TGIF Torah Yoga

"Stretching our bodies and souls"

Wrestling and Resolution

In by Judy Schindler

This yoga or meditative practice offers you an opportunity to reflect on the journey from wrestling to resolution. If you are reading this as a meditation, consider finding some quiet space or playing some instrumental music and taking a minute or two between the readings to reflect on the content.

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Take a moment to reflect on something with which you are wrestling.

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A famous pianist was once asked by an ardent admirer, “How do you handle the notes as well as you do?” And the pianist responded, “Ah! The notes are the easy part. The pauses between the notes that is where the art resides.” So it is in life. The art of living resides in celebrating the pause – the Sabbath.

Shabbat Yoga/Shabbat meditation enables us to appreciate and celebrate the pause – to stop the work, the housework, the homework, the news, and to craft our days and our lives into the masterpieces we want them to be.

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Our weekday world can be one of struggle – personal struggle, academic struggle, professional struggle, and then there are the struggles beyond ourselves — the struggles of our greater world that impact our days.

By stopping on Shabbat, we take the time to sit with our struggles: to hear the voices inside ourselves, to reflect on the voices we heard all week long, to listen to gems of wisdom of those who came before us, and to find the centering we need as we work toward finding greater peace.

The famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass said, “If there is no struggle, there is no growth.”

The Torah teaches about struggle and growth. The narratives of each portion reflects movement forward from wrestling to resolution with a goal of liberation and peace.

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The Torah portion that Jews around the globe read this Shabbat is called Toldot which means “generations.” The subject of the Biblical narrative moves us from one generation, from Abraham and Sarah, to the next, to Rebecca and Isaac.

Rebecca, like so many of our matriarchs, was challenged with infertility. When she finally conceives, her pregnancy is not without trials. Within her womb are twins who struggle with one another from the start. The Torah tells us that the children pressed against each other inside her and she thought: “If this is so, why do I exist?”

She learns that two separate peoples will come forth from her body – one mightier than the other. National struggles, siblings struggles, and internal struggles are all wound up in one womb.

Our yoga or meditative practice start with a focus on the external struggles and then move inward.

Our weeks have been overwhelming. The forces of hate and love, of good and evil, or harm and healing can overwhelm. Torah yoga/Shabbat meditation helps us find the balance and perspective we need in the face of so many negative forces.

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The focus of our yoga practice/meditation moves to internal struggles. According to Chasidic commentators, the struggles Rebecca experiences were not the twins within her womb but the two parts of herself – her yetzer hatov her good inclination, and her yetzer harah, her evil inclination. Her struggle is spiritual.

We all have internal spiritual struggle:
The struggle to serve ourselves and the struggle to serve others.
Our drive for achievement and our need for rest.
Our drive to be with others and our need for time away.
Our seeing and highlighting the negative in others and our world
and our seeing and nurturing the positive.

The path to peace is bringing together the parts of ourselves and souls
and to use them all for a greater good.

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Proverbs (24:16) teaches seven times the righteous one falls and gets up.
Falling down and getting up,
wrestling and resolution,
work and rest,
struggle and growth,
chaos and peace.
All of it is holy work.

Yoga Practice Notes:
Sukhasana, easy seated pose. Be aware of the breath, 3 rounds, without changes. Stay aware of the breath and begin breathing in and out of the nose for 3-part breathing, pause at each of the three parts of the inhale, pause at the end of the full exhale. Notice the pauses, spaces within the breath, and between the breaths, and be aware of your thoughts.

We’ll be moving into poses and holding them, pausing in the pose and becoming aware of the magic of the pose. We’ll be flowing from one pose to another. Notice the subtle pauses between the different poses. Magical!

In seated pose, gentle twist right and then left. Shift forward to child’s pose. Rest forehead, relax thoughts, releasing the unnecessary components in order to stay present. Be aware of where you are, which is just where you need to be. Feel free to set an intention, prayer, mantra, or stay with an awareness of presence for your practice. Become aware of any struggles or obstacles you might be having at this time. Detach from them now, and come back to the breath.

In child’s pose, walk hands to the left of your mat, stretch the right side of your body. Notice expansion and contraction of the right side of your body. Other side.

Back to center, shift forward to table and move through cat and puppy. Downward facing dog. 3 point dog, Cheetah pose, 3 point, Down dog. Other side.

3 point dog, Cheetah, 3 point, Runners lunge, Airplane pose, Grounded airplane, Lunge, High plank, Low plank, Up dog, Down dog. Other side.

3 point dog, Twisted cheetah, 3 point, Runners lunge, Revolved side plank, Vinyasa (High plank, Low plank, Up dog, Down dog. *note this is always optional. you can go to childs or directly to Down dog). Other side.

3 point dog, Warrior 2, Peaceful warrior 2, Runners lunge, Kundalini, Lunge, Vinyasa (optional). Other side.

Repeat above and after Kundalini, Lizard lunge, Half splits, Wide leg forward fold, Side leg lunge. Other side.

3 point, Grounded extended spine airplane, Half moon, Chair. Other side.

Bridge. Happy baby. Reclined spinal twist. Savasana, corpse or resting pose.

Shabbat Shal-ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

[Photo by Callie Gibson]

Generously funded by the Lenora Stein Community Creative Learning Grant.