I had a conversation with a friend and colleague the other day. He said to me, “I think people are at the stage where they want to imagine their lives post-Covid. They want to see themselves thriving again.”
I completely relate to the sentiment.
To move past all of the challenges we have experienced and live ‘as if’ we are on the other side might take a bit of imagination and a good dose of faith. But imagination and faith are made more real by the practices we take on – daily, weekly and monthly.
When faith is practiced in embodied ways it can become muscular and can help guide us as we take the steps to thrive again.
And nowadays, as the days get shorter and colder, we may be retreating into our homes and bodies a bit more. A new yoga book, co-written by Sharon Epstein and my dear friend, Rabbi Tara Feldman, called Into a Jewish Holiday Year with Yoga came just in time to help us build some muscle around our intentions and vision for ourselves again.
I was delighted to sit down with Rabbi Tara this week to learn more about her new book. It just might be the Hanukkah gift I get for myself (I hope you do too!)
Why did you write this book now?
Rabbi Tara: After over a decade of creating Jewish Yoga experiences with Sharon Epstein, it felt like it was time to coalesce a portion of our work into an accessible format and share the richness of embodied Jewish practice. As I enter into a period of transition in my own life, making aliyah after two decades of serving as a congregational rabbi in North America, I am challenged to think about what matters most in my own evolving spiritual practice and in my life as a rabbi. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness have been profound sources of joy and meaning for me.
What do you want people to experience by using this book?
Rabbi Tara: I think embodied practice has the power to infuse our Jewish lives with renewed vitality, moving beyond the purely cerebral to the experiential. There must be ways to embody Judaism beyond just eating and fasting or standing and sitting at synagogue!? For those who may feel alienated from Jewish life, yoga can provide a new avenue ‘in’. For those with deep knowledge and engaged Jewish lives, yoga can enrich and expand awareness of ancient wisdom.
Share an Insight from your book and a yoga practice that is linked to the upcoming holiday of Hanukkah:
Rabbi Tara: Hanukkah inspires us to act with courage and to bring light to dark places. In the short, cold days of winter, Hanukkah reminds us that we can move through challenges by accessing strength and vision. Hanukkah inspires us to stand in our truth no matter what others may say or dictate. Times of darkness can spur us to connect with our inner flame—the light and energy of the body. Yet, to do so, we need ruach (spirit or wind). Just as fire needs oxygen to burn brightly, we need breath and spirit to access our power.
Igniting Sparks of Courage, Justice, and Truth – Our Hanukkah yoga practice, with strong and sustained poses, builds heat and energy in the body and mind. This heat stimulates and burns off stagnation and lethargy, creating the potential for transformation. The essential postures are the grounding, steadfast, and balanced Warrior II, Warrior I, and Warrior III Poses. By engaging and activating our feet, legs, hips, arms, and abdominal muscles, we ignite a flame that moves from the outside in, from body to soul, directing us toward bravery, justice, and truth. Let’s burn off doubt and fear as we deepen our breath and step into the steady strength and courage of a Maccabee warrior.
T’nuchot Ikariyot • תְנוּחוֹת עִקָּרִיּוֹת
Warrior II Pose Warrior I Pose Warrior III Pose
Thank you, Rabbi Tara and co-author Sharon Epstein for bringing these beautiful insights and poses to us. And thank you to Adam J Schiff for those awesome illustrations! I want to note that there are also guided meditations and an opportunity to journal as a part of the book. But you are going to have to get the book for yourself to have the whole experience!
Here’s to a winter of more vitality, fire and energy.
Blessings for the journey,