In most magical information available, there is very little emphasis on the usefulness of working the physical body (goddamn do I hate these delineations of “bodies”). Even some of the all-time classic texts like Initiation Into Hermetics only go as far as to state that one should “train the body”, but even in this there is only a general reference to “gymnastics”. In as much, the work of the body is usually thought of as an “aside” to magical working rather than an integrative process of magic itself.
The traditions of the East are quite a bit more popularly known, however, for their wide variety of bodywork. Indian, Tibetan, and Buddhist Yogic cultures have spawned a multitude of various physical yogas. Moreover, the explicit function of these yogas have been to create substantial pranic flow, and this can also be seen in the Taoist Alchemies through Chi-Gong and it’s various practices.
However, if we are able to look at the shamanistic practices throughout other culture in Africa, The Americas, and the Aboriginal cultures, there are various bodywork systems revolving around shamanic dance, and even the Runic shamans of Northern Europe and the Western Asiatic areas had practices that could be dubbed “Runic Yoga” (quite ignorantly so, considering that Yoga is the complete evolution system, not just the physical movement).
So it is seen that there is a prevalence of bodywork throughout the entirety of shamanistic practice on Earth. For many of us here this seems logical, after all the physical exercise will strengthen the body… right?
For me, when it comes to magic, it has become quite limited to place things in particular categories. For me there is no spiritual body, no astral body, no mental body, no physical body. Granted, there are points of awareness in which the body experience may take on different qualities, and even a point in which a person may separate their conscious experience of the “physical body” for a “spiritual” or “astral” body. However, when it comes to the naked sense of things, there is just “the body” which can be realized through different forms of awareness.
With that said, I cannot say that the bodywork was done to strengthen this physical body awareness, at least not solely. In fact, it is my experience that these exercises do as much to “break” down the body as they do to “build” it. The point of this breaking down is to clear away the obstructions within the physical experience that lock away our access to more primordial states of awareness and experience. In doing so, we release points of locked away energy that are rather stored in tension and/or impede the flow of energy within our systems. With this unimpeded flow, we are able to create a body that is capable of facilitating experiences of a far more complete variety.
To this end I would like to offer some suggestions in terms of what I consider to be worthwhile bodywork endeavors. The first of these would center around a system of bodywork known as Reichian therapy. This form of bodywork revolves around the idea that psychological problems and traumas result in tensions and bodily issues that hold on to this traumatic energy. Therefore, the premise is that by rooting out the physical trauma tensions, the psychological tensions dissolve.
The result of such bodywork, although never meant to be associated with “spiritual” work, winds up being extremely beneficial for this type of work. Again, for anyone who gets involved in this type of work, you can see that it has nothing to do with bodybuilding. In fact, the goal is to remove “muscle armor”, so we aren’t necessarily interested with using this solely as a form of muscular training. However, what it does is release MASSIVE amounts of energy, along with creating a bodily construct that is far more capable of entering deep states of being.
In conjunction with this I would also recommend two works that I find correlative: Maxick’s Muscle Control and Swami Rama’s Exercise Without Movement. Both of these texts are centered around controlling the muscles of the body with the power of thought alone. Maxick’s system revolved very much around bodybuilding and strength training, while Swami Rama’s primarily goal was using such control of the muscles as a means of gaining control of the entire autonomic nervous system. Swami Rama’s system can be considered more subtle, even though his love for the Agni Sara Kriya, which is quite physically demanding, shows that he wasn’t necessarily about pussy-footing around. Either way, the premise of both systems is something I found to be complementary.
The last of these I would recommend is the Tibetan Yantra Yoga described by Chogyal Namkai Norbu. This is easily the hardest to approach initially, as it is a bit different from the currently known Indian asana practices of Hatha Yoga. The Yantra Yoga (not to be confused with the mandala form of Yantra practice in Hindu Yoga) is not as static in it’s practice, as the postures are only held for short amounts of times based on aligning movements with breath. If an allusion could be made to an Indian Yogic practice, we could point of Surya Namaskar. However, to describe it, at least for me, would be an entire book itself. I like the method of practice, and you can find out about it from looking up Fabio Andrico or Chogyal Namkai Norbu online.
In all, what I want to relay is that bodywork is not an aside to magick, but a magical working itself. I don’t necessarily recommend weightlifting, primarily because in my experience, strength is more of a skill than something you “gain”. You are far more likely to learn how your body works if you play with it by itself then having to focus on some object. However, if you can do it with weights, go ahead. Most of these systems of bodywork were generated from primordial body knowledge that people derived from their shamanic investments. People would visualize and carve out a totem animal, dance around it to music until exhausted, and enter a state where their bodies would create an animal-form position that embodied not only the animal in its form, but also in it’s power qualities. So honestly we all have an “inner yoga” that would could access, although it probably would not be fruitful for most considering how many of us are raised on a dependence for pre-established systems.
Nevertheless, adding a consistent of integrative bodywork system (I do all of them… I got the time for it) can greatly excel and ripen the experience of magical exploration.