What is Jewish Yoga? In the book of Job we read, “In my flesh I see God”. Yoga is a powerful way to experience divinity and connection. Movement has been a crucial part of Jewish prayer throughout the centuries, so we have learned that the physical, intellectual, and spiritual in our tradition are fused. I wrote this introduction to Jewish yoga practice which I use to open my own sessions, highlighting Judaism’s openness to borrowing from neighbors while retaining our particular core:
We express our gratitude for the practice of yoga, the teachers who developed it over centuries to bring us to a place of balance and peace.
We offer praise to the teachers of our own tradition of Judaism for their history of learning from surrounding cultures, for recognizing that wisdom can come in many forms.
In Jewish yoga practice, we may come into a traditional yoga pose, such as the tree posevrkasana. As we enter this pose, we think about Torah as the Tree of Life, and the Jewish mystical notion that the human body is likened to a tree. We begin to embody the Jewish concept at a deeper level as we allow our own bodies to become the Tree of Life. Jewish language helps us experience the practice on a deeper level because it links our bodies to our stories in a profound way.
Deep at the heart of both yoga and Judaism is a call to pay attention to the mundane. In yoga, we notice in the body that which is generally ignored, and likewise our Jewish holidays and rituals ask us to take nothing for granted, from the food we eat to the daily workings of our bodies.