HomebodybuildingBodybuilding As A Spiritual Path- A Spiritual Side Revealed

Bodybuilding As A Spiritual Path- A Spiritual Side Revealed [2023 updated]

Bodybuilding as a spiritual path- bodybuilder Kevin Richardson
Author and natural bodybuilding champion, Kevin Richardson

Bodybuilding As A Spiritual Path- A Spiritual Side Revealed [2023 updated]

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See the full video Natural Bodybuilding As A Spiritual Path

I wrote this article several years ago and it was a piece that I believed to be very important in a world of fast fixes. Today in my practice as a personal trainer in New York City, I can’t help but hear the shift in tone when the word “bodybuilding” comes up. It used to be that anyone focused on weight training as a means to change the way they looked was a bodybuilder, but the alarming use of performance enhancing drugs have made it such that most people shy away from using such a term to describe their pursuits. Conceit, freak show and self worship are more commonly the terms the general public uses to define it, and with the onslaught of so many personalities on social media exemplifying these characterizations, I believe this article to be even more relevant today than it was when I first wrote it. Thank you for taking the time to read my work, and here it is:

Sometimes truth contains apparent contradictions. Contradictions that come as a result of the intellect struggling to comprehend that which is beyond intellectual comprehension. Such truths speak to what lies well beyond the façade of ego and instead communicates directly with what we often term as the spirit within us. This spiritual side of ourselves is timeless and ever present, unaffected by the vicissitudes of life and simply is. It is a side that so many choose to ignore but one that so many struggle to comprehend. Time has taught us that the physical can be a gateway towards the spiritual. By training the body we refine the spirit. By taking our physical self to an extreme place where intellect ceases to have meaning and our mental and physical selves unite in the completion of intense activity those able to endure will inevitably find themselves in a quiet place where another side can be glimpsed.

A silent side. A part of us that is powerful beyond all imagination, and a side of ourselves where all things are possible, and all hardships can be endured and overcome. Bodybuilding, or any endeavor bent on improving ones outer appearance, seems to relate almost exclusively with the physical but in it’s purest form, the body is developed through years of toil, struggle and self-sacrifice into a work of unmistakable art. Sadly, today it remains largely a superficial pursuit where the emphasis is so much on the ends that the means fall by the wayside. Drugs take away the almost Sisyphean task of brutally hard training with little in the way of tangible changes in the short term, and  instead rewards the user with near instant gratification. The struggle then becomes a destructive one as one must risk more and suffer more to reach the higher levels as progress is determined not by the steadfastness of years but with the ability to procure and survive overwhelming amounts of drugs. Even in the natural bodybuilding and physique competition circle for most the culmination of the body as a true work of art is reserved for only specific times of the year, and in a competitive arena. While there may be no drugs involved the onus is on winning a competition and often health is compromised in other ways to help make this possible. After the period of competition for many caring for the body tends to wane falls until another season draws near.

spiritual side of bodybuilding in-yo
Like all paths, there is a duality to bodybuilding or any type of physique competition or activity based on self improvement or mastery of a set of physical skills. A Yin and a Yang for a lack of a better description

The ‘Ura’ and the ‘Omote’ The Inner and Outer Aspects Of The Spiritual Side Of Bodybuilding

In this modality, it is a limited pursuit, and one that the general public finds difficult to understand, much less to emulate, but it can be more. So much more, if we only let it. In the Japanese martial tradition that I teach and follow there is the concept of ‘omote’ and ‘ura’. ‘Omote’ refers to that which is on the outside, the superficial, while ‘ura’ refers to that which lies within, largely hidden from cursory observation. They are two sides that mirror each other but together constitute a whole. All practice begins with the outer manifestations- but for there to be true mastery there must be a movement away from that which lies at the surface and an internalization of the very practice itself. In all disciplines this comes only from years of focused study and toil. Few seek that spiritual side of bodybuilding which lies underneath the impressive veneer of bulging muscle and fat stripped sinew, but those that do find a path, a way of life, that develops more than biceps, rather one that nourishes both the physical and the spiritual.

To Truly Find The Spiritual Side Of Bodybuilding You Have To Step Away From The Superficial

The contradiction: In order to truly experience bodybuilding as a path and the spiritual side of this endeavour, one must first make the difficult resolution to step away from the superficial. In bodybuilding it means no longer looking at the outer self as a gauge of progress. Contradictory, yes, but it is the first and perhaps the only path towards making the endeavor a sacred and lifelong internal process, as opposed to a fleeting and shallow pursuit. I remember well in my early years of training, jumping on the scale every day, measuring my arms at every opportunity and spending countless hours in front of any mirror or any reflective surface that I could find, all in the pursuit of some tangible manifestation of progress. Like so many others, I looked at every turn for a sign- something that would validate my pain, suffering and sacrifice. It is hard to put into words the struggle that it was for me to train so hard and see so little in the way of a return. The return of course was by no means little, but to a teenager bent on achieving his goal the slowness of the process was as agonizing as the training. As the years went by, this ‘need’ for some form of validation was satisfied by contests and photo shoots, and the acclaim that it brought from my peers. Nevertheless, it though it remained a constant part of my daily routine, it was only after I made the decision to stay on my diet as a way of life bent on caring for myself as an individual, did I suddenly make the difficult step of abandoning the mirror.

As hard as it was, it was a necessity. The training, the discipline and most importantly, the joy and vitality of the experience became something far more rewarding than any trophy or screaming crowd could equal. In the gym, I would wear clothes that allowed me to see and connect with the outer aspects of my pursuit, but other than these brief times, the way I looked was of little concern to me. the focus falling now on the training. The irony of it, and herein the contradiction, is that I look better than I ever did, and I have continued to improve far more than I ever believed possible. All without the aid of any supplement, drug or crutch of any kind. The training became and is more. If we stop and find a way to quiet the noise within that we so often use to define ourselves, we feel ourselves almost in the presence of something else that resides within each of us. It is this self, ever tranquil and always at peace that adds the final dimension to the beings that we truly are.

Using The Pain Of Training To Form A Union Of Body And Spirit

spiritual bodybuilding
Finding a way beyond pain

Within the context of my training regime and philosophy, the body is carried to the point of complete and utter failure much like the practice of shugyo performed by the ascetics of my martial tradition. The weights becoming such an impossible and unbearable load that every fiber of your being screams to drop and be free of. Yet it is there, at the very borders of endurance that we learn that we can strive to do more. To go past the physical, and to do so requires an effort born of something else- something that lives well beyond the self-imposed realms of pain and impossibility. Finding it, finding that place within, we achieve what appears to be almost superhuman, going far beyond our limits and into a place of infinite possibility and potential. It is this knowledge and mastery of self in all its forms that brings about true strength, a strength that is intrinsic and inseparable from who we are, and not an artificial one that is born of chemicals, pills and powders and thus virtually unknown by our spirit.

It is a strength that allows us to endure. A spiritual strength. One that carries over to every facet of our individual lives. A strength that has helped me accept that which is difficult in life, both emotionally and physically. A strength that springs from our own indomitable spirits, a force that recognizes, knows and accepts suffering as an inevitable part of life, and stands unaffected by it. This is a way of health, of compassion, caring and self-development. True, you are rewarded with a strong and well-toned physique and a vitality that can be defined only through experience, but throughout it all, the body in all its forms is respected and lovingly provided for. Diet, a term that before would invoke an idea of negativity, takes on an almost sacred air, becomes more and more an important part of the path. Thus, eating only that which is natural and wholesome and never even stopping to consider indulging in that which is harmful for our bodies becomes an effortless exercise.

Fasting As A Way Of Life

Fasting, an integral part of so many religious and spiritual practices is defined as the abstinence from food or drink in some form, with the idea of bringing the flesh closer to the spirit. While fasting is a temporary undertaking, within a religious context, this practice creates a fast that lasts for the duration of one’s very life. Abstaining from all that is potentially harmful creates a bond of respect to the physical body itself- one that will not be broken for any social tradition or custom, while also serving to build an unparalleled inner strength and a connection as well to all things spiritual. This abstinence and care in eating makes our most basic function- the consumption of food and water, an essential part of an even greater spiritual and physical pursuit.

Time, however, is the fire that allows all these elements to simmer together and stew into a perfect whole, and it should never be expected that such integration of body and spirit be realized instantaneously. For me it came after the toil of almost a decade and a half, but it is a struggle that bore great fruit, and a struggle where every fall brought me closer to a realization of something unimaginably rewarding. The reward that such a focus on the physical and the spiritual and the integration of every basic activity towards the realization of a higher plane is not only limited to the individual practicing it. Others see and are inspired themselves to strive towards the realization of their goals, and the creation of their own paths, founded as well on the idea bettering their overall health and fitness.

Those that find their way towards this path can know that as time draws on that we will always have the vitality and strength of good health and an inner musculature that will never be eroded by the ravages of time. We can have the clarity to know that all that we envision is indeed possible, but most of all, such a practice makes apparent that which lies beyond the material. A connection that manifests itself as well as a need, and a sincere desire to do all that we can to help others. A contradiction, once again in that the way of focusing on the self, ultimately becomes a portal towards helping and caring for others.

To truly focus on the inside, leads always once again the outside, but in a much more meaningful and fulfilling way. Thank you for reading.

5th Avenue Gym circa 2009- 5 years out from my last show.

As you can see, trophies and competitions were NEVER the driving force behind why I train the way I train and why I eat the way I eat.

It's always been my passion to see how far I could go as a natural athlete and perhaps even more so, to show what can be accomplished without using drugs.

And 5th Avenue Gym was the perfect place to do it.

I really miss that gym.

It was a place where legends came to train and while it wasn't pretty, it had everything we needed to do the work we needed to do.

And boy did we work!!!

5th Avenue for life as they say!!!

Hope you are still training hard and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

And thanks @pit_bulls_67 for snapping the shot!!!!

#naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #throwback #fifthavenuegym #5thavenuegym #drugfreebodybuilding #naturalbodybuildinglifestyle #gym #gymlife #gymmotivation #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #bodybuilding #bodybuildinggym

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Why Are Pull Ups So Hard For Some But Not For Others?

Pull ups are an exercise people love to hate!

They love to hate it because in my experience, most untrained men or women can't do one pull up and those who train can often struggle to do 6 or 10.


Because pull ups are hard!

And yet people like myself can easily do as many as 20-25!

So what's the reason for this discrepancy?

Is there some secret that allows me and others to do pullups so easily?

There isn't, and in this video I go over exactly why I can do as many as I can and why it can be so much harder for others.

I also go over my #1 pull up variant that ANYONE can do, even if you can't do one pull up.

And yet it can build strength and muscle size in some cases even more so than regular pull ups!

So click the link in my bio to see the full video on YouTube or go to my channel by looking up naturallyintense!

Thanks in advance for watching and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#pullups #highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #backworkout #pullupworkout #naturalbodybuildingtips #backtraining #highintensitytrainingtips #hometraining #trainingtips #bodybuildingtips

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Maximize Biceps Growth With High Intensity Arm Blaster Hammer Curls!

50lb Dumbbells For 20 reps!

The Arm Blaster is a fantastic piece of equipment for a home gym or any gym!

It doesn't take up much space and allows you to add variety to your biceps training.

It locks your elbows in place, thus increasing training intensity, and by doing a hammer curl, you can use more weight (thus increasing intensity even more) and target your brachialis muscles which help add density to your biceps!

This was my last set and I couldn't go any heavier as I am still nursing a wrist injury, but the 50lbers were more than enough to do the job!

Try them out next time you train arms and let me know how it goes!!!

Still training, hope you are too and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#hometraining #homeworkout #homeworkout #nuobell #highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #armworkout #bicepsworkout #naturalbodybuildingtips #biceps #armtraining #bicepsworkout #highintensitytrainingtips #drugfreebodybuilding#powertec #armblaster #hammercurls

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Injury-Proof Your Training: The Power of Workout Variation!

One of the main reasons why I can still train heavy and intensely at 49 after 35 years of nonstop training without any training related overuse injuries is the fact that I vary EVERY workout!

Overuse injuries come from doing the same movements over and over and by always changing your routine, you radically lessen the likelihood of chronic injury.

Squats, deadlifts, barbell curls and bench presses are great exercises, but if you do them all the time, you do increase the odds of getting injured.

And as a natural athlete, it bears mentioning that it takes years to realize your full potential, and so it's crucial to have a training program that is sustainable, and one that will allow you to train injury free for as long as I have or longer!

Thanks so much for tuning in and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuildingvideos #injuryprevention #fitover40 #workout #gymlife #workouttips #trainingmotivation #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #drugfreebodybuilding #highintensitytraining #injuryfreetraining #longevity

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High Intensity Training Leg Extensions To Failure!
And as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #highintensitytraining #highintensitytrainingtips #hometraining #homeworkout #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #naturalbodybuildingtraining #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #legextensions #legday #legworkout #powertec #legdayworkout

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This Is What 35 Years of Natural Bodybuilding Looks Like!

So as you know, As you may know I recently turned 49 and every year I do a photoshoot to show my progression.

In the hopes of showing that you can not only maintain a level of excellence as the years go by, but that you can do it without steroids, TRT, drugs or even pre-workouts and protein shakes!

(I’ve never had a pre-workout or energy drink and haven’t had a protein shake in decades!)

You don't need it as all it does make you forget tht excellence doesn’t require anything outside of yourself.

You already have all the tools you need!

Not a huge fan of taking photos of myself, (I much prefer being behind the camera) but I humbly try to be one example of just how much you can achieve with proper training and an uncompromisingly proper diet!

So here I am again at 49 and I am looking forward to seeing what you accomplish over the years as well!!! Thanks so much for tuning in and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuildingvideo #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #naturalbodybuildingtips #highintensitytraining #drugfreebodybuilding #nodrugs #fitover40 #fitoverforty

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High Intensity Arm Training- 50lb Concentration Curls!

There are two basic types of exercises, compound movements like barbell curls and isolation movements like concentration curls.

If you want above average arm development, you have to go hard on all exercises.

Isolation movements included, especially if you are drug free as we don't have the privilege of maximum growth from anything less than putting in some seriously hard work!

You have to go to that dark place where you can barely get the weight to move and do whatever it takes to get it up!

And then somehow find it in you to do it again!!!

You can't intellectualize it, you just have to do it and believe!!!

This was my third and last set and so I went all out!

My wrist is still a bit off so not going ultra heavy (by my standards) but
this was a hard set!

I haven't done concentration curls in a while, so I am really sore right now as I type this out two days after the workout!

Bear in mind that I always try to change it up and no one exercise is done every time I train.

Never training to maintain, always working hard to gain!!!

Still training and I hope you are too!!!

Thanks for tuning in and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#hometraining #homeworkout #homeworkout #roguerack #nuobell #highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #armworkout #bicepsworkout #naturalbodybuildingtips #biceps #armtraining #bicepsworkout #highintensitytrainingtips #drugfreebodybuilding

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Unlock Your Natural Potential By Varying Your Workouts!
For the past 32 years I have always done a different workout every time I trained.

I have never followed a set program of exercises and the only unifying aspect of my workouts is the blistering intensity!

I train three times a week with a protocol I call Naturally Intense High Intensity Training, and what distinguishes it from other forms of high intensity training is the constant variety.

Muscles grow in response to overload and UNACCUSTOMED stimulation.

Remember when you first started training how effective everything seemed to be, but over time that progress slowly ground to a halt.

You change your routine and see some progress, but the gains in size and strength inevitably fall off over time if you don't make a change.

Now what if you never left that "beginner gains" stage and were always training with different exercises and radically different ways of doing the exercises every single time?

You would be where I am, not having experienced a plateau over the past 32 years and be able to really start unlocking your natural potential!

How does it all work, and how would you measure progression? Watch the full video on YouTube by clicking on my bio link, or going to my YouTube channel (Naturally Intense) and see for yourself!

I really think it can help make a difference in your overall progress, and best of all, it helps you avoid injuries so you can keep training hard for years on end! Thanks in advance for watching and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuildingtips #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuildingvideos #workout #workouttips #fitover40 #gymlife #workoutmotivation #trainingmotivation #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #drugfreebodybuilding #highintensitytraining #highintensitytrainingtips #HIT

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Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, Kevin Richardson’s Naturally Intense High Intensity Training have helped hundreds lose weight and transform their bodies with his 10 Minute Workouts. One of the top natural bodybuilders of his time, Kevin is also the international fitness consultant for UNICEF and one of the best personal trainers in New York City

Kevin Richardson
Kevin Richardsonhttps://www.naturallyintense.net
Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, celebrity Personal Trainer NYC and with over 2.6 million readers of his blog, Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training, one of the top lifetime drug free bodybuilders of his time, the first International Fitness & Nutrition Consultant for UNICEF, 2020 and 8 Time Winner of the Best of Manhattan Awards for Personal Training and a world recognized authority on high intensity training. Kevin has helped thousands, from celebrities to CEO's over the past 30 years achieve their fitness goals with his 10 minute high-intensity workouts done just three times a week in conjunction with his holistic nutrition approach. You can learn more about about his diet and training services at www.naturallyintense.net

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