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THE BODY IS A SACRAMENT
by
Danielle Arin

" The body is the mirror where the secret world of the soul comes to expression"
(John O'Donohue - Anamcara)

As a faithful Yoga practitioner, I have always been fascinated by the holiness of the body as the temple of the soul. Indeed, like any sacred space, the body deserves to be looked after with respect and reverence. The practice of a system of postures of ancient origins is used in order to tend the body; this discipline is called Hatha Yoga. But the right attitude towards this practice is of outmost importance if the spiritual nature of Yoga as an art is to be safeguarded.

Yoga is not a religion, nor does it claim to be a substitute for religion. Although it requires no adherence to a dogma, it does urge the observance of certain ethics or rules of conduct that differentiate it from any physical discipline of a competitive nature.

In Yoga, spirituality and its connections with the body are ever-present. The following comments will clarify this point:

  • The postures are to be practised with care, sensitivity and harmony so that the divine nature of the body and the intangibility of the soul are brought to light.

  • The body will reveal its hidden language and develop its intelligence and creativity to a disciplined practising person.

  • " The discovery of ourselves is always a losing of ourselves - a death and a resurrection" (Thomas Merton - No Man is an Island). Hence, the lessons of each practice are to be absorbed, digested and forgotten before the body can find its own essence and discover its own God-given power.

  • Action and inaction will blend together as two interdependent forces that unite the movements of the body to the stillness of the soul.

  • Self-discovery comes from a humble and unselfish practice where physical weakness and strength are of equal value.
    Since a sacrament is a visible sign of invisible grace, all bodily energies are to be channelled towards serving the inner spirit and not the ego.

  • The body does not ask for any reward from the practice of Yoga, it just asks to be honoured for its physical potential and divine reality.

  • Cleansing of the body through the yoga postures brings harmony, balance and self-control to a mind/soul that glorifies the presence of God.

  • A state of tranquillity is essential for the concentration, mental equilibrium and physical stability that are required for a successful practice. A salutary practice will in turn promote these qualities.

  • Finally, through the constant devotion to God during practice, the body becomes sacred and empowered by the will of God.

Thus, a sensitive practice is a ritual in which each position of the body, each vibration of the skin, each moment of stillness, each breath, is a manifestation of the presence of an unfathomable divine light that defies any description.

The body is a sacrament, the mirror of the soul, the light of the spirit. It is a boundary between the physical and the intangible world, between the seen and the unseen. It is a precious gift, a treasure that needs to be handed with love, respect and gratitude if it is to serve God and us with faithfulness.