Saturday, October 18, 2008

Yoga Shalom

Combining the ancient spiritual practices of yoga with the Jewish morning service that celebrates the Sabbath may seem a bissle unconventional but, in fact, a "yoga shalom" service I participated in this morning provided an ideal immersion into prayer, music, meditation and movement. The Hebrew word shalom means peace - a perfect focus for attuning mind and body, to take a rest from the normal rush and preoccupation that fills our daily lives that too often keeps us from indulging in the day of rest that the Sabbath is designed to afford us.

Cantor Lisa Levine, who led the service, has modified the Shabbat morning service to couple the elements of traditional communal prayer and yoga practice with a very personalized spiritual experience. The congregants from Temple Shalom in Chevy Chase, Md., participating in the service this morning, who traditionally come to services wearing kippahs and talit (yarmulkas and prayershawls) prepared for traditional worship instead donned sweats and workout clothes crowding into a candlelit classroom to the mellow tones of Hebrew prayers on a specially prepared CD, laying down yoga mats, warming up and stretching while preparing to celebrate the Sabbath in this unique way.

The mindset for prayer in Hebrew is called kavanah, meaning "intent". In traditional mediatative practice, kavanah would be the idea of being "in the moment". As a welcome into the service, Cantor Lisa invited us to determine for ourselves what our kavanah would be for this moment, this particular morning of prayer, this day of rest, then led us through a flow of yoga poses to the calming melodies of the Sabbath. It was a wonderful way to pray and a welcome spiritual immersion into Shabbat peace, Shabbat holiness, Shabbat neshama.