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July 13, 2012 / Rabbi Laura

Yoga. It does a body & soul good

This morning I noticed an interesting conversation on Huffington Post Religion section asking if yoga is a spiritual practice. Not surprisingly, people were coming down on all sides: yes.. no… sometimes… maybe… everything should be a spiritual practice…

Before even reading the conversation I had planned to return to the yoga studio this afternoon. After a minor injury to my elbow while bike riding 2 months ago, I had been instructed “No yoga until its healed!” My heart skipped a beat this week when my physical therapist told me I could return to my yoga practice. (Thank you Rolando!) While the elbow is not yet 100%, it’s time to focus on some strength building. Yoga is perfect for that.

My family will tell you that when I’m able to practice yoga regularly I’m much happier, calmer and focused. So today was a really good day. I took a deep inhale and a long, slow exhale.. and many more… when I settled onto my mat at Perfect Balance Yoga.

A couple years ago, one of my favorite studios in the Tri-Valley, Downtown Yoga, asked its students to write about what their yoga practice meant to them. At that time I had been practicing regularly for about 10 years. I had learned so much about myself and my body that I was compelled to take up invitation to write. Here’s what I wrote:

Thank you for the opportunity to put into words the richness that yoga has brought to my life.  Well, actually, I am sure the richness was always there, but it is because of yoga that I have a greater sense of and appreciation for its presence.  Bringing yoga into my life has been a transformative experience for me.

I had been dabbling with yoga for several years, but it wasn’t until I walked into Downtown Yoga one Friday morning, that yoga really became a regular part of my life. In the past 8 years, I have learned so much about myself through my yoga practice. I cannot imagine the woman I would be today if I did not have yoga as part of it.

Yoga has helped me become a more confident woman.  I used to be somewhat shy, reserved, and tentative about speaking my mind, especially in new situations.  Yoga has helped me shed that shyness and share myself more with those around me.  I have become more self-assured and self-confident.

Yoga has given me the confidence to take more risks, on and off the mat.  I used to be the person who would say, “I can’t do that,” without even trying.  I was chicken.  I was afraid what other people would think of me.  Yoga has taught me to try, to take risks, and to have fun in the process.  In learning to focus on my own practice, stretching my own boundaries, I have become less concerned with what others think.  I do the things I want to do.  I say the things that think need to be said.  Yet, at the same time, yoga has helped me recognize my limits. While each time I come to the mat I am able to push those limits a little bit, move myself forward. I know where those limits are now.  They are much broader than they used to be! And I am having a lot more fun!

Yoga has, of course, helped me physically.  I am stronger. I am more flexible. I have a greater awareness of my body. I am happier in my own skin.  Little did I know that yoga would also help me emotionally and psychologically.  Last year, when going through a very stressful time, I noticed how closely linked my yoga practice was to my emotional health. Yoga helped me recognize where I was emotionally, gave me the time and space to work through stuff while on my mat, and take new insights off the mat into my life.  Daily yoga practice got me through that difficult period.

Yoga continues to give me the much-needed break from the pressures of work, caring for family, etc.  I am a caretaker by nature, always putting the needs of family and friends first.  As much as I love being there to help others, sometimes I feel like I sacrifice my own needs and concerns for theirs.  Yoga gives me the time and space to take care of myself, to give myself what I need each day.

As a rabbi, I have always struggled with my prayer life. That isn’t a bad thing; its part of being Jewish. Israel means “one who wrestles with God.” Yoga, with its Hindu spiritual roots, has given me different types of prayer experiences.  Those experiences have helped me define what I need and want in my Jewish prayer experience.  I pray on my yoga mat, I pray in the synagogue, I meditate, and all of those are good. Yoga has helped me take advantage of the varieties of prayer experiences I can have.

Finally, yoga has given me friends. Yoga can be at the same time both an individual and communal practice.  My yoga practice has given me the opportunity to meet and make new friends here in the Tri-Valley. I meet new people when I visit yoga studios on my travels.  I have renewed connections with old friends who also practice yoga.

Namaste and shalom.

My yoga journey resumes today. I am grateful for all my teachers over the years who have given me the gift of yoga that has so enriched my life. Thank you, Laurie, Kelli, Suzanna, Dina, Karen, Marcella, Jim, Kate, Michelle, Rabbi Lisa, Joanne, Gio, Beth, Winter, Donna, Gloria for all being my teachers.

One Comment

  1. Frume Sarah / Jul 16 2012 1:07 pm

    OK — you’ve convinced me. I need to try yoga. Thank you, my friend.

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