Explore freedom from an embodied perspective with these Passover-theme related yoga postures offered by Julie Emden, Director of our Embodied Jewish Learning Initiative. Julie offers workshops, classes, and a Yoga and Jewish Wisdom Teacher Training. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
These postures and themes were created for At the Well, a project supporting Jewish women to celebrate Rosh Hodesh all over the world. See more resources from At the Well for the month of Nissan here.
Materials : yoga mat and blanket
Opening Kavanah - You are the Authority
The foremost theme for this month and gift of Passover is that we move from slavery to freedom, from constriction to expansion, from responding and reacting to other’s demands of us to acting from a place of true sovereignty and authority from within. Please take on these suggested practices (and those from any body-based practice) with this in mind, and consider your own body’s unique needs when practicing yoga. At Sinai upon receiving Torah, at the same time that we camp at the base of the mountain as one soul, we each also hear our own unique message, and we each receive our own unique place or letter in the Torah. And when we receive manna in the desert, the amount we each receive is according to our individual needs - no more, no less. Do not do anything that is not right for your body, in this moment, in this time. You are the authority and you are sovereign over the gorgeous domain that is your body-soul-heart-spirit being, for this practice and always.
Theme 1: Moving from Constriction to Expansion - Mitzrayim
When we look at the Hebrew word ‘Mitzrayim’, we see the word ‘Tzar’, which means constriction, surrounded by the word ‘Mayim’, which means water. All of the joints in the body are surrounded by water in the form of synovial fluid. As you practice these poses, bring awareness to the fact that the joints (tzar) in our bodies - our wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles - which enable us to move and create change in the world!- need mayim, softness, and fluidity in order to be healthy and strong.
Hip Openers - Lying on the floor
Theme 2: Softening the heart - Exodus 8:28 - “And Pharaoh hardened his heart…”
As Pharaoh witnesses and experiences the ten plagues, we hear over and over that his “heart is hardened”, and the language in the text indicates that his obstinacy becomes habitual. Releasing habits that no longer serve us to live in integrity with our deepest potential and desire is another theme for the month of Nissan. In fact, Moses is told at the burning bush to ‘take off his shoes’ (Exodus 3:5), but the Hebrew can also be translated as ‘unlock your habits!’ Day to day, as we sit and move with postures of leaning over computers and steering wheels, we can create a habitual shape in the body of shoulders rolling forward, chest collapsing and a ‘closing of the heart’. These poses support us in opening our hearts and shoulders, and also bringing awareness to the spaces behind our hearts. They provide a countering to the habitual way we often move through the world.
Theme 3: Stepping into the Sea on Dry Land - Exodus 14:22 - “And the Israelites entered the sea on dry land”
You may have seen the movie, or considered the scientific research about the parting of the sea in the Exodus story. What is possibly as fascinating as the notion that the sea parted for the Israelites, is that the text says that the Israelites stepped onto dry land ‘b’toch’, inside of, the sea. What?! How could the land be dry, even if the sea had parted? And have you ever tried to walk on wet soaky sand just after the waves recede on a walk at the beach? It’s not easy. This is our task in Nissan, and in our lives. How can we maintain stability, stay grounded and connected to our foundation, in times of turbulence, change and upheaval? How can we stay upright and connected to what is solid, perhaps relying merely on our bones, our etzem, our essence, during times of intense change and transformation. These standing poses can help us feel our feet, solidly rooted and firmly planted and the limbs of our legs rising up from that foundation, as a resource, a source of strength and support for us as we move through the world and reach for our dreams.
To experience these and more, join Julie for one of her Passover workshops: