I did a 200-hour yoga teacher certification in 2010. I wanted to be a certified yoga instructor before I graduated from my grad program to become a registered dietitian. I had this urge inside of me, that I did not want to be just a registered dietitian, but also a yoga instructor—to show the world (and myself!) that I am holistic. I will not be a clinical dietitian alone, I will be a health practitioner of body, mind, and spirit!
Well, it was a good decision. I taught yoga for a couple years (in addition to Pilates, which I trained in before that) and it was quite fulfulling! And now, more than ten years later, I continue to incorporate movement into my nutrition and lifestyle counseling sessions.
My yoga master trainer Kinneret wrote an article in 2019 about pre-exile Jewish worship and how much different it was, how much movement and dance it involved, as opposed to today where we sit or stand by a chair and recite the words. (Full article here.)
And over the past couple of weeks, it’s been crystallizing for me.
The Pre-Exile Jew is also the future of the Jewish people. As we believe, and fervently daven (pray) for redemption and the building of a 3rd Temple.
So learning about and pondering the practices of the Pre-Exile Jew is in essence preparing for the Post-Exile Jew.
And the Post-Exile Jew moves when they worship (I will no longer have to be jealous of how many child poses Muslims get to do in their prayer practice).
Sitting in desks all day ain’t good for adult’s health and it ain’t good for kid’s health. Sedentary lifestyle has health risks. Even if you run an hour a day, these health risks of increased cholesterol and insulin resistance etc remain.
I have a whole workshop I created and presented on that at the last hospital where I worked!
The point is, in modern society we are coming to find our current lifestyle doesn’t mesh with our physical/mental health needs.
So too, the traditional Jewish practices have been beginning to yield to more experiential ones in recent years.
Because, as I’ve mentioned previously, the exile version of Judaism is very diluted, very uninspiring. In large part, because the body is exiled!!
I think that the realization in America in general to get more movement at schools and at desk jobs, is parallel to the realization that Judaism has to kick it up a notch to hold onto its people and not lose them to other religions which have not been watered down and therefore appear to be much more spiritual versus the version of Judaism the majority of us have been taught.
On a recent Shabbat, I helped out with youth groups. Other weeks I lead them, but this week I was the designated helper. As the leader told the story of the week’s Torah portion, I began to act it out in small movements on the sidelines. Then I decided that I wanted to engage these adorable 1-5-year olds with visual performance art, so they not only heard the story but saw it as well; to make it more multisensory.
I went to the middle of the circle of chairs where the kiddos and their parents sat and acted out the story. It was completely improv. Which is what I prefer.
I’ve been making dance videos for 7 years now and love the self-expression and liberation that comes from that.
This recent Shabbat brought that to a whole other level. I let the story flow through me. My expressions unhindered. I felt the energy flowing through my whole body, out through my finger tips. My mind wasn’t planning the moves, they were completely guided by my soul.
It was magnificent to do. It was so fun, so liberating.
Several parents remarked how engaged their children were with my performance. I even got a “fabulous!”
I was on such a high. I had to tell my friend who arrived after my improvised segment what I had done. Something shifted in me, something came out from deep within, it felt transformative and it was so darn cool!
I had to re-tell it to her and some other family members and friends. As if re-telling the story of the Jews receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai—for me, this experience was epic, I wanted to perpetuate its memory. Keep it alive.
I was already planning on doing yoga and movements with the kids during the youth group sessions in the coming weeks. But now I will add to my repertoire, leading them in telling the story of the parsha with acting out the characters and the plot.
Next time, it won’t be completely improv—although the fun part about teaching yoga to kids is, it always is! I will guide them with the basic instructions/poses and they will elaborate/interpret as they choose. I will likely even ask them to create what they think makes sense. Instead of showing my idea for the pose first, I will elicit it from them, e.g. “What does a giraffe look like?” (No, there are no giraffes in this week’s parsha, that’s just a general example—but that would be cool!)
I am excited to infuse movement and imagination into the youth group sessions I lead. The sessions are so much fun!! And I’m filled with joy thinking that by incorporating the body, I will be further awakening their souls.