Monday, March 6, 2017

Body Prayer

Today I am offering you another practice to incorporate into your spiritual disciplines for the sadhanas you observe, including Lent.

When I was a teen my family participated in praise and worship services with an emphasis on music, singing and dance. This greatly impacted me and I learned a practice called praise dancing from professional ballet dancers. I realize that experience is not common to most people and I am grateful to have had it! When I started practicing yoga as a young adult I began to conceive of the physical practice as a form of worship.

The Surya Namaskar and Chandra Namaskar (Sun and Moon Salutations) practiced by many people around the world today were originally conceived as worship. Surya means sun in Sanskrit, and is also the name for the deity associated with the sun; Chandra means moon. The word Namaskar is from the root word namas which means "to bow to" and "to adore." Sun Salutations are traditionally practiced in the morning to greet the sun and God, and Moon Salutations are practiced in the evening in reverence of the day turning over to night.

Asana is the Sanskrit word used for yoga postures, but the original word asana refers to a meditation position and the place where a meditation practitioner sits, a seat for meditation. "Go and sit on your asana" is a correct instruction to give!

Those of us for whom Yoga is a primarily spiritual and mental pursuit are sometimes tempted to focus more on the intensity and quality of our physical asana practice, so we must remind ourselves what our asana is and what it means. When I perform my asana as an offering to God and a form of body prayer, it changes the quality and the feeling of my practice. I am then prepared to sit on my asana and wait for God to sit with me.

For the religiously and spiritually inclined, the body is not only a vehicle for moving through life; it is also a means to give love and gratitude back to the Divine Source.

Consider choosing a physical practice you can offer to something or someone you love and revere. In this way, your practice becomes body prayer.

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