by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
A reader sent a blog link to Reb Gutman, our resident expert on Eastern Spiritual traditions, of a group of Jews starting a Yoga blog. Here’s (a bit) of what they wrote…
Yoga and Judaism… They're the same, in that it's morals and ethics. It's more like Mussar (spiritual character development in Judaism). As far as Orthodoxy, yoga just uses different tools - poses, for example - for us to "practice" applying these morals and ethics.
Interestingly, one of our ongoing arguments against yoga for Jews is that yoga is it’s own spiritual system, one that is incompatible with Judaism. This yoga expert says the same, though generalizes that anything that’s morals and ethics is the same. No, Judaism and Yoga are not the same, and yes, both involve spiritual goals. Just not the same ones.
I think what is interesting about yoga poses - which most people consider "yoga" to be - is that they are not really about getting into shape. They are actually meant to prepare the body to be able to sit for long periods of time in spiritual quest (meditation etc). Judaism I am sure has methods to begin the process of getting us ready to enhance our connection with G-d…
If you are Jewish, follow the Jewish path! Don’t run off to the East. And if your local Jewish synagogue doesn’t offer the level of spirituality, or you are specifically looking for meditations or connecting and are just finding run of the mill stuff at your local synagogue – look further, Judaism does have it! Check out some chassidus, especially Chabad and Breslev.
I believe that my connection to yoga when I started practicing …was what was missing for me spiritually in Judaism. I was raised very secular and did not know …about the power of Judaism spiritually and intellectually.
As I have learned and grown Jewishly, some of the common practices of vinyasa yoga have become a bit uncomfortable. OM-ing and bowing/namaste is one of them. I felt a bit uncomfortable in my first yoga class after returning from my first and only Israel trip. …my experience was so deep and profound spiritually that everything else felt shallow. Now I realize that I was being judgmental in these thoughts.
Your soul felt the difference. But with time the yetzer hara, the evil inclination, played an intellectual game on you to push away those feelings. Now, out of a more Jewish and holy spiritual context such as Israel, you have the negative space to consider that it must all be the same. Those deep and profound spiritual feelings couldn’t have been real…could they?
Yoga is not for Jews. And Jewish practices are not compatible with yoga. Focused breathing, meditations on various types of nothingness, yoga morals and ethics?, it’s not for the Jew. If you need to stretch, go stretch. But how can you get the yoga out of the exercise? (Try Pilates?)