Monday, May 03, 2010

Breathing Numbers

היום ארבעה ושלשים יום שהם ארבעה שבועות וששה ימים בעמר
Today is the thirty-fourth day, making four weeks and six days of the omer
יסוד שבהוד

A day of foundation in a week of humility

I spent the summer of 1971 in Israel with group of teens on USY Pilgrimage to Israel. Along with our American group leaders, we had counselors from Holland and Argentina. It was then that I learned that when a person counts, it will almost always be in his/her native tongue. Everywhere we went, when it came time for a head count we would hear the numbers in English, Dutch, and Spanish. It's one of those things that happens automatically--there's no thinking involved--probably why you revert back to your native language.

I thought about that today during my yoga class. We're trying to gain fluency with the numbers in my Hebrew class and my teacher suggested that we use Hebrew numbers as much as possible. I've been doing things like reading license plate numbers and prices in Hebrew. So when Susannah told us to hold each pose for eight breaths, I started to count them in Hebrew. It was not a good idea :)

I lost my focus on the pose, which meant I lost my focus on the present--an important element in yoga practice. I had to think too much--which number, which tense. It just took me out of the flow of the class. Luckily I realized early in the session that this wasn't going to work, was able to smile about it and let it go. It's hard enough sometimes to push the yoga frustration away--I didn't need to add another layer.

So I need to remember that I may never be able to count my breath in Hebrew--and maybe I am not meant to be able to do that. Then again, as when in yoga, a seemingly unreachable pose sometimes inexplicitly becomes one I do with ease--one day I might just find myself breathing the Hebrew numbers in my breath without another thought.

You never know.........

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