Jewish Yoga Service

Mon, 02/22/2016 - 2:18pm -- TCS

Men and women of all ages arrive with their yoga mats, many of whom have just dropped off their children at Religious School. As people lay out their mats they catch up with one another and begin to stretch, preparing themselves for the service.

As the service begins, together Beth and I welcome people to the service; she explains a bit about the yoga that we will be doing and I explain to people that it is still a service and so we hope that alongside the yoga asana they will join their voices with ours in word and song.

The slides on the screen behind Beth include words of Hebrew and English. We begin with the words of the Modeh Ani prayer, the prayer traditionally recited as a person wakes up in the morning. With the words it thanks God for restoring our souls to us. Beth explains the anjali mudra (hands together in prayer), to the community, which we all assume and then together we join words to the movements, singing the prayer as one.

We then make our way through the morning liturgy, after each prayer Beth explains, and demonstrates, the next yoga asana that we will be assuming. The slide changes to include the prayer that is about to be recited and once everyone is in the correct position or moving in the designated way I then lead the community as we chant, sing or read the words of our liturgy.

In one section of the service we recite a series of blessings entitled the Nissim bechol Yom – the blessings for daily miracles. These prayers give thanks to God for various gifts that we receive each and every day. When we thank God for lifting up the fallen we stretch up with the yoga move of sunrise and sunset, and when we thank God for giving strength to the weary as we assume a warrior position.

After reciting a number of prayers there is a break in the liturgy, in a traditional service this would probably be the place in which the Rabbi would offer a sermon or commentary on the Torah. Instead we consider a theme that Beth explores through yoga. As examples we have spent this portion of the service reflecting, through yoga, on thanking god, ourselves and the greater community through asana during Thanksgiving and we have concentrated on the dedication of our selves when Chanukah was approaching.  

Following this section where no prayers are recited we return to the liturgy and the concluding prayers of the service. As we move to the end of the service people assume the fetal position and then make their way into a comfortable seat. At which point in Hebrew and English Beth and I offer them our closing words as they focus on different parts of their body: “May you have peace in your thoughts, may you have peace in your words, may you have peace in your hearts. And may you take this feeling of love and strength with you today and every day.”

For that hour or so we create an oasis of calm and quiet for the participants in the service. As people roll up their mats and prepare to leave that space there is a spiritual energy that permeates the room. We hope that the community takes that feeling with them throughout the day. 

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