What better way to dust off the old blog than with some reflections on the similarities between yoga and Jewish prayer. My religious experience is with Judaism, but I'm hoping that some of what I'm saying might translate well to other religions' traditions or meditation practices.
The cantor (religious clergy member focused on music and prayer) at my boys' Sunday School last week was giving a parent class on Shabbat and Spirituality. He was talking specifically about a "nigun." For those unfamiliar, a nigun is a repetitive, melodic chant featuring syllables (but not usually words) often used at the beginning of prayer services to invoke spirituality and reflection. The cantor was asking us how we feel when we get ready for prayer. What came to my mind was a morning stretch, like in yoga. The cantor was very excited about this comparison, and suddenly my mind was off and racing!
Over the past year, I have really embraced yoga, both as a great form of exercise and as a way to feel strong and grounded. Sun salutations are very common in yoga - we greet the sun and warm up our bodies with various stretches. Very similar to singing a nigun! We chant, we stretch, we salute.
In yoga, we continue to warm up and stretch our bodies, often until we are ready to plant our feet for one of the great warrior poses. We bend our knee, we stretch our arms, and keep our back straight. In Judaism, we work our way through the beginning of the service and stand strong for the Barechu prayer, our call to worship, our warrior pose.
Niggunim and sun salutations, warrior poses and calls to prayer. I have found great joy in this realization, that two practices which are part of my identity actually have much in common. Can you make any similar comparisons with two important things in your life? Sometimes, we find continuity and connection where we least expect it.