“Under this pressure, under this weight, we are diamonds taking shape.” – Coldplay, Adventure of a Lifetime
Diamonds have long been a metaphor for the perfection of the human form. With their innate beauty and virtual indestructibility they exude characteristics enviable to our own seemingly fragile physical state.
The “Diamond Body,” or vajra deha in Sanskrit, is a yogic ideal used to describe the end product of intentionally refining your physical body through the practice of yoga as a mean of developing your whole self.
The ancient people who coined this term, the rishis or sages of India, believed that a truly evolved human being became so refined physically that the strength, flexibility and coordination they were capable of demonstrating was the envy of all other beings, even the gods.
Diamonds were first recognized for both their beauty and utility by the people of ancient India over 3,000 years ago and it is widely accepted that their discovery was the first the world over.
The word most generally used for diamond in Sanskrit, the historical language of India, is vajra, which originally meant thunderbolt. The flashes of brilliant light emanating from the perfectly formed octahedron of a fine diamond were naturally associated with the dazzling power and brilliance of a fierce and beautiful storm. Detailed descriptions can be found in Indian manuscripts dating back to 300 BCE that list the qualities of an ideal diamond and clearly express the value these people placed on the hardness and beauty of this rare stone.
To say a diamond is a rare thing is a bit of an understatement actually. Although today you might find them abundantly displayed as jewelry by everyone from celebrity rappers to your average soccer mom, the journey a diamond takes to reach this destination may be longer than you think.
Diamonds require very specific conditions of tremendous heat and pressure to form and this specialized environment is only present deep within the Earth, in the upper mantle – an average of 90 miles beneath the surface. It takes millions of years in these conditions for carbon atoms to combine their cubic molecular structures and form diamond crystals.
Eventually magma flows that originate over 3 times deeper than the average volcano carry the stones over the long journey to the surface. Some diamonds are washed away by erosion or travel through nearby water ways to be found in riverbeds, near streams and inland seas.
Diamonds were mined for centuries along the sacred rivers banks of India, and while only a single productive mine exists there today, over 92% of the world’s fine diamonds are still cut in Surat, India.
Even longer than India’s relationship with the diamond is her deep and abiding relationship with the spiritual realm. It’s no surprise that the ancient people of India used diamonds primarily as religious icons.
But the conscious cultivation of the physical body as a diamond hard instrument of the divine is a process that has, like a diamond itself, taken a great deal of time to fully form. Although the concept was understood in ancient India, the body was largely neglected in favor of more direct avenues to the spirit.
The word diamond, as we use it in modern times, is actually derived from the Greek word “adamas” which means invincible.
The ancient Greeks were perhaps the first civilization to truly value the concept of developing the human body as a means of creating a refined, balanced, and whole human being. The concept of the Diamond Body would have been completely in keeping with their high standards for developing the physical body as a direct, intentional means of evolving the whole person. But perhaps their approach to physical fitness would have stopped short of what could be called spiritual.
Fitness originally existed in Greece as a means of maintaining readiness for battle as can be clearly seen by the way of life of the Spartans of Northern Greece where fighting skills were directly linked to high levels of fitness.
Spartan children were required to begin special fitness programs starting at the age of six, and this strict approach produced highly fit young adult soldiers. Even Spartan women were required to remain in high states of physical fitness to ensure that their offspring would secure the military might of future generations.
But their fellow countrymen in Athens had a much more philosophical approach to physical culture. The belief that the development of the body was equally as important as the development of the mind was clearly expressed by some of the most famous philosophers of this ancient and powerful city-state:
“In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.” -Plato
“What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.” -Socrates
During this classical period there blossomed in Athens an important philosophical concept that greatly informed this way of thinking.
The idea was summed up in the word arête, pronounced ah-rah-tay. In its basic sense arête meant excellence of any kind. This notion of excellence was ultimately expressed through the act of living up to one’s full potential. It was commonly believed that the mind, body and soul each had to be developed equally for one to live a life of arête.
The Greek Olympic athletes were considered to be the perfect expression of arête and physical culture was not only championed in Athens but considered a necessity to live a full life. Gymnastics was considered an equally important subject alongside music and philosophy, and the appreciation shown during this period for the beauty of the human body and the importance of health and well-being remain unmatched in history.
Then along came the Roman Empire. If the Romans were to be credited as physically fit it would only apply to the very beginning of their over 500 year reign, at a time when the rapid expansion of their borders required that they fought fierce battles to conquer new land.
During these early years all Roman citizens between the ages of 17 and 60 were eligible to be drafted into combat. This required a high degree of physical readiness, and fitness was an absolute necessity for even the average person.
The Romans borrowed heavily from the Greeks in all aspects of their culture and although they did away with the ancient Olympic Games they absorbed and implemented similar fitness methodologies to these traditional competitions held amongst the various city-states of Greece. Physical exercise for the Roman people consisted largely of running, jumping, and discus and javelin throwing. This methodology worked well to create strong warriors who eventually conquered most of the known world.
But this physical prowess was at best temporary. Most scholars agree that the downfall of the Roman Empire was directly related to a lifestyle of excess and materialism, and to the eventual decline of the physical condition of the general population.
Wealth and entertainment became more important than health and well-being, and the strength of the once unstoppable military spirit of the Roman army weakened. Barbarian invaders from the north slowly took control.
Apparently history does repeat itself. The drunken wine orgies of the ancient Romans are different only in kind to the fast food binges and alcohol fueled excesses of the average Super Bowl Party.
We are a modernized version of the Romans, and we have a unique opportunity at this moment in time to borrow from the lessons learned throughout history by the successes and failures of civilizations the world over.
Is it possible to seek spirituality and the perfect body at the same time? Absolutely.
Can we combine the reverential attitude of the Eastern mystic with the pursuit of peak physical conditioning of the Western sportsman? Why not?
In fact, I believe the concept of the Diamond Body is just beginning to ripen right now, at this very moment in time in modern people the world over, through the practice of Adamantine® Yoga.
Like the intense heat and pressure needed to form the pure, luminous crystals of a diamond, the physical and energetic practices of Adamantine® Yoga have the power to transform you into the best expression of yourself; body, mind, and spirit.
I invite you to learn more about Adamantine® Yoga, and discover how you can forge a flexible, strong, and beautiful new you through the fires of your daily practice.