This coming Shabbat Karen and I will be leading another exciting service outside – our monthly Yoga Service. There are some people who asked me: “Rabbi, but is it a real service/ are there tangible benefits to such a practice, can you tell us more etc?”
Yoga itself is an ancient practice, the Sanskrit word “Yoga” translating to the English word “Union,” actually a divine union. Most (Western) people are only aware of what is termed “Hatha Yoga” and its various forms – this relates to the physical side of Yoga (looking after, and keeping the body healthy) by various exercises and or ancient breathing techniques.
Very few (Western) people are aware that Hatha Yoga is only one of four main branches of Yoga. Raja Yoga is the study of mental control, or just as Hatha teaches one about the body, and practical exercises to take care of it, so Raja sets out to do the same with the mind. Gnani Yoga, is in short (as we do not have the space to go into it here) the yoga of wisdom, and Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. Yoga is even in such cases not a religion, but is practiced the world over by all people across the board, and of all faiths, as such it sets out to assist us with whatever our chosen path is.
One of the Yoga teachers Ida Unger says that the “kavana- intention” is a big part of Judaism, when we do our mitzvoth we do them when we are awake, with an aware attitude. We can see a very strong connection between some of the yoga postures, and to the Hebrew alphabet. One side we can say it’s only visual, but on the other side we can understand, it as a part of Jewish mystical tradition. In the kabbalah we learn that God used the alphabet as his instruments in the creation, the letters were part of his creation, this was the energy flow. During our Shabbat services we are withdrawing from the world and from our daily running around, we are in a state of being, and not in a state of doing. As an example in Hatha Yoga there is a specific posture – savasana, a restful pose, which is a microcosm of this exact concept.
Hope to see you all on Saturday morning.
Shabbat Shalom – Rabbi Julia Margolis