Yoga and Jesus' Body and Bread

Jenny Garrison

Yoga teaches us that our body is our temple, the home of our Spirit, the form that surrounds and carries our sacredness while we traverse this life on earth. I teach yoga.  I teach body as temple.  I encourage my students to “hang out in the temple”…to befriend their body, to come to know it, to listen to it and talk to it, and to care for it.

I am a yoga teacher who loves Jesus….and during this Lenten season I was searching for his teachings about the body, wanting to contemplate, integrate and bring his teachings to my own heart and body. A friend gently and deftly pointed me toward scripture, John 6.  When I went to the verses of John, in Christ’s teachings, I was taken right to…bread. I read about how the bread was divided, how it fed the multitudes. I read about Jesus telling the people that they sought him after this because they had eaten their fill, and how he spoke of food that he would give, food that would endure and not spoil. He asked the people to believe in him. He told them he was the bread of life, who gives life to the world. He said, “I will raise you up.” He told the people that he was the living bread, sent from heaven, and taught that the bread was his flesh, which he was going to give for the life of the world. He taught how Spirit gave life, how flesh without spirit didn’t count.  I read anew how this was a difficult teaching for many, and how many followers left after Jesus said this.

With these teachings and stories so laden with images of bread, I let my mind and heart consider bread as a way of learning more about Christ’s teachings of the body. It came to me that Jesus’s early memories of bread were probably those of Mary, baking.

I thought of how his flesh came to be inside of Mary, how his body came to form in the darkness of her oven womb.

I thought of how bread was the image that he chose when he revealed who he was, when he fed the people, and when he gave us his own body, a gift of pure love from God.

It is now Easter morning. I am at the home of my own mother and father, and I am given the happy honor of baking the bread.

I prepare the bowl, the form that will hold the ingredients.  I think of yoga practice, how mind, body and Spirit are gathered together. I mix the ingredients….water, yeast, sugar, salt and flour…until they hold, until they come away from the sides of the bowl, together. Then comes the first rising.  I cover the dough, and let it rise in warmth and darkness.  I think of Jesus’s time in Mary, before his birth.  And then, light again, and the kneading, life.  I think of yoga practice, how the postures mimic life…the physical stretching and returning, pose and counter-pose, deep massage, expansion and contraction, all infused with breath, prana, Spirit.  I think of Christ’s life, and His death.

Then the dough is divided, and formed into loaves.  Again, it is covered…left to rest in darkness. The tomb.  I think of how the tomb was made ready by those who loved him as I scatter cornmeal on the pans that will hold the loaves. I carve two small crosses, one on each loaf, and I think of the spear in His side. I put the loaves in the readied oven. Darkness.  Heat.  Water is sprinkled on the baking loaves as I remember the one who came before Him and died before Him, his baptizer.

In the heat and the darkness the miracle occurs as the loaves rise again, and change in their form, becoming bread. I take them out, checking for their hollow sound by tapping. I let them cool.  I think of Mary Magdalene, who came to the tomb grieving, to be near his body. She found him here, so changed that she thought him the gardener, … until He spoke her name, “Mary.”

I brush the loaves with butter, anointing them.  I sprinkle them with salt.

And then I pray.  I am moved to tears as my prayers cover these loaves that will feed others on this Easter day.  I bring hands to heart, grateful for all that comes together in this life in body….grateful for Jesus, for yoga, for God, for others, for life, for friends, for family, for Spirit, for body, and for bread.

The Bread

1 pkg, yeast
2 C. warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
Flour, about 4-5cups

In a large bowl., mix yeast and 1 c. water. Whisk in sugar and salt. Add enough flour and another cup of water until dough is sticky and comes away from the sides of the bowl.  Continue to add flour until a ball of sorts if formed. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled.  Punch it down and knead the dough with floured hands. Add more flour if needed. Divide in two and form into long loaves. Place the loaves on a pan that has been greased and sprinkled with cornmeal.  Cover and let rise again till doubled.  Place it in a 375 degree oven.  After about 5 min, cut a little cross into the skin of the bread, and return to oven for 35-40 min., baking until loaves are nicely brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Remove from oven and brush with butter, then sprinkle with salt and a blessing.