היום שמנא ימים שהם שבוע אחד
ויום אחד בעמר
Today is the eighth day, making one week
and one day of the omer
A day of loving kindness in a week of strength
What a great class today at Yoga Sita. Because of the small class size today, my teacher, Susannah Bruder, was able to spend more time than usual with each student, fine tuning each pose to the needs of each our unique bodies. She is a great teacher, and I am grateful to have studied with her for all these years, as well as count her among my friends.
I have been practicing yoga for 13 years. My practice includes not only the physical asanas(poses) but the study of the philosophy. In fact, my study of yoga philosophy was the start of my path back to Jewish practice. Yoga philosophy centers around how we live in this world and how we live within ourselves. It can have universal appeal because it isn't deity based. That is what allowed me to delve into it as I started to look for a life integrated with spiritual practice.
I never ignored the fact that yoga is infused with the stories from Hindu scriptures. That is the culture that yoga sprung from. Sanskrit--the language of the seminal yoga texts--is the liturgical, sacred language of Hinduism. The names of the poses are also in Sanskrit, and many refer to legendary Hindi figures. But the practice of yoga is not Hinduism, although it can be one aspect of it. Being in a pose that is named after a Hindu god or goddess doesn't mean I'm worshiping that god or goddess.
I do, however, experience a Yoga/Jewish convergence. Because Hinduism and Judaism are both ancient ethnic religions, their sacred texts are also considered to be stories telling the history of their people. The texts are written in a sacred language--Sanskrit and Hebrew, two languages that are written with no vowels. The texts were originally transmitted in specific oral tones, as demonstrated today as the chanting of the Sutras and the Torah.
Yoga seems contain the moral fiber of the Hindu religion, with teachings that parallel teachings of the Torah. Many yogis spent their life studying and commenting on the sutras and other texts, just as the Jewish sages throughout the ages have written commentary--and commentary on both practices is still being written today.
I owe the meditative part of my Jewish practice to Rabbi Lew, who brought me the teachings and showed me the importance of melding meditation and prayer. But while his discovery and tie to this practice came from his Zen Buddhist experience, my ties to the practice come from yoga. Just as Rabbi Lew could feel at home in the zendo of Tassajara, not bothered by the statues and shrines found there, I feel at home in a yoga studio, not bothered by any altars dedicated to Hindu sages.
I'm still working on my concept of God. For now, I would describe God as Transcendent Energy. There is only One, but that One has many aspects and many names. The Sephirot I'm using to count the omer are 7 emanations of that One Transcendent Energy. What some would see as separate gods and goddesses, I see them as part of the One.
And so, on this day I am reminded of the loving kindness with which my yoga practice feeds and energizes my Jewish spiritual practice. I am strengthened in body, mind, and soul.
כן יהי רצון
May it always be so