Passover – Traditions which inspire and transcend

Hello to all my favorite yogis.

Sorry, I have not written in a while.  Seems that keeping a proper blog is not in my constitution.  Oh well, I can let that go.

Tonight begins the Jewish Festival of Passover.  Like all good Jewish traditions, this one centers around food.  But it is not just any food, this is a meal, and a week of meals that is designed to remind us that we were once slaves in Egypt, and by the grace of G-d we were able to escape to freedom.

Tonight we will gather around our tables and tell the story of our escape from enslavement.  We will eat foods that will remind us of the tears of our ancestors, the hard work they did building pyramids, and the bread they were unable to finish baking in their rush to leave.

Passover provides us a unique opportunity to remember that we are not the only ones who have suffered slavery.  And more importantly, it encourages us to work to end the slavery that exists in  world today.  Yes, people all over the world are enslaved; children in sweat shops, children in the sex trade, adults in unsafe jobs with unfair/negligible wages, indentured servitude, battered spouses, and unfortunately the list goes on.  We don’t have to dig very deeply to find the ugliness of physical slavery in every corner of the world.

And our enslavement is not only physical. We are trapped by our computers, TVs and cell phones.  We are preyed upon by advertising which makes us think we are incomplete without the newest, latest, greatest whatever.  We suffer hunger, sexism, racism, global warming, etc. We are trapped by our childhood tapes of what it means to be good.   Spiritually and psychologically almost all of us are held by something.

And so here is Passover, and we get a chance to look about and within and choose once again to fight against slavery.  We get to rededicate ourselves to fight for freedom.  Freedom from the shackles of both physical and emotional bondage.

So, here is the work.  Look around and help out.  There are many programs out there that fight against modern-day slavery.  Pitch in, lend a hand  or send a dollar.  To quote  a favorite musician,  “none of us are free if one of use is chained.”

And also look inside, and see what are you willing to let go of this week?  Select something that is holding you back from living fully as your wonderful self.  How are you enslaved, and by what?  I know this is hard work, and it takes a brave heart to begin to let go of those chains.  Even the Israelites were reluctant to leave.    Slavery wasn’t good, but at least they knew it.  Change and freedom is scary, it is the unknown, and in the land of the unknown, we need to reach deep into our hearts for strength.  But isn’t it better that we live lives of wholeness, lives of connectedness, even if it means stepping into the wilderness.

In my classes this week, I will be encouraging my students to use their yoga practice to find the strength to touch their points of constrainment, to use their asanas to open their hearts, to become flexible enough to open the places that were closed within before.  We will be exploring backbends and their counterposes – opening our hearts and stepping into moments of awakening. And then from these moments of awakening, we can connect and be powerful in our openness and our oneness, and walk the path of yoga beyond the mat.

Shalom & Namaste
Diana Bonyhadi
Issaquah, WA

Yoga, Passover and Easter; Connecting the Paths of Faith

I am practicing asana but at a level where the quality is meditative. The totality of being, from the core to the skin, is experienced.  Mind is unruffled, intelligence is awake in the heart rather than in the head, self is quiescent, and conscious life is in every cell of the body.  That is what I mean when I say asana opens the whole spectrum of yoga’s possibilities.
– B.K.S. Iyengar

Fuse the powers of the sacred heart with the energies of the body and you transform everything.
– Pierre Teilhard De Chardin.

Good Morning

Here we are at the end of the week of Passover and the eve of Easter.  In the Northwest the sun is finally shining, and everywhere flowers are bursting forth.  It is no wonder that  there are major religious holidays at this time.  Clearly this is a time to celebrate.  We have hopefully seen the last of the dark cold days of winter, and can now  begin our planting and playing in the sun.

From the Jewish perspective, we have spent this past week reliving our journey from enslavement to freedom.  A metaphysical journey from dark to light.  I know that there are many ways in which we are all still enslaved, so as i crunch on my matzah, i am reminded to continue to keep my heart open, and to seek ways to help others escape slavery – both physical and mental

Yes slavery is still alive and kicking the world, think child labor and sex trade, coal mining and diamond mining.

And while I am not a member of the Christian community, I know many who have spent the last 39 days trying to give up something for Lent.  Chocolate, coffee, sugar, anything that they really liked, so that they can in some small way, experience the suffering that Jesus experienced.  Sunday, they will be released from their vows of abstinence and will be free to celebrate and consume as they wish.

But for more than a month, every time they almost ate/drank their favorite substance, they were reminded of others who have suffered or who are still suffering.  They brought the darkness of limitations to the forefront of their consciousness through a personal act of abstinence.

And now here we are, about to be set free from the restrictions we have set upon ourselves.  We are about to be free from the physical reminders of the suffering of others.  We are about to enter into the light and fullness of spring and summer.  I think perhaps our spiritual forefathers had something here.  They knew that there needed to be a “right of passage” a “moment of awakening”  “a space of rememberance”  at this moment of transition as we move from the cold days of winter into the warmth of summer.  We need to stop and pause and celebrate the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.  We need to remember that even in the best of times there is suffering, and, even in the darkest moments of suffering, there is room for birth and growth.

Okay, so what does this have to do with yoga?  Everything.  As yogis we come from many traditions.  Being a yogi does not mean you are no longer a Jew, Buddhist, Muslim, or Christian.  You are all that and more.  Let your yoga practice be a celebration of your spiritual practice.  Allow your breath to flow from the deepest recesses of your being.  Step into your asana practice with deliberation, awareness, and rememberance.  Your body is more than just a physical entity, allow it to be a vehicle for helping you to connect with the divine, and to live in greater connection with all beings.  Allow your meditations to be full of connection and wonder.

Shalom & Namaste,
Diana Bonyhadi