Embodied Jewish Learning offers all people the chance to experience Jewish wisdom through movement practices that nourish their minds, bodies, hearts and souls and empowers them to fully embody and express their unique role in creating positive change for our world.
How It Works
We introduce a theme or line of text.
This past week in the Torah we were instructed to design a physical dwelling place – a Mishkan - for the divine presence to be with/among us in the desert: ‘Asu Li Mikdash V’Shachanti B’tocham.’ (Exodus 25:8) One interpretation of this line is that we are asked to create a physical resting space for the divine to reside inside of our bodies.
We enter into the physical practice. We first take time to breathe and stretch our bodies.
From a quiet, calm open space we engage in a yoga practice where we pay close attention to the structure of the body. We start by focusing on one part of the body - the bones of the structure of the foot, for instance, that allow us to move and walk and shift weight with balance. Throughout the entire practice we pay attention to the precise physical details of the anatomical structure in each pose or movement and breathe into the tense, tight spaces in the body to create more openings.
We connect the physical practice with the theme.
Now that we have a physical experience of opening, we can move into considering the ways in which the intricate design and details of the Miskhan mirror the intricate design and details of the structure of the body. We consider the physical experience of being a ‘body’ or ‘structure’ within which ‘spirit’ or breath fills that space.
Mishkan has the same Hebrew root as Shechuna, neighborhood, or Shachan, to dwell, or Shechina, the indwelling of divine presence. We consider these ideas as we practice, “What does it feel like to consciously take up the space inside of ourselves?” We don’t talk or answer with words, we explore with kinesthetic sensing.
Origins of Embodied Jewish Learning
Yoga, Art and Sacred Text: EJL's founding project for teens to explore embodied spirituality, Yoga, Art and Sacred Text was originally based at Midrasha in Berkeley between 2001 - 2005 and supported by the Tikea fellowship at Jewish LearningWorks (formerly the Bureau of Jewish Education) with continuing support from the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund. See articles about this project here and here.
Photos of students Jacquelyn Stuber, Lev Hirschhorn, and Sarah Asarnow from Yoga, Art and Sacred Text Classes at Berkeley Yoga Center, 2005
Yoga and Wholeness with a Jewish Twist: Piloted and based at the Peninsula Jewish Community Center (PJCC) in Foster City, California, EJL has offered several workshops and classes for embodying qualities for well-being in our lives: renewal and freedom in connection with the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashana and Passover, or lovingkindness, discipline, balance, perseverance, gratitude, creativity and grounding in connection with the qualities associated with the Counting of the Omer, between Passover and Shavuot, in her Embodying the Sacred Sefirot series. Read this article by Julie about the practice of Yoga and Jewish Wisdom as a portal to Wellness, and this article by Rabbi Lavey Derby about Jewish Wellness as a path to wholeness and well-being at the PJCC and the impact of this work upon students of all faiths.
Reference these poses when working with Embodied Jewish Learning:
Forward Bend - Uttanasana (Fig. 1)
Triangle - Utthita Trikonasana (Fig. 2)
Mountain Pose - Tadasana (Fig. 3)
Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana (Fig. 4)
Seated Twist - Marichyasana III (Fig. 5)
Hand to Big Toe Pose - Supta Padangusthasana (Fig. 6)
Warrior II - Virabhadrasana II (Fig. 7)
Warrior I - Virabhadrasana I (Fig. 8)
Warrior III - Virabhadrasana III (Fig. 9)
Tree Pose - Vrksasana (Fig. 10)
Side Angle - Parsvakonasana (Fig. 11)
Head to Knee Forward Bend - Janu Sirsasana(Fig. 12)
Seated Forward Bend - Paschimottanasana (Fig. 13)
Embodying Humility (Anava)
Embodying Perseverance (Netzach)
Embodying Equanimity (Menuchat Ha'Nefesh)