Friday, May 04, 2007

Counting the Omer Day 31 - 4 weeks, 3 days

Today is Tiferet she b'Hod - a day of compassion in a week of humility.

This week was the quarterly Yoga Sita Immersion. From 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. each morning I joined with a group of fellow students to practice yoga under the guidance of our teacher, Susannah Bruder. It's a great way to delve into the practice. Susannah takes us through a series of asanas - poses. As the week progresses, we become more familiar with the routine and fine tune different aspects of the asanas. Each person needs to adapt each pose for their particular body. Working with the sequence for two and half hours each morning gives each one of us the time to make the poses our own, as well as see how we can go deeper the more we practice. Susannah also shares some of the tenets of Yoga philosophy with us. It is the philosophy as well as the physical aspects of yoga that appeals to me.

Yoga was the entrance to my spiritual journey. Because it is not deity based there was no conflict with my Jewish beliefs. When I studied the eight limbs of yoga, I was impressed that the first rung were the Yamas - the traits that you need to relate to others in this world. The second rung, the Niyamas, are those traits that you need for your personal spiritual observance.

There are similarities between Yoga and Judaism. The main scriptures of both are from an oral tradition, meant to be chanted. Both core languages are challenging, read with no vowels. And as I count the omer with the sephirot, I also see many similarities between Jewish spiritual teachings and those of yoga.

T. Kirshnamacharya, a great yogi who is considered by many to be the father of modern yoga, taught that a yoga practice needed to be adapted to each individual practitioner. As his students moved into the spiritual and meditative aspects of their practice, he encouraged them to look to their own traditions. I am grateful for his teachings, for the study of yoga has greatly enriched my spiritual practice.

I dedicate this day Krishnamacharya, a man who very much embodies compassion and humility. If you would like to see him in an asana practice, go here to see him on film, recorded in 1938.

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