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The mind-body 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 claiming a causal connection between stretching and spiritual contentment.

The body is the only theater of spirituality there is. All our sense of spirituality comes to us by way of the body.

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 applying nail polish.

If every religion had included a tenet about keeping slim through an exercise regimen, the world 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 sacred writers placed one yoga-like injunction in the mouth of Jesus or Muhammad or Joseph Smith the very world would be different now.

“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.”

“And Muhammad said, “After thy ablutions, get thyself into an upward bow, like this.’ And that, O Believer, is the origin of our crescent moon.”

“Joseph Smith 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 (and the world of religion) would be different now, happier, more moderately inclined, if the above quotes were real.

The body is the only theater of spirituality there is. All our sense of ‘spirit’ comes to us by way of our body. Physical is spiritual, and therefore the word physical is enough, and the word spiritual is superfluous.

Yoga, which means to yoke body and mind together with hoops of steel, saw this five thousand years ago. Since yoga is so darn old, why not become a poser?

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J. H. McKenna (Ph.D.) has taught the history of religius ideas since 1992 at various colleges and since 1999 at the University of California, where he has won teaching awards. He has published in academic...