'Finally, Kosher Yoga'

Yoga teacher Diane Bloomfield explains how she incorporates Judaism into her classes.

Diane Bloomfield created "Torah Yoga" to incorporate classic Jewish wisdom into yoga instruction. She now teaches it throughout the U.S. and Israel. Her new book, "Torah Yoga," connects the Jewish concepts of Shabbat, renewal, exodus, and more to specific yoga postures. Bloomfield spoke with Beliefnet about her Jewish yoga clases, what Judaism and yoga have in common, and why Jews need to connect more to their bodies.

How did you initially make a connection between yoga and Judaism?

I've always been interested in my Judaism, but in my 20s I began to really want to know the Torah. I spent many years immersed in Torah text in a very traditional way, in Jerusalem, and I became quite observant. I've always been a mystically inclined person, so after five years, I began to sense that I wanted to understand the Torah with my body. My mind was just full of text. I felt like I needed to feel it more deeply, and I was very attracted to dance and movement. I came across a yoga teacher and took a class and deeply connected to it. It really spoke to me.

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At that point I had a very solid Torah background was teaching in different settings in Jerusalem. Yet suddenly I was feeling that I needed to understand this in a different way. I knew I needed to move and dance and do yoga. I could understand when I was practicing yoga that this was described in the Torah, that what was happening in yoga was something that had its equivalent in the Torah. So much of what I was experiencing, I translated just naturally into Torah because my mind very much thinks in Torah terms. It's just the way I'm wired--I translate into Torah.

When you say you translate yoga into Torah, do you mean the actual postures?

Not so much the postures or any particular shape, but the experience. There

are

people who work with the shapes of the [Hebrew] letter and the shape of the body, but that's not what I'm doing. There is a spiritual experience that comes with a yoga posture. It has a wisdom in it and the wisdom in it is connected to wisdom from the Torah. Basically, I realized that I could teach them together, that they enhanced each other, that the practice of yoga could lead to a deeper understanding of Torah and the study of Torah could lead to a richer experience of yoga. Rather than yoga just being a physical or spiritual experience, it could also be a Jewish spiritual experience.

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