Tag Archive: yoga

Parsha And Yoga… Seriously?

A Book Review

 

Since my website went live in 2012, I’ve received calls and e-mails from people all over the world, from New York to San Diego, from Canada to Israel, and from England to Brooklyn (yes, Brooklyn, can you believe it?!?). Some people come for advice, some visit for support, and some offer business opportunities and ideas for future activities. Each person, however, shares the same goal: to maximize their God-given potential, and to better serve Hashem through optimal health.

 

It was in this vain, then, that I was sent a book a couple of months ago by Linda Hoffman in Dallas, Texas, titled Parsha and Yoga: Lessons from the Weekly Parsha and Yoga; Linda thought I might be interested in checking it out.

 

At first glance, when Linda initially reached out to me, I must admit that I thought it was a joke (sorry, Linda); I mean parsha and yoga? Seriously? What does one have to do with the other? I had images in my mind of reciting the psukim in the sedra while straining fiercely in Downward Dog or being contorted in some other tortuous pose. But I’m a big believer in extolling virtues or denigrating faults only after the person or item has been given an opportunity to plead its case; I never proclaim a book is a waste of paper… at least not until after I’ve read it, anyway, so I was willing to give this book a chance, and I’m glad I did.

 

 

The premise of the book is actually quite simple. In Linda’s own words, we need to protect and care for our body so that we can learn and develop to our highest abilities. We develop our soul by becoming the best “me” that we can be using the tools of the mind and the body that were given to us. Having studied yoga for more than 20 years, Linda shares different facets of her art, stating that yoga is a routine for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health; we discover ourselves on all these levels through yoga practice. Yoga enhances the way we live with wisdom, insight, discernment, mindfulness and acceptance. Linda also compares the study of yoga with the study of Torah: just as we understand Torah at the level of learning we have reached, so we practice our yoga at the level of flexibility and strength of our body.

 

The book’s structure comprises short 5-10 minute easy-to-read synopses of each weekly parsha, intertwined with Linda’s own thoughts, as well as various mefarshim and insights. An illustrated simple yoga move with explanatory text can then be found at the end of each parsha outline.

 

According to Linda, the book is primarily marketed to mid- to late-age women who are less observant, early-stage baalei teshuva, and reform and conservative Jews who are interested in incorporating some exercise into their lifestyles. Having said that, however, she tells me that she’s received good responses from people across the “frumkite board”, and, having read the book myself, I see no reason why that shouldn’t be the case. 

 

I found the book to be accessible and fun to read. I found myself strongly agreeing with many of the points that were made, and look forward to practicing much of the advice that was imparted. In fact, in many instances I wished the key points were further elaborated upon, but understand that the author wished to keep each section brief. The summaries of each parsha are concise and colorfully written, mixing biblical narrative with midrashic tales. The yoga poses are well described and illustrated, and are suitable for the beginner; more seasoned yogis, however, may crave more challenging positions. Although there are one or two factual inaccuracies throughout the book, it’s generally well presented and edited.

 

Personally, rather than exclusively surrounding myself with points of view and hashkafot that I already agree with – thereby bolstering my own ego and ingrained mindset – I try to expose myself to a wide range of attitudes and beliefs outside my comfort zone. Yes, this has the potential to be somewhat detrimental at times, but I believe that is how we grow best; when we’re challenged, physically, intellectually, and spiritually. Reading this book reminded me of how true this notion is. Rather than dismissing this publication as something “not for me”, there were indeed pearls of wisdom buried within its pages.

 

In her introduction, Linda states that our mind, our body, and our soul are encompassed in one entity. Our life goal is to be the best “one” that we can be using all of our qualities. Speaking more broadly, I would add that we, our Nation, should cumulatively strive to be the best “one” that we can be. Each neshama is a conduit from and to Hashem; each has something to offer.

 

Parsha and yoga? Yes, even parsha and yoga. More often than not, if you don’t see Hashem’s connections in everything around us, the problem isn’t that the dots can’t be joined – it’s more likely that you’re missing some dots in the first place; the key is finding ways to discern and discover the countless dots in this beautiful world.

 

In describing yoga and its connection to the Torah, Linda writes we practice mastery over the physical for the benefit of the mind… BeautifulI couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

Michael S

 

Michael’s Story

 

Name

Michael S

Contact Info

N/A

Age

35

Gender

Male

Geographic Location

Bergen County, New Jersey, USA

Goal

Lose weight and the flab around my midriff, become more muscular.

What made you decide it was time for change?

My pants needed to be lengthened – the same pants that fit me just fine a few years prior – and my mother-in-law happened to mention that a man’s pants typically ride higher if he’s put on weight. Initially, I was incredulous, and couldn’t believe I had put on any weight… then I weighed myself – nearly 210lb (I weighed 185lb when I first got married 5 years before) ! I decided enough was enough. My father had a triple bypass operation for his heart before he turned 50 years old, and I was determined that I’d do everything in my power to avoid a similar fate, and become the husband my wife deserved and the father my children needed – I needed to be around for them for as long as possible.

Starting weight (lb)

210

Current weight (lb)

172

Were there any medical/health issues that improved because of your transformation and, if so, please describe?

I’ve been working out and eating right for two and a half years now. I have more energy all the time; I hardly go to the doctor; and I’m generally happier – probably due to my better health, but also because I’m more disciplined now and more in control of my body and my life. Being able to fit into nice clothes is also a plus 🙂

Were there any emotional/psychological issues that changed because of your transformation and, if so, please describe?

See above

How long did your transformation take?

2.5 years

What [special] foods did you eat, if any?

Whole grain carbohydrates; more vegetables, particularly green vegetables; healthy fats, including nuts and flaxseed oil. I also eat smaller quantities of food more regularly, being careful to eat every 2-3 hours to keep by metabolism up.

What foods did you avoid or only eat in moderation, if any?

Processed carbohydrates; simple sugars; and saturated fats and fried foods.

What exercise(s) did you do, if any, and how often did you do them?

I started off doing P90X (a 6-day/week exercise regimen that includes weights, cardio, and yoga), then I moved on to P90X Plus, and then Insanity (a 6-day/week exercise regimen that’s mostly cardio). Now I do a mixture of everything, including weights 4 times a week, cardio 6 days a week, and yoga once a week. I keep busy, but have fun. I even started taking dance classes (hip hop) – great exercise and very enjoyable.

Did you use a specific weight loss program such as Weight Watchers ®, Atkins™, etc. and, if so, what? Was it helpful?

No

What were your biggest challenges and how did you manage them?

Shabbat and Yom Tov were, and continue to be, the hardest part of keeping healthy – it’s a dangerous combination of good food and little exercise. My family has been great and has really curbed the amount of junk food we have in the house, but it’s still there in moderation, and it’s there whenever we go to friends’ houses as well. I’m addicted to cake and cookies, and other junk food too, so having enough discipline and self control in these situations is very hard, and I’ve slipped up on many occasions, but you have to forget about what’s done, move on, and take each day meal by meal. Finding a healthy balance can be difficult, and is different for everybody.

Did you encounter any particularly difficult challenges on Shabbat/Yom Tov or during smachot and, if so, how did you manage them?

For me, it’s easier to not have any dessert than to only have a little – it’s tough to maintain that self control once the first taste hits my lips. Still, I try to enjoy Yom Tov and have dessert in moderation. I also try to fill up on salad before I consider eating starchy carbohydrates and junk food.

Did you encounter any particularly difficult challenges due to religious/familial obligations (e.g. minyanim; studying/learning; caring for children; maintenance of the home; communal responsibilities; etc.) and, if so, how did you manage them?

Not really. My wife’s been very supportive and understanding, and has been there for me every step of the way while I’ve adjusted my diet with healthier food and my schedule to fit in more exercise. I also started exercising early in the morning so that I still had time for my family.

What other advice, if any, would you like to impart to the Frum & Fit.com community to help them become and continue to be the best they can be?

The hardest part to becoming healthier is realizing you need to and then summoning up the courage to make the change in your life. Once you’ve made the decision to change, finding a good support system and a knowledge base is crucial to success. At the end of the day though, it’ll be you who makes every decision – the choice is yours and yours alone.