The once a month Yoga Minyanim have been put on hold due to the Covid 19 outbreak in South Africa
A Drasha to connect the service with the weekly Torah portion or festival formed an integral part of the Yoga sessions. Scroll to the end of the page to read sermons given at these Shabbat morning Yoga meetings over the years.
Message from Carine, the yoga teacher:
Namasté. I started practising yoga in 2000, as an exploration and soon became hooked! In 2003, wanting to understand the teachings and the meaning of my practice, I completed my teacher’s training under Ishta School of Yoga, Hatha yoga. Five years ago, my life changed… I became a full time yoga teacher.
Yoga unites the body, mind and spirit, yoking with the beloved within. The practice of asanas balances sun/moon and masculine/feminine energies within us, as well as connecting you to the five elements. It is a science, it becomes a part of you, a way of life. It is the best thing you can do for your whole being! Try it and feel the metamorphosis takes place… You will love it.
See you soon!
L’ shalom, Carine.
Listen here to a radio interview of Carine Delhaye, Desmond Sweke and Rabbi Schell on ChaiFM, featuring the Yoga Services at Bet David:
BODY, MIND & SOUL: THE PHILOSOPY OF YOGA & TEACHINGS OF JUDAISM
the body and soul are separate yet indivisible partners in human life. The earthly body is seen to be a G-d given tool for doing sacred work in the world, rather than imprisoning or corrupting the soul, as the ancient Greek philosophers and Gnostics believed. In Jewish teachings, the body requires protection, care and respect because it is holy.
In Judaism, the soul is often referred to as consisting of three parts, Neshamah (breath), Nefesh (self), and Ruach (spirit). Some texts refer to five names or levels of the soul and also to two souls, the “animal soul” and the “G-dly soul”. A more detailed discussion on the soul would have to be for another day.
Literature of the Talmudic period gives us images of body and soul in harmony. Berakhot 10a from the Mishnah tells us, “Just as the Divine fills the world, so does the soul [neshamah] fill the body. Just as the Divine cannot be seen, so does the soul see, but cannot be seen… Just as the Divine is pure, so is the soul pure”.
In the Midrash, Leviticus Rabbah, we read that the soul is a guest in the body and that care of the body is deemed a commandment by the great sage Hillel, as G-d formed humans in the divine image.
Halacha (Jewish law) teaches us that the paramount holiness of human life extends to the human body. Mitzvot (commandments) cover matters relating to the body such as clothing, eating, and sexual habits precisely because care of the body is also care for the soul. Healthcare is the maintenance and upkeep of the soul’s home. Torah law prohibits mutilations of the body (Leviticus 19:27-28, Deuteronomy 23:3). Maimonides deemed it obligatory to provide proper sustenance and respectful clothing for the body.
Interesting Fact: According to the Talmud (Oral Law), there are 613 commandments in the Torah (which is also meant to be the number of seeds in a pomegranate), including 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments. These correspond to the 248 organs and 365 tendons of the human body. The Mishna lists the exact breakdown of these ‘organs’.
The soul, in inhabiting the body, can also be said to have 613 parts, filling the body in a specific, concrete way, not in a general or amorphous fashion. Fulfilling a commandment spiritually repairs its corresponding organ, thus enabling the soul to fully inhabit that organ. In fulfilling all the commandments, the soul inhabits the body in all its complexity and diversity.
So what are the similarities of Yoga with the teachings of Judaism? Yoga is a 5000 year old mind and body practice that involves both the spirit and physical body. The word Yoga is Sanskrit for “Union with the Divine”. Yoga uses breathing techniques (Pranayama), exercises/poses (Asanas) and meditation (Dhyana) to improve health and wellbeing. The movement from one Asana to another is said to balance body and soul, while the meditation techniques help to harmonize human consciousness with the divine consciousness.
The rabbinic and kabbalistic traditions call the human body Olam Katan (a small cosmos). Each part of the body has its own unique spiritual powers and significance and corresponds in some way to the divine powers expressing themselves in the cosmos. Ezekiel had a vision in which he “saw the glory of G-d as the image of a man”, expressing the deep connection between the human and the divine.
Rabbi Nachman of Brazlav teaches that the body can help the soul spiritually, when the soul experiences one of its intermittent falls. This help, can only happen if the body and the soul are close enough for the soul to have conveyed to the body the spiritual light it attained when it was ‘high’. When the body is pure, its pleasures can help the soul return to experiencing spiritual bliss, reminding the soul of spiritual knowledge.
There is remarkable synergy between the teachings of Judaism and the philosophy and practice of Yoga. Both offer an optimistic view of life and the union of body and soul. In Judaism, the body is a gift from G-d to be protected and tended. Only with pure, holy bodies can we bring the commitments and truths of our souls into every action. In both the teachings of Judaism and Yoga, this requires mindfulness of our bodies in our spiritual endeavours to connect with the Divine.