As I continue my return to running, my mind has been reflecting on my body. Twice in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul states that our human bodies are the temple of God’s Spirit.
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? I Corinthians 3:16.
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body. I Corinthians 6:19-20
Paul writes a rhetorical question, as if they already know the answer but have forgotten it. Have we forgotten as well? I fear that our American culture has compartmentalized everything, so that we do not see the connections between the body, mind and spirit. We have gyms and pools to exercise the body, classes and books to educate the mind, and worship and prayer to nurture the spirit, but we rarely work to integrate these three components together. Can exercise and prayer, meditation and study work together?
I recently read an article by John N. Sheveland in the Christian Century titled “Is Yoga Religious?” The article touched on how most Americans see yoga simply as a physical exercise consisting of poses that has no spiritual content. The Hindu American Foundation is working to change this misconception by reasserting the Hindu roots of yoga as a religious practice. In turn, the push to reestablish yoga as a Hindu practice has caused some Christians to reject yoga as anti-Christian and harmful. Sheveland seeks a middle way.
Might asanas (postural yoga) influence a Christian’s understanding of herself as a physical body created in the image and likeness of God and thus an object of unutterable dignity, held in being and redeemed by God? Might postural yoga, with its well-documented physical and mental benefits, help me to better understand my stewardship responsibilities to my own body—which Paul says is not my own—and to other bodies in creation? So too, the effect of asanas on the mind can demonstrate to Christians what they already know to be true, namely, that body and spirit are one.
Can other physical activity beside yoga have spiritual and mental benefit? How do we help integrate these benefits into our daily lives?
Lord Jesus, teach me to be a good steward of my body, mind and spirit.