Two Books in Review

Aleph-Bet Yoga: Embodying the Hebrew Letters for Physical and Spiritual Well-Being(2002) Steven Rapp.  ISBN-10: 1580231624

AND

Torah Yoga: Experiencing Jewish Wisdom Through Classic Postures (Arthur Kurzweil Books)(2004) Diane Bloomfield.  ISBN – 10:  0787970573

Merry Christmas!  I do hope that yours was time spent with loved ones, sharing laughter and good food.  A few pounds too much good food in my case!  Forgive me if I catch anyone off guard with this uniquely different review – too much turkey and a touch of Taoist crazy-wisdom seems to be a dangerous combination!

Aleph-Bet Yoga: Embodying the Hebrew Letters for Physical and Spiritual Well-Being is the first of two unique books amongst the multitudes I have discovered to talk about, unifying two ancient wisdoms for the betterment of your physical health and deepening your spiritual life.  If you are Jewish and have never considered the possibility of Yoga, both the books I am about to talk about are definitely for you.  If you are not Jewish and already practice Yoga, by the time we are done here you are going to want to read at least one of them for yourself, I promise.

The Physical First

This book by Steven Rapp covers twenty-nine classic Hatha Yoga positions which have been paired with each of the twenty-nine Hebrew letters.  A safe introduction for beginner’s to basic techniques and postures, Aleph-Bet Yoga is clearly written, providing step-by-step directions and photographs to guide you along.  Each posture is given with both a Hebrew verse and an English contemplation to meditate upon once you have achieved the position.  Good advice on combining postures to form a balanced Yoga practice is also found, making it an excellent choice for your practice at home.  Teachers, don’t lose hope.  I have something for you too!

Deeper…

It is notable here how closely the Hatha Asanas resemble the Hebrew letter they are teamed with.  In example; the letter “Lamed” (shown below) reminded me instantly of a traditional lightning position.

Lamed
Lamed

Lightning Bolt Pose

Aleph-Bet Yoga shows us how it is possible to weave the mystical meaning of each Hebrew letter with ancient Sanskrit words for the particular pose to provide a focal point for meditation while in the posture.  By turning to the inner meaning of the letters as we complete each of the poses, we access deeper connections in mind, body and spirit.  Steven Rapp’s words are insightful as both Yoga instructor and practitioner of the Jewish faith, melding both ancient cultures into a West meets East experience that is unforgettable.

Instructors both new and seasoned…Ideas

I will admit, Aleph-Bet Yoga is written as a bridge between the physical body and the spiritual aspects of Judaism and in this regard will suit those already of the Jewish faith more so than those not.  That being said, the book also introduces all of us to a method of caring for ourselves and our bodies so that we may act more effectively to improve our world.  There is a Jewish tenet known as “repairing the world,” (Tikkun Olam, in Hebrew) which is echoed in Ahimsa – compassionate lifestyle, and Bhakti – universal consciousness through Yoga practice.

One of the reasons I am so strongly drawn to Eastern practices including Yoga has always been that these practices are about openness, acceptance, community and learning to return to oneself.  Perhaps this means an idea for a new beginner class you may offer specifically for members of the Jewish faith.  If so, this book is all you will need.  Perhaps it may only mean expanding your own knowledge and breadth of vision to deepen your own practice and your student’s experience.  Sometimes the willingness to consider new ideas and remain open is not enough.  It is one of Life’s greatest gift’s to humankind that we can actively seek out new ideas and wider horizons….

Aleph-Bet Yoga deserves a rating of Yin YangYin YangYin YangYin YangYin Yang, both in the physical and mechanical aspects of the classical Hatha postures and in the authors desire to widen the horizons of not only members of the Jewish faith, but also those of all faiths.

Join me next week for PART II where we will review the second of these two amazing books!

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