Monday, May 5, 2014

Brother Sun, Sister Moon and Hatha Yoga

The "sun and moon" theme, which is the emblem of the Community of Francis and Clare, comes from St. Francis, "The Canticle of The Sun," which says:

Praised be You, my Lord, 
with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun, who is the day 
and through whom You give us light...
Praised be You, my Lord, 
through Sister Moon and the stars,
in Heaven You formed them 
clear and precious and beautiful...

A variation on this song was recorded by Donovan and is perhaps best known from the 1972 movie about the life of St. Francis, "Brother Sun, Sister Moon." listen to it here

The early church fathers Ambrose and Augustine saw the sun as a symbol of Christ and the moon as a symbol of the Church. The sun/moon theme has other meanings as well, representing masculine/feminine, revealed/hidden, or the Chinese yang/yin. The Sanskrit word "hatha" in "hatha yoga" is translated "sun-moon" implying balance of male and female, body and soul, exhale and inhale, strength and receptivity.

The ancient yogis understood health as something which is not only physical, but also spiritual: wholeness. The spiritual aspect of health is something which is only now beginning to be acknowledged by mainstream medicine in the west.

The word "yoga" means "yoke" or "union" - union of body and spirit, of heaven and earth. In the modern world, yoga is often treated as mere physical exercise, or even acrobatics, completely ignoring the spiritual dimension. On the other hand, religious traditions have tended to focus on the soul while neglecting the body, regarding it as unimportant or even perhaps evil. Let us remember that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The practice of hatha yoga can allow us to experience that balance, wholeness, and unity regardless of our particular religious or philosophical background.  It is not a Hindu practice.  Persons of any religion can do hatha yoga to realize their spiritual ideals in a tangible way through breathing and movement.

Many Christians, including Franciscan monks and nuns in Assisi, do yoga as part of their spiritual practice. Jesus said "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Mat. 11:29).

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