by Reisha Golden

Yoga means to yoke onto the spirit – How does this relate to Judaism? In Judaism, unity is translated into Yichud or Yechidah – the bringing together of that which is transcendent (beyond time and space) into that which is immanent (within time and space). In yoga, the unity we refer to is mind – body connection, or soul-body connection.

Similarly, Ha-tha means sun-moon, sun – transcendent, moon – immanent, so too Jewish mystics would explain God and man with transcendent and immanent qualities. Just as God’s initial creation of the universe was twofold – “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” — so did he create man and woman in a twofold manner, body and soul. As it says Genesis 1:27, “And God (Elohim) said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” We are made in the image of God, both with imminent qualities (physical) and transcendent (spiritual) qualities.

In man, this “heavenly” part, the soul, brings forth its “earthly” part, the body, that they appear to be one entity. Jewish mystics teach that your soul is what created the body, or that the physical body perfectly mirrors the spiritual soul within it. This is why Kabbalah views that our physical health often reflects our spiritual health.

What is the soul? The soul is what calls out for love. According to Sfat Emet, the “soul” refers to desire; it is the innermost soul that constantly draws forth life. Kabbalah or receiving, simply put, is about the heart, about knowing how to be balanced from within, in our receiving God’s light and love and, in turn, emanating that light and love to others in a balanced way. And by giving light and love, it does not diminish, but we become an open vessel to receive more. The premise of Kabbalah is that we open ourselves as spiritual vessels for receiving God and fulfilling divine will and our individual purpose on Earth. This is the purpose of Jewish Life.

How do we accomplish this lofty task? -by connecting to our deeper selves.

Mystical Judaism says that we can attain knowledge of God through experience of the self. Kabbalah or receiving is an experiential process. So too yoga.

Yoga is about this mind-body or soul-body connection. We, in effect, are connecting to the body to connect to our consciousness or to our souls. Like the brain sends and receives neural impulses to and from every part of the body, yoga too opens us to the energy centers of our body – be it chakras, or sephirot . And by opening ourselves to our deeper consciousness, to our soul, we can, in turn, be open vessels to receive and give to others the universal love and light that surrounds us.