Edition Eighteen

My Sacred Body

Many of us have begun to do a lot of work on improving ourselves not only physically, but also emotionally and spiritually.

In the 1980's exercise meant aerobics or jazzercise, in the 1990's running and kick boxing became popular and in the 21st century people are incorporating yoga, Tai Chi, and other more introspective forms of exercise into their fitness regimes.

Many people have also begun to meditate or use mantras to reduce stress.

People are becoming aware of the spiritual self and are trying to find ways to enhance and nourish this aspect of themselves.

In order to deepen our spirituality we must begin to look at ourselves as sacred. We must learn to love ourselves at whatever stage of life we are at. Since the invention of TV we have been exposed to the messages from media about the perfect body image. This body image has changed over the decades and has now become an image that is not achievable by most healthy people. The media portrays the perfect female body as being a size 4 and many models starve themselves to put forth these images to us.

Over-exposure to media draws us deep into material attachment and we lose sight of our true value, our value as spiritual being.

In Hindu worship there is a segment called anga puja or worship of the limbs of the body. This ritual is performed to remind us that each part of our body is sacred. While performing this ritual we ask that each action with each limb be sacred and that each part of the body be in balanced health.

It does not matter how tall we are, how thin we are, how much money we make or what kind of clothes we wear. What really matters is that we use our body to perform good deeds or positive karmas so that we can experience the fruits of our positive actions and enjoy a life of love and peace in unity with other people and with our environment.

When we look upon our body as a sacred vessel or vehicle of our soul, we appreciate and try to keep it as healthy as we can so that it can act as a finely-tuned vehicle for our soul to achieve spiritual growth.

Ayurveda, India's science of health and longevity appreciates all bodies and recognizes that people fit into three elemental types according to their physical build, characteristics and mental traits. We should embrace the elemental type that we are and strive for perfect emotional, physical and spiritual health whatever our type is and not strive toward what media tells us we should be. Advertisement: Journey to the Soul The three types are:

Air type - this type has a thin body, dry hair and skin, usually very tall or very short, active mind, prone to tension. This type requires oil massage on a regular basis to prevent dry skin and arthritis. They also need to eat rich foods and foods that are sweet, sour and salty in taste to avoid constipation, asthma and to maintain a calm mind.

The fire type - this type has reddish skin, prone to acne, acidity, ulcers, infections and sweats easily. These people are usually perfectionists, they are great leaders but are prone to anger and irritation when out of balance. They need to eat cooling foods and require a lot of water to avoid headaches, aches and pains and to reduce mental stress.

The water type - this type is of heavier build, they gain weight easy. They usually have beautiful skin and hair and have very strong health and stamina. They require daily exercise to promote healthy digestion and to avoid depression and excess weight gain. They are usually very gentle, make very lovely friends and enjoy cooking, art and relaxing with friends. They are prone to jealousy and depression when out of balance. They need to reduce clutter in their surroundings to promote enthusiasm and energy.

No matter what elemental type we are our goal is to stay in balance mentally, physically and emotionally. Our goal is to have a healthy body so that we can strive toward healthy emotions, mental habits and spiritual growth.

Let us take a look at the body parts as they are praised in the Anga puja or limb worship.

I appreciate my feet that create my life path with their movement. May my path be clear from obstacles and may I walk on a spiritual path.

I appreciate the ankles, which give support to the feet as they walk the path of life. May they be strong to support me on each step of my spiritual journey.

I appreciate my calves, which are of the ear element, they give me support and strength.

I pray to the knees, which give movement on this earth plain. May they be healthy and strong.

I pray to the thighs, which are beautiful and strong.

I appreciate the reproductive organs, which enable me to bring forth new creation; they are beautiful like a lotus flower opening forth to bring new life.

I appreciate the navel, which has nourished me in the womb

I appreciate my stomach that helps me to digest food and gives me energy to live each day.

I appreciate the breasts; they are capable of nourishing a newborn child.

I appreciate the chest, which is the home of the heart and the heart chakra. It enables me to feel and to love.

I appreciate the neck, the home of my voice, that which enables me to sing. Let my voice and words be sweet and inspiring and may I remember to never use harsh or hurtful words.

I appreciate the shoulders that give me strength. I appreciate the arms; let them be strong. I appreciate the hands, may they always work for good, may they be involved in work that helps others and may they never be used to bring harm to others. I appreciate the ears; they enable me to learn through listening.

I appreciate the tongue. It enables me to speak and also enables me to eat and taste. May my speech be sweet for all to hear and may I be blessed with good and nourishing foods. I will appreciate the body with health forming foods and avoid foods that bring harm to my sacred body and will avoid words that bring harm to other sacred beings. I appreciate the nose. It connects me to the earth element through smell and enables me to enjoy the essence of all things through their aroma. The nose also allows me to take in energy in the form of breath. May I remember to breathe deeply to nourish my body mind and spirit.

I appreciate the eyes, which allow me to see the world and pray that I may be given clear thinking and a positive outlook.

I appreciate the forehead, the place of wisdom. May my wisdom grow with each passing moment and may I learn from all life situations.

We can use this as an affirming meditation each morning before we step out of bed and each night before we sleep, we can take a few minutes to appreciate the gift that we have been given - a body to help us experience life so that we can grow spiritually.

We can also focus on using each body part in a way that is helpful to others when we use our body, our voice and our deeds to promote good, we create positive energy in the world that promotes the health and happiness of all beings.

Peace to you and your sacred body. May you have health and prosperity in all your limbs and in all aspects of your life.

By Venkat and Christine Machiraju