too tight, they snap. Also, no music. The right balance must be found to create the music. Similarly, a balanced approach to the transformation of mind, life and body is necessary.

Sri Aurobindo systematically addresses the issue of either an excess of tamas, or an excess of rajas interfering with the development of the sadhana. Strength, but not excess stress or pressure, is the required basis.

Sri Aurobindo observes: “A strong mind and body and life-force are needed in the sadhana. Especially steps should be taken to throw out tamas and bring strength and force into the frame of the nature.”

“Overstraining only increases the inertia — the mental and vital will may force the body, but the body feels more and more strained and finally asserts itself. It is only if the body itself feels a will and force to work that one can do that.”

“The weakness of the body has to be cured, not disregarded. It can only be cured by bringing in strength from above, not by merely forcing the body.”

Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 10, Difficulties in Transforming the Nature, Weakness, Fatigue, Inertia, pp 309-311