Joseph Campbell Did Yoga

Brother Patch
2 min readSep 22, 2022

When the western ears hear the word, “yoga,” it likely brings to mind images of stretchy blank pants, padded mats, and stretching.

But the definition of the word yoga actually has little to do with the physical practice done in countless studios and gyms across the west.

Yoga actually means to unite or yoke together — the spiritual meaning of Yoga is to unite normal consciousness with higher consciousness. To the Eastern mind, the true intent of all the poses and breathing we associate with the word Yoga isn’t fitness for fitness’ sake, but is an attempt to connect with divine consciousness.

That’s a very unnuanced explanation of the word, but I’m leading somewhere, here.

If Yoga is an attempt to unite with higher consciousness, you might, rightly, imagine that the Asanas (poses) breath work of Hindu religions aren’t the only way to do such a thing. If one is of a mind to do so, they might describe any attempts to connect with divinity or transcend the earthly plane as “Yoga.”

I believe that’s what Eastern thinker and general trickster, Alan Watts meant when he asked Joseph Campbell what Yoga he did.

Unfazed, Campbell answered, “underlining passages.”

Literature was Campbell’s great passion. He spent much of the depression holed up at his family’s property in Woodstock, reading. Not just casual reading, but like, reading for eight hours a day.

So, when Campbell said that was his Yoga, he meant if.

By reading great and probably not-so-great works alike, Campbell was able to explore the consciousness of his fellow man — and in doing such transcend his own thinking. And, at times, no doubt, through loftier passages, the art of language, and transcendent allegory, draw nigh unto divinity.

When that happens, you underline the passage.

So, yeah. Joseph Campbell did Yoga.