“A healthy body is the best container for a healthy mind. A healthy heart is the temple of God.” ~ Sathya Sai Baba

On Sunday, April 7, 2019, members of the Sathya Sai Center of St. Louis took part in the Go St. Louis Marathon and Family Fitness weekend. For the first time, a relay team of four men from the Sai Center raced in the 26-mile marathon, while four others completed the 10k run and two ran the half marathon. Their inspiration came from their fellow Sai sisters who have been participating in the marathon since 2015. This year, a team of 23 women participated - four in the relay, 16 in the10k run and three in the half marathon. Cheering all the participants at the finish line were their spouses and children.

The brainchild of Dr. Gayathri Raman, the marathon training started as an offering for Sai Baba’s 90th birthday in 2015. Twelve determined Sai sisters, with the help of Dr. Raman’s coaching, agreed to push and test their physical limits. The four-month training included boot camps and indoor strength training as a group twice a week, and individual training which involved running in parks, on the treadmill and more. The wintry cold made training outdoors very challenging, but the motivation and the team spirit kept everyone inspired. Doubts that loomed the weeks prior to the race were counteracted with daily affirmations of “I will conquer this", "I will push myself to that place of physical discomfort", "I will detach from bodily pain and I will surrender.”  All the participants successfully finished their first run without any injuries due to the months of training and dynamic stretches before the run. Through this experience, the women developed an incredible understanding that human life is most precious and highly sacred, and therefore, the prime duty of every individual is to take the greatest possible care of the body.

The Sai Center women have continued to train for the marathon each year with even more dedication and perseverance. “As our journey continues, we hope to spread the message that without health, we have nothing. If we are to serve and honor Sai Baba’s teachings, we have to take care of the body as our temple.”

Some women shared the intense self-transformation they have experienced. A participant commented, “The motivation and determination during our workouts linger long after. One line that stays with me is Cross the "Can’t" line." Another stated, “My family has seen me transform my eating and workout habits and encourage me to continue because they see these positive changes in me.” Yet another shared, “Doing the workouts together with my family transformed our relationships. I serve my family and my community better now as I am a healthier person. I have a circle of friends who share the same passion for fitness and they are my support system.”

Another shared her touching story: “With a history of two back surgeries and the recent fusion of the lumbar spine, I was skeptical. Dr. Raman, so passionate about fitness, repeatedly encouraged me to join the workouts. I kept brushing it aside until I heard directly from a sister about her own journey and determination. I went up to the Altar, picked a rose and prayed that I could get fit and lead a normal life and give back to community. The rest is his history. Now, I look forward to our workouts.” A few have gained some deep insights: “During the runs outside, I realized the strength of team work. I understood that a sound body harbors a sound mind and that most limitations and frustrations that we think are imposed by the external world, are indeed generated within us. I experienced how true and pure intentions fuel discipline and help us maintain balance in life.”

Many enjoy the company of the group primarily because of the discipline, dedication, comradery and loving support that is woven into the group. The women share their challenges, frustrations and victories, and lean on each other for healing and comfort. The dedication of the Sai Center women  has been contagious and has spread to the larger St. Louis community. Inspired by their attitude and what they have accomplished, other friends of this band of sisters now get together regularly for brisk walks on trails, have adopted a healthy diet and participate more frequently in outdoor activities.

The Sai boot camp with fellow spiritual sisters, in a loving and caring environment where no one is being judged and everyone inspires each other, has become a very special part of the Center’s activities. It has intensified their inner faith and spiritual discipline. As one member beautifully puts it, “It is not the speed that carries you across the finish line, it is the faith in the Indweller that gets you past it. The experience has taught me to surrender to His flow and His Grace. This is a great test of our true faith in Him. Ultimately, we all race with His Grace. I have no doubt about it.”