Kathleen Karlsen Mobile Header

Home > Symbolism > Art Psych & Health > Spiritual Meaning of the Body

Share with a friend today!

New resources each week.
SUBSCRIBE in the footer below
for notifications. 

Spiritual Meaning of the Body

The spiritual meaning of the body can be a key to healing on all levels: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. When healing affirmations, mantras and positive self-talk are set to music, they can also be sung for potentially even more effective results.

By understanding the specific symbolic meaning of an aspect of the human body, you can be conscious of the benefits you seek to gain. In my own life, I have created mantras with affirmations in both Sanskrit and English related to eyesight and vision, thyroid health, general vitality and more.

Understanding the direct psychological connection between our physical bodies and our thoughts or emotions can help us to utilize the connection between speaking, chanting and the mind to heal the physical body. The patterns of our thoughts that have created discomfort or disease can be altered by choosing new thoughts.

Anatomy Spiritual Meaning of the Body

Human Body Diagram Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Posted by Mikael Haggstrom

Language, Idioms and the Body

The meanings associated with different parts of the body are often revealed in our common idioms and colloquial expressions. This correspondence between language and body meaning allows you to use affirmations or chant or sing with particular healing outcomes in mind.

I also like to use images of human anatomy for visualizations when chanting privately. I am thrilled by the capacity and the beauty of the human body. I love stories about extreme athletes and people with amazing physical abilities of all kinds.

As a child, I had planned to go into the medical field. However, as I observed life around me during my teenage years, the maladies of the mind and soul seemed much deeper than those of the body. I began to feel that the mind and spirit should be addressed first or at least simultaneously with the body.

This led me to study of the work of Louise Hay and other pioneers in the field of the mind-body connection. For decades there have been forerunners in metaphysics and psychology insisting that we recognize the importance of attitudes, emotions and beliefs in health and wellness.

These include Dr. John Sarno, Steven Ray Ozanich, Deb Shapiro, Joe Dispenza, Inna Segal, Bernie Siegel and more. Some of these experts have mapped out distinct connections between personality patterns, body symbolism and health conditions. Their books are great sources of information for finding ideas when I am creating my own healing mantras and affirmations.

Root Chakra Affirmations

Spiritual Meaning of the Body: Cheeks

I like to focus on the language we use to describe our bodies because these meanings are so clearly a part of our everyday consciousness and interactions. A single part of the body can be heavily laden with many different meanings. And sometimes the meanings are highly amusing as well.

For example, a “cheeky” person exhibits talk or behavior that is impertinent. A cheeky person is insolent, bold, cocky and disrespectful. On the other hand, to be “cheek to cheek” means “to be close and affectionate.” To “turn the other cheek” is to be submissive or consciously chose not to retaliate. To be “tongue in cheek” is to poke fun and not take things too seriously.

Spiritual Meaning of the Body

Illustration by Rose Karlsen
Copyright 2019, All Rights Reserved

Spiritual Meaning of the Body: Stomach

Our digestive system is also full of contradictory meanings. Someone who is honest and emotionally vulnerable may be said to “spill their guts.” We’ve all got “gut feelings” that warn us of impending danger. To go “belly up” is to go bankrupt.

To “bust a gut” is to strain yourself, usually unnecessarily. If you can’t let go of a problem or agitation about a situation or person, it’s “eating you up.” If you are constantly thinking about your problems, you are “contemplating your navel.”

If you dislike someone, you just “can’t stomach them.” When you want to have more than you can handle, your “eyes are bigger than your stomach.” And when you really dislike someone, you “hate their guts.”

That’s pretty telling right there. We don’t hate their kidneys or their forearms or their shoulders, we “hate their guts.” The guts are the core of the person, both literally and symbolically.

Root Chakra Affirmations Feet and Lower Body

Spiritual Meaning of the Body: Feet

Another part of the body highly laden with meaning is the feet. The feet represent the willingness to be on earth and engaged in life as in “putting your best foot forward.” In contrast with this, someone who is afraid to rock the boat may be “walking on eggshells.” Feet represent our “understanding” of life. Your feet are literally “standing under” your body. Many mantras have lyrics related to sitting at the feet of a spiritual master or deity.

Spiritual Meaning of the Body: Shoulders

Here’s another fairly universal example: the shoulders represent the ability to carry our experiences and responsibilities in life. If we are so busy with what we “should” do, then our shoulders can become tense and rigid. A stiff or frozen shoulder may symbolize resistance to the pressure that life is exerting and an unwillingness to let others or life itself help us to carry the burden.

There are many songs in the repertoire of sacred music around the world about laying down our burdens. We can symbolically give our burdens over to a higher power such as a deity or life itself, potentially alleviating physical problems with the shoulders. Many mantras emphasize surrender to a spiritual teacher or a representative of God. In any of these situations, a mantra can be found or created that allows us to release our feelings into the physical world and potentially transform our physical bodies in a positive way.

Connecting with the Intelligence of the Body

I find it fascinating that healing the body through giving homage and praise to the body itself is a principle that seems to be universal. This principle has been rediscovered in modern times by practitioners of positive thinking and New Thought Christianity. Myrtle and Charles Fillmore, founders of the Unity School of Christianity, both healed themselves of tuberculosis using this approach. Myrtle Fillmore relates her experience:

“Life is simply a form of energy and has to be guided and directed in man’s body by his intelligence. How do we communicate with intelligence? By thinking and talking, of course…. I told the life in my liver that I was not torpid or inert, but full of vigor and energy. I told the life in my stomach that it was not weak or inefficient, but energetic, strong and intelligent….

I told my limbs that they were active and strong. I went to all of the life centers in my body and spoke words of Truth to them—words of strength and power…. I did not become discouraged at their being slow to wake up, but kept right on, both silently and aloud, declaring the words of Truth, until the organs responded.”

Myrtle Fillmore’s health began to improve immediately, she was completely free of tuberculosis in two years, and she went on to live another forty years founding and running a church and spiritual organization.

Many mantras for healing have simple meanings along  lines similar to Myrtle Fillmore’s approach such as: “I give honor to my shoulder” or “I welcome the healing sun to strengthen my eyes” or “I praise the spirit that strengthens me.”

Discovering the Spiritual Meaning of the Body

I woke up in the middle of the night nearly a decade ago, overwhelmed and angry. I felt like I had been thrown into the game of life without a rule book. I had studied metaphysics and self-transformative practices for years, but my results at the time were sporadic. Sometimes life was wonderful. Sometimes I felt confounded with too many difficult challenges.

Then from somewhere the thought came to me: “I will put my laws in their inward parts, and in their hearts I will write them.” This Biblical quote (Jeremiah 31:33) was only vaguely familiar to me. All the same, in that instant I knew that every bone and muscle and fiber of my being was the living, breathing rule book demonstrating the laws of life.

Everything I needed to know was literally written in every cell, organ and limb of my physical body. All I had to do was read the pulsating messages written in blood and sweat and flesh. My physical body was reflecting my thoughts and experiences. As others have said before me, biography had become biology. The invisible had become visible. I could read the script of my life‒past, present and the trajectory for my future‒in my physical form.

I believe that our bodies are designed to last in health and vibrancy for a long time, possibly for centuries, of creative, joyful living. The words and sounds that we choose to vocalize and those that we sing are creating and recreating us constantly. This is one of the reasons that I generally prefer chanting as a spiritual practice when compared with meditation or silent prayer. Sound affects matter. And that matters to me.

Unfortunately, our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, words and lifestyle choices are sometimes the weapons of our own chosen self-destruction. If we accept the premise that God, as the energy of life, is literally with us in every breath and heartbeat, we need only read the messages written in our bodies with true honesty and courage to know how to heal ourselves. This does not discount medical attention but is an adjunct to reasonable health measures.

This is not to judge ourselves or others for maladies of the body or soul, but a way to have compassion for ourselves and others. I will also say that there are saints among us that accept disabilities or diseases on behalf of others. Not everyone is the cause or source of their own suffering. Some conditions may be sacrificial and do not reflect the thoughts or consciousness of the person bearing that burden in any way.

Healing through Synergy of the Body and Spirit

Ultimately my personal goal is to go beyond achieving physical health through chanting and other spiritual practices and move towards having a true synergy of the body and the soul. In many traditions the body represents the Divine Mother and the spirit is symbolized by the Divine Father. I would like to experience the spirit flowing through my body freely rather than feeling the need for unending control and discipline.

Even in intensive sports, there must be a way to channel energy so that the physical body does not break down from overuse. Why should the physical body deteriorate if it is a reflection and expression of the eternal spirit? This does not make sense to me. There are yogis and saints who display all kinds of supernatural abilities such as slowing or stopping their hearts or going into breathless states for extended periods of time. Why is this the exception and not the norm?

Maybe our bodies begin to fail because we are trying to strengthen and master the physical body through sheer force ‒manipulating muscles, bones and joints‒rather than viewing the body as the pliable vessel of energy or spirit. Many martial arts masters do not necessarily even look strong, but they can do things that the strongest men in the world cannot do because they have learned to use their body as a channel for energy. There must be a way of channeling chi or prana so that the body is restored rather than destroyed in the process of living.

There have been miracle workers throughout the ages: Jesus and Buddha and Christian saints and Babaji and more. Babaji, an Eastern master and spiritual teacher, is called the Eternal Youth. He is purported to have lived for thousands of years, coming in and out of his body as desired or needed to assist mankind. Read full article on Babaji and his counterpart Mataji.

This is the stuff of legends to be sure, but science is also beginning to document individuals who can live without eating and those who are immune to poisonous snakes and those who live with little to no sleep. Stan Lee’s episodic series called Superhumans documents many of these modern people with remarkable abilities.

Mantras, Yantras & the Meaning of the Body

Mantra Yoga is a practice that unites the body and soul. Sound is a conduit between the world of the spirit or energy and the world of the earth. There seems to be a fairly direct conversion of energy into matter. Quantum physics is demonstrating that particles and waves merge and shift into one another constantly.

The work of Hans Jenny in the science of cymatics demonstrates that forms are created by various tones and sounds. There is a clear congruency between sound and geometric forms. This directly ties into the practice of both mantras and the use of yantras or sacred geometry.

Creating a Spiritual Body

When we speak, and especially when we chant or sing, we may be creating geometric forms in our own bodies and in the matter around us. This is quite a science and a lifetime study. There is also a concept in Christianity that one day we will have an eternal body: “this corruptible must put on incorruption” [1 Corinthians 15: 53]. This is called the “body glorious” or the “body celestial.” The same concept exists in many religions in different forms: the idea that there is an eternal body that we can create or receive.

Chanting, toning and sacred singing are among the tools that have an impact on both matter and spirit. Perhaps a combination of efforts will lead to achieving an eternal form, if that is indeed desirable for one or many. Various other yogic techniques may also be part of the equation.

Mantra Yoga is a form of self-investigation. What feelings arise and what is the impact on the physical body? When you chant do you feel spacey or grounded or uncomfortable or elated? These may be keys to evaluating your own psychological and emotional states. I am fortunate in that regard: when I am chanting, I often feel like I am falling in love.

There seems to be a huge leap from the desire to simply be free of ailments of the body and mind to the possibility of an eternal body. I am fascinated by the research being done by scientists like Candace Pert (learn more on her website) who demonstrates how thoughts are converted to chemicals in the body. There is also much work being done with somatic psychology, and even reports of people with multiple personalities whose physical forms change when they shift from one personality to another. There are records of people whose eye color, scars, eyesight and conditions like diabetes appear and disappear when they are existing as one personality versus another. That is amazing!

All of these things show that the body is quite fluid. Perhaps the body is far more fluid than we have thought in the past. For example, the human lymph system is a critical part of health and wellness. You can learn more at The Amazing Lymph System on the Essential Drops of Joy website.

Anything that is fluid is instantly affected by sound. Sound is a bridge that unites the physical and the spiritual. That is a great place to start. A practice like chanting that involves the emotions, the mind, the heart and the physical body may allow ordinary, flawed people like me to transform ourselves into more glorious beings on one level or another. At least it is a grand experiment.

Ultimately a dedicated spiritual path, including whatever practices appeal deeply to you, can lead to a harmonious relationship between the body and soul. Maybe there are multiple answers to the long-standing question of old age, disease, and death. I am looking for a way to find those answers and to achieve results without going into a cave for a lifetime or more. For me, chanting is a path that can work on many levels while I am living in the modern world and fulfilling my responsibilities. There are other tools I have found to be helpful like breath-centered meditation and hiking in the mountains. However, mantra yoga is my primary spiritual and self-creative practice.

Author Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.

Kathleen Karlsen Profile Photo

Kathleen’s Books

Vocal Medicine reveals Kathleen Karlsen’s personal journey and years of research into mantras, chanting and kirtan. Learn more about using mantras and singing to invigorate your life! Explore the chakras and the impact of sound in every area of your life. 

Flower Symbols by Kathleen Karlsen features fascinating information about the folklore of the world’s most beloved flowers. Flowers accompany us in nearly every major event in life. This book is a perfect gift for every flower lover in your life! 

Other Resources On This Site

Other resources on the web: Vibrational Frequencies of Life.


The spiritual meaning of the body can be a key to healing on all levels: physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Understanding the direct psychological connection between our physical bodies and our thoughts or emotions can help us to utilize the connection between chanting and the mind to heal the physical body. The patterns of our thoughts that have created discomfort or disease can be altered by choosing new thoughts and chanting them as mantras or sung affirmations.

Share with a friend today!