Monday, June 24, 2013

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Yoga for Shabbos & Yom Kippur

via Reb Gutman Locks on Mystical Paths

We’ve posted years of articles about the incompatibility between yoga and Judaism.  Our primary argument has been that yoga, by nature and practice, is always more than just exercise – it always includes meditative and spiritual practices, even when it’s presented as just a secular practice.

Unfortunately one Washington synagogue agrees…and lacking enough spirituality in their Jewish practice have started incorporating yoga into their service.  Oy oy oy…

At Sixth & I historic synagogue in downtown Washington, Jewish holy day and asanas come together for Shabbasana. Participants encouraged to leave work day behind, using meditation to make transition into day of rest

Shabbat is the Hebrew word for the Sabbath, the Jewish holy day. The asanas are the body positions for yoga. At the Sixth & I historic synagogue in downtown Washington, Shabbat and the asanas are coming together for Shabbasana - yoga for the Sabbath.

The first step was a successful one-time yoga class for Yom Kippur. Shortly after that, the rabbi of the sixth and I historic synagogue asked Greg Marzullo to make it a regular event.

“That would sort of infuse Jewish spirituality into the yogic practices without diminishing either," says Marzullo. "We didn't want it to be this sort of mishmash blend where it weakened both tradition, but we wanted it to be something that bolstered the inherent wisdom present in both traditions.”

About 30 Washingtonians squeeze into a multipurpose room for one reason – to see how they can leave the work day behind and use yoga to transition to the Sabbath.

“I do yoga on my own, but I'm also Jewish and I celebrate Shabbat. This is the first time I've ever done yoga before Shabbat, so I thought it was a cool opportunity,” says one of the yoga class participants.

He is one of more than 20 million Americans who practice yoga. In the past five years, interest in yoga has grown by more than 30%. For some of the participants at this class, the teacher is the big draw.

“I was really curious to see what he'd do with Shabbat and this notion of making time and space for yourself in a specifically Jewish way," one of the participants says.

“Yoga's about finding yourself, peace and love and spirit. Shabbat's about being spiritual and finding peace in the week. Shabbat separates out the rest of the work week from the day of rest, so it’s all coming together," says another participant.

The class is representative of many Americans who try yoga: There are many beginners and a few true experts. No one is expected to do each pose perfectly. This Friday night class is really about transition – from the non-stop workaholic world of Washington to the day of rest and prayer.

Having moved from the warrior pose to the much more relaxed child pose, after the class students are invited to Shabbat services in the main assembly room.

Shavasana is the Sanskrit word for the posture of rest, and Shabbasana – yoga for the Sabbath – is about coming to relaxation and preparing for Shabbat.

And with the growing popularity of yoga in America, some think it might be the next big idea – especially for Jewish Americans.

…We at Mystical Paths think otherwise.  If you want a spiritually neutral stretch exercise, try Pilates.


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