Can you spot the differences?
Go ahead. See if you can find a few minor disparities amidst a sea of similarity.
All finished? Did you find some?
Spotting the differences between similar things can be both challenging and fun, to the point that we seem to have a predisposition or instinct to notice differences between things. We can quickly differentiate between ideas, products, music, artistic expression, people, political parties and candidates, races, religions, social and economic classes, etc.
We seem genetically and socially wired to notice the differences between otherwise very similar things. However, as in the case of this pictorial example, congruence and unity are sometimes what are most obvious.
Yoga in the Bible?
We could all imagine Joshua doing beautifully focused sun salutations (Surya Namaskar) as he commanded the desert sun to stand still. (Joshua 10:13)
I'll admit it's a stretch to proscribe modern yoga poses to these biblical stories, but what about the ideas that are embedded within the practices of yoga that might also be seen as biblical? Sure, yoga and Christianity may have their differences, but why wouldn't they? They've both originated and evolved from two separate cultures and historical lineages. But what if, despite all the differences, they have some things in common? And not just random, ordinary things - but some integral and important things?
To this end, I hope to get a few more of these "Yoga in the Bible" segments published in due time, as inspiration strikes.
So let's begin...
Yoga is something practiced by humans - so let's start our unity comparison in the Genesis creation account. This is where mankind - in the form of Adam - first arrives on to the scene.
"And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
~GENESIS 2:7 (KJV)
And thus begins humanity's quest.
As you may know, this moment of divine creation has been famously and beautifully depicted in one of the ceiling paintings of the Sistine Chapel.
Do you see it? A Divine figure forming a human and breathing life into a his nostrils?
Well, not exactly. Michelangelo instead decided to depict humanity's first moment thus:
This is certainly a moving depiction in its own right, but it doesn't exactly represent the details described in the biblical narrative.
So I went online, and found these:
These artistic expressions, contrary to Michelangelo's Creation, seem to better represent the actions of the text. You can see in these more modern depictions, the artists have some debate on whether or not God has hands, yet unambiguously see Adam as ripped. Haha.
So what does man's biblical debut have to do with yoga?
Yoga is, first and foremost, about the breath. All yogis know that taking a few full, mindful, nostril breaths is the thing that inches us ever closer to our own best selves - the part of us that can be described as divine. Calm and conscious nostril breathing, as opposed to normal everyday breathing, has the capacity to bring calm by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system - the body's "rest and digest" program for healing damaged tissues, digesting nutrients, and efficiently eliminating waste. Just as Adam's lifeless body became animated by that first divine nostril breath, so too can we experience greater capacity for healing and motion through deep yogic nostril breathing. Just as Adam's senses began to see, feel, smell, taste, and hear following a divine inhalation, so too can our sensual perceptions of the world around us be cultivated and enhanced through yogic practices. Just as Adam was first divinely inspired, so too can we be made /more/ alive - by becoming more calm, more aware, and more capable.