In my early courtship with yoga, I understood the word “yoga” to mean “union”. I was breathing and moving my mind, body, and spirit into union. How delightful to discover the far reaches of possibility within myself. There were poses which enabled me to feel strong, to feel flexible, to balance.
Becoming a yoga instructor offered me knowledge of yoga principles and philosophy which ask for an alignment of intention and action. Funny… I hear that at temple, too. As my yoga practice deepened and the notion of embodiment called to me with some insistence, my time on the mat shifted from me to me as the embodiment of what?? As I inhale (HaShem’s exhale), I wonder about the quality of my exhale. This curiosity about what I am made of was long ago sparked by my Jewish upbringing.
Judaism, as expressed at my synagogue, Congregation Or Ami, is interested in questions of how we move through this world– what ground we’re on, what we stand for. My rabbi, Paul Kipnes, is a passionate advocate of social action. Teaching yoga at Or Ami has generated a beautiful tapestry with yoga and Judaism engaged in a dialogue of teachings and practice, so that we learn to live and breathe our teachings. How do we begin to repair our world if we have not lived and breathed our wholeness, our brokenness, and our journey back to wholeness– over and over again? And how do we, as we age and endure strain, continue to cultivate strength, flexibility, and balance? How do we have a presence which will allow us to be part of tikkun olam… helping to heal our world.
The fact that my rabbi is on his mat, down dogging with his congregation, speaks volumes. Being welcoming and connecting with humanity are not just slogans in my synagogue. The energy that is exchanged during our practice is uplifting, calming, fortifying. It is perfect that our rabbi participates…
Our yoga community at Congregation Or Ami meets monthly in front of the ark, under the eternal flame, sharing the nourishment of yoga. We are finding that our Jewishness comes to life by “breathing it” and our yoga is that much more holy in our sanctuary. Just as our full lives expand God, inviting Judaism into yoga and vice versa creates a greater sense of integrity, of fullness. No longer are we or the aspects of our lives necessarily secular or religious, sacred or profane; rather, we are whole… Jewish yogis who embody the light of HaShem.