To the casual observer, the Yogi Philosophy presents the apparent anomaly of a teaching which, while holding that the physical body is material and as nothing when compared to the higher principles of Man, at the same time devotes much care and importance to the instruction of its students in the direction of the careful attention, nourishment, training, exercise and improvement of that physical body. In fact one whole branch of the Yogi teachings, Hatha Yoga, is devoted to this care of the physical body, and goes into considerable detail regarding the instruction of its students in the principles of this physical training and development.
Some Western travelers in the Orient who have seen the care which the Yogis bestow upon their bodies, and the time and attention which they devote to the task, have jumped to the conclusion that the Yogi Philosophy is merely an Oriental form of Physical Culture, a little more carefully studied, perhaps, but a system having nothing “spiritual” in it. So much for seeing merely the outer forms, and not knowing enough to look “behind the scenes.”
We scarcely need to explain to our students the real reason for the Yogis’ care for the body, nor need we apologize for the publication of this little book which has for its end the instruction of Yogi students in the care and scientific development of the physical. body.
The Yogis believe, you know, that the real Man is not his body. They know that the immortal “I” of which each human being is conscious to a greater or lesser degree, is not the body which it merely occupies and uses. They know that the body is but as a suit of clothes which the Spirit puts on and off from time to time. They know the body for what it is, and are not deceived into the belief that it is the real Man. But while knowing these things, they also know that the body is the instrument in which, and by which the Spirit manifests and works. They know that the fleshly covering is necessary for Man’s manifestation and growth in this particular stage of his development. They know that the body is the Temple of the Spirit. And they, consequently, believe that the care and development of the body is as worthy a task as is the development of some of the higher parts of Man, for with an unhealthy and imperfectly developed physical body, the mind cannot function properly, nor can the instrument be used to the best advantage by its master, the Spirit.
It is true that the Yogi goes beyond this point, and insists that the body be brought under the perfect control of the mindâ€”that the instrument be finely turned so as to be responsive to the touch of the hand of the master.
But the Yogi knows that the highest degree of responsiveness on the part of the body may be obtained only when it, the body, is properly cared for, nourished and developed. The highly trained body must, first of all be a strong healthy body. For these reasons the Yogi pays such great attention and care to the physical side of his nature, and, for the same reason, the Oriental system of Physical Culture forms a part of the Yogi science of Hatha Yoga.
The Western Physical Culture enthusiast develops his body for his body’s sake, often believing that the body is He. The Yogi develops the body knowing it to be but an instrument for the use of the real part of himself, and solely that he may perfect the instrument to the end that it be used in the work of Soul growth. The Physical Culturist contents himself with mere mechanical movements and exercises for developing the muscles. The Yogi throws Mind into the task, and develops not only the muscle but every organ, cell, and part of his body as well. Not only does he do this, but he obtains control over every part of his body, and acquires mastery over the involuntary part of his organism as well as over the voluntary, some-thing of which the average Physical Culturist knows practically nothing.
We trust to point out to the Western student the way of the Yogi teachings regarding the perfecting of the physical body, and feel assured that he who will follow us carefully and conscientiously will be amply rewarded for his time and trouble, and will acquire the feeling of mastery over a splendidly developed physical body, of which body he will feel as proud as does the master violinist of the Stradivarius which responds almost with intelligence to the touch of his bow, or as does the master artisan over some perfect tool which enables him to create beautiful and useful things for the world.