In the Western world yoga tends to be taught primarily as a fitness technique; but it originally evolved as a spiritual discipline designed to integrate mind, body and spirit.
The true purpose of yoga is well illustrated by a story told to me by my Jungian analyst, Dr Franz Elkisch, to whom I went over the course of some 23 years. When he retired we continued to meet as friends.
On one these occasions he told me shyly of one of his ‘successes’. Being a Catholic he was frequently sent monks, nuns, and priests who had problems. One particular nun was the bane of her community’s life, for anything she touched seemed to fall apart! She appeared totally dislocated.
Dr Elkisch lent her a book entitled Christian Yoga, by a French Cistercian, Père Dechanet. The Sister had been born and brought up in India, and the book immediately connected with her. With the permission of her Abbess, but unknown to the rest of the community, she began to meditate each day in her cell, seated cross-legged in the lotus position.
Time went by and then one day the community’s sewing machine, on which they were dependent for their living, broke down. This nun offered to see if she could make it work. ‘Oh no!’ they all chorused, ‘You will only make it worse!’
She gently insisted, however, sat down with the machine, worked on it patiently, and in a short while got it working again!
Not only did the community’s attitude towards her change, but she knew that she had finally integrated the different parts of herself, and was no longer pulling in different directions.
And so when we sit to meditate, whether on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, we meditate with our whole self – mind, body and spirit – sewing together the different aspects of our being.