The growing awareness of yoga in our modern globalized culture is also making room for those yoga traditions that do not hail from India. One tradition gaining exposure is known as Ophanim or Kabbalistic Yoga.
Derived from the ancient teachings of the Kabalah, a Jewish wisdom tradition for better living, Kabbalistic Yoga includes breathing, meditation and specific physical postures to internalize Divine energy into the body.The primary tools for this process are the Hebrew letters (Aleph-bet). Long considered sacred, each of the letters have a unique energy signature and can be related to important principles. Through sequences of postures, the practitioner brings the energy of the letters to life by meditating on the letters as they spell meaningful ideas and words.Each posture is held in connection with special breathing and sensing of the body. In the meaning of the Sanskrit word “yoga” the practice unites; uniting time, space and one’s being to create a strong sense of balance and well-being.
The practice does not require previous knowledge of the Hebrew language, of Kaballistic texts, or any specific Jewish background. However, the more each practitioner learns about the letters and the reasons that each is shaped in a certain way, the more benefit will be obtained from the postures.
The most unique aspects of this yoga are its application of time and breathing pattern. There is a specific posture for each day of the week, and each month of the year. Each month of the Hebrew calendar refers to a sign of the zodiac, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and to a specific part of the body. The ten-five rhythm is inhaling through the nose for ten counts and then exhaling through the nose for five counts. This breathing is considered essential and the best place to start this yoga.
Though many Kabbalistic Yoga poses are very close if not identical to common Indian yoga poses, they are based on the shapes and energy of Hebrew letters. People already performing yoga unknowingly form these shapes with their bodies and experience the inherent energy of the posture. Kabbalistic Yoga can guide practitioners in reaching into their deep reservoir and bring forth their best self.
Photo Credit: Michal Fattal, Originally Published on Haaretz.com, "Hasidic Chakra" Nov. 19, 2012