Yoga, My Jewish Spiritual Journey
December 23, 2015
Posted by: Emily Lakritz, Program and Administrative Assistant
When I booked my flight to Bali for a month-long yoga teacher training, I can honestly say I was not thinking about my Jewish identity. Yet, the trip ended up connecting me to my family and my community in a way I never would have expected.
Growing up in an observant home – my stepfather is a rabbi – provided me a solid, traditional framework for understanding Judaism. Still, I’ve always had trouble relating to the concept of “religion.” I’ve felt conflicted about my Jewish identity, as though it were somehow assigned to me, rather than something I had the option to choose. Being Jewish was simply who I was, not a part of myself with which I strongly identified.
Yoga, on the other hand, has formed the perfect outlet. I came to yoga – or it came to me – at a time when I needed a devotional practice that was completely self-monitored. The teachings, and the ability to be guided by the experience I was receiving, helped me to connect to my spirituality. For years now yoga has helped me through transitions, relationships, and self-understanding in ways I never could have a dreamed of. It’s an integral part of my life.
When I began to dive deeper into my practice, I noticed a change in not only how I felt physically but how I interacted with the world around me. The teachings started to resonate and I felt a strong sense of community, a sense of commitment and an understanding of the importance of compassion. After some time I decided to pursue a teacher training, feeling that I should spread the teachings of a practice that so profoundly impacted my life.
It wasn’t until after my training in Bali, during a conversation with my stepdad about what I perceived to be the differences between yoga and religion, that I realized my view of Judaism was one-sided. I talked with him about mindfulness, devotion, connection and community, and as I continued to name aspects of yoga that have touched me, each would bring a Jewish teaching or lesson my stepdad could match to it. All the things I loved about my practice were the exact parts of Judaism that inspired him so much.
Everyone has their own spiritual journey, and to me it doesn’t matter what method you take. The only thing that truly matters is that whatever that path is makes you a better person, capable of serving and encouraging the rest of the world to do good. I believe it’s important for the Jewish community to continue to find ways for people to discover Jewish connection in ways unique to them.
My time at JCRC has taught me that there are many people in this world working tirelessly to bring acceptance, compassion and peace to a planet that desperately needs it. Whether you identify religiously, politically, ethnically or otherwise, it is organizations like JCRC that highlight our human connection and help us realize our longing for a world filled with love and peace.
Emily teaches yoga around the bay area; for more information you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTO: Emily performs a sun salutation (surya namaskara) during morning practice in Bali.