The body-mind connection was discovered many thousands of years ago in India, and yoga emerged as a physical-spiritual practice that purported to join body and brain together with the incorporeal Mind of all existence, variously known as The All, Brahman, and God.
In the yogic view, the body is a vehicle and conductor of spiritual insight. It’s even possible that the body was the reason people got the insight that there’s something called The All at all.
Some scrawny, willowy, anonymous ancient vitamin eater may have gone out for a morning stretch and felt an attending jolt of endorphins spinning through his cranium.
That sense of well-being may have had a hand in imagining a higher power at work behind the world of phenomenal things, since the idea of The All would probably not dawn on someone in a moment of sedentary gloominess.
It was only a longish short step from there to a system of thought that claimed a causal connection between stretching and spiritual contentment.
While there is no detailed study confirming that the limber yogis of Dehra Dun (India) are happier and possess more spiritual acumen than the inflexible, plump monks of Cluny (France), common sense would tell us that physical fitness facilitates and fans the felicity of all human endeavors–from masked robbery to mural painting to lovemaking to bicycling to praying.
If every religion had included a tenet about keeping slim through an exercise regimen, the world and the world of religion would have been a jollier place, notwithstanding that cheery chubby old St. Claus and that fat grinning Buddha.
But you know what? There never was any real Santa Claus. And the real Buddha was as thin as a whisker weed, having performed in his third decade of life a fair share of eight thousand known yoga poses.
Had the sacred writers placed one yoga-like injunction in the mouth of a Jesus or a Muhammad or a Joseph Smith the very world would be different now.
Gospel of Matthew: “Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’ And then he got into a downward dog pose and held it creditably until the sun set in the dappled-with-damson West.”
Koran: “And the Prophet (pbbuh) said, “After thy ablutions, get thyself into an upward bow, like this.’ And that, O Believer, is the origin of our crescent moon.”
Book of Mormon: “The venerable Prophet said, ‘The full boat pose might be better suited to a Sunday meeting than a fish or a tortoise. And then he performed a perfect full boat on the cracked deck of a bean-green buck wagon.”
The world would be different now, happier, more spiritually inclined, if these passages were real.
The body is the only theater of spirituality that there is. All our sense of spirit comes to us by way of our body. Physicality and Spirituality are one.
Yoga, which means to yoke body and mind to spirit, saw this five thousand years ago.
Featured image ‘YOGA’ by K Tao via Flickr