Wednesday, October 16, 2019 -
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Boulder: Filled with ‘Jewish yoga’ classes; teachers say Judaism and yoga not mutually exclusive

 

It wasn’t until after Raj Seymour had practiced yoga for 10 years that the idea hit him. Why not infuse Jewish spirituality into his yoga practice? So two years ago, Seymour, a Boulder yoga teacher who grew up in California in the Reform movement, started combining ancient Jewish texts with traditional yoga.

“Yoga is a vessel that can be filled by any spiritual practice,” Seymour, 36, said.

 

For two years, Seymour has taught “Jewish yoga” to Boulder’s Hebrew High students; he also recently started an adult Jewish yoga class in Boulder with a Limmud Learning grant from Rose Community Foundation.

 

He has taught Jewish yoga at Limmud Colorado, as well as the Teva Seminar on Jewish Environmental Education in New York and the Hazon Food Conference in California.

Although Seymour created his own style of infusing Judaism into his yoga teachings, there’s a trend toward combining Jewish prayer and study with the Eastern meditative movements of yoga.

Called Jewish yoga or “Jewishly-influenced yoga,” names like Torah yoga, Kabbalah yoga and Aleph Bet yoga, have popped up around the globe, each with a slightly different bent, but all combining Jewish spirituality with the 5,000-year-old Hindu practice.

Between 5,000 and 6,000 subscribe to Marcus J. Freed’s  “Kosher Sutra” e-mail list, said Freed, who runs bibliyoga.com and is the director of Yoga Mosaic US-Canada.

There’s also a new Facebook page, “Jewish Yoga Network,” for practitioners interested in “Jewishly-inspired yoga.”

Freed said it’s difficult to estimate exactly how many teach Jewishly-inspired yoga, but that the numbers are definitely growing.

“We are still in the process of connecting the dots,” Freed said in an e-mail from his London home.

“In terms of explicitly incorporating Jewish ideas, it could be as many as 3,000. On the other hand, a huge amount of yoga teachers are Jewish, and you could argue that a lot of their approach is Jewishly influenced, so the truer number could be 30,000.”

Freed said various Western practitioners have been incorporating Jewish practice into their yoga work for about 20 years, including Yoga Mosaic, an association of Jewish yoga teachers, which originated in London in the 1990s.

The first modern book about the topic was published in 2004, when Diane Bloomfield published Torah Yoga: Experiencing Jewish Wisdom through Classical Postures.

He claims that Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (1934-1983) suggested that the early kabbalistic work, Sefer Yetzirah, was a form of yoga.

“You could say the history of Jewishly-infused yoga began around 20 years ago or 2,000 years ago,” Freed said.

 

In Boulder, many synagogues say they are experimenting with yoga either during services or as a class.

Rabbi Jaime Korngold, also known as The Adventure Rabbi, incorporates yoga into her Yom Kippur day services and also offers it Rosh Hashanah afternoon.

Chabad Jewish Center of Longmont offers an annual Kaba-Yoga class for women, which combines kabalistic meditations with yoga.

Also in Boulder, the Center for Spiritual Friendship, a spiritual development center, has offered “Torah Yoga,” based on Bloomfield’s book.

In January, Nevei Kodesh offered Shabbat morning yoga that wove in the theme of the weekly Torah reading, said Dena Gitterman, the synagogue’s executive director.

The synagogue now is experimenting with offering an hour of yoga before Saturday morning services as a way to prepare for the service.

“Our idea is that by grounding our bodies and connecting our breath to Hashem (G-d), going to services will be a deeper experience,” Gitterman said.

 

Seymour says his Jewish Yogi and Yogini group’s e-mail list includes about 50 Boulder Jewish yoga teachers.

“While you are in a pose, focused on your breath, thoughts come into your head,” Seymour said, “That’s where you can bring Jewish spirituality in. Those thoughts could be channeled into ‘I am one with G-d.’”

Raj Seymour teaches ShalOM, a one-hour Jewish yoga class, at Vida Yoga, 2749 Iris Ave., in Boulder, Sundays at 1 p.m.

Drop-ins are welcome, and the class is open to all levels. The class is free.

Those interested in an upcoming Jewish partner yoga workshop should also contact Raj.

Information: www.facebook. com/raj.seymour or (303) 588-5581.

 




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