On one of my Buddhist podcasts recently I heard about the way many practitioners work hard to attain proper posture, right speaking, focused eyes, etc. It's not exactly an effort to "mortify the flesh," though--it's based on the idea that the body is the closest approximation of the soul that we have. It follows that making an effort to become a graceful physical creature, even if it does not necessarily produce a graceful inner life, may teach a person about the difficulties of attaining or achieving such an inner state.
All of that to preface the following recommended article by, of all people, David Brooks (who usually bores me without mercy). Anyway, here's a link. The op-ed is titled, "In Search of Dignity."