Why Yoga?

While we do not have an asana (posture) practice in Judaism, many teachings from the Jewish mystical tradition place great emphasis on the deep connection between body and soul. According to the Hasidic

rebbes, every day-to-day activity is for the purpose of connecting our physical beings to our spirit, and for revealing divinity on the physical plane. In fact, the rabbis of the Talmud are said to have spent the hour before morning prayer in ‘movement’ or ‘meditation.’ (Berachot 30b).

This is where Yoga comes in. The Sanskrit word Yoga means “to merge, join or unite”. It refers to the unification of the “soul with the eternal truth.”[1] The word Asana means “holding the body in a particular posture with the bhavana or the thought that God is within.”[2] When we infuse our Yoga practice with teachings from the Jewish tradition, we are not practicing ‘Jewish Yoga,’ rather, we are bringing our whole selves to our practice.

The popularization of Yoga in the west has awakened a yearning among Jewish Yoga practitioners to connect our physical practice to the spiritual teachings of our own faith. For some practitioners this happens organically, for others, the invitation to connect the two is a long-awaited opportunity to feel at home in a body-based spiritual practice.

The practice of Yoga is one of many physical practices that can support us in bringing our attention to the present. This toe. This breath. This line of energy from the lesser trochanter through to the inner arch of the foot. Our Yoga practice is a means for us to enter more deeply into awareness of all aspects of ourselves.

We are most joyful and whole when we can bring our whole self to the world. When we connect our personal practices for fitness and well-being with our spiritual practices, we can practice Yoga, dance, run, move, sweat, laugh, learn, meditate, rest and restore without leaving our Jewish selves behind. We can show up in our Jewish body-souls to our practices for well-being with an integrated sense of presence.

[1] Geeta Iyengar, Yoga: A Gem for Women (Timeless Books: Palo Alto, California, 1990), 9. [2] Ibid., 25.