Kosher Sutra: “place your hand under my thigh..with kindness and balance” (Gen 47:29)
Soul Solution: Get in touch with your eternal potential
Posture: Staff Pose (Dandasana)
Body Benefit: Strengthen thighs and improve posture.
On his 80th birthday, BKS Iyengar described how he started every day with a 30-minute handstand. He’s just turned 92 and is still going strong. This gives us something to look up to. Or rather to look down to. Or upside down at. But how does he do it? In an US lecture several years ago he explained how he taught his late wife how to adjust him in yoga postures. The key is to use your energy to help someone else, and the aim of every great teacher is to leave the pupil feeling more balanced and healed.
Jacob is in the last days of his life and gives Joseph an instruction: ‘Please, do me a favour. Place your hand under my thigh and do this to me with lovingkindness and truthfulness’ (Gen 47:29). Taken at face value, it is clear that Jacob is requesting the first-ever recorded hands-on yoga adjustment. On a deeper level he is asking Joseph to make an oath on the eternal covenant*, but let’s consider how he makes his request. The relationship must be based on ‘Hesed’, ie lovingkindness, but also Emet, which is truthfulness, balance or integrity.
The yoga teacher Baron Baptiste once told me that our bodies are often in pain when we are not acting with integrity. We use these postures to find truthfulness, to ask ourselves the question; ‘where in my life am I not being more honest to myself?’ ‘how can I act with more integrity in my key relationships?’ ‘what do I need to change?’. Above all, according to Jacob, we need to do it with lovingkindness and to answer these tough questions with a gentle attitude.
Maybe there’s something else going on here as well. Jacob’s thigh was the place of an old injury. Although he was completely healed by this point, memories of our old pains can sometimes blight us in the present and prevent us from fully moving to our future. If we treat our bodies with kindness and continually work on our integrity, then we can get one step closer to reaching our potential.
*ie the point of the Brit Milah, the circumcision which is in lieu of a holy item that signifies connection to God.
i. sit with your legs straight in front of you, toes pointed outwards and thighs drawn in towards the bones.
ii. place your hands by the sides of your hips with your fingers pointing forwards and your arms completely straight.
iii. Keep your back fully engaged.
Advanced: Activate your abdominal muscles, keep the legs straight and lift yourself upwards with both feet off the ground [photo].
Seated: Straighten both of your legs whilst sitting in a chair.
Benefits: Thighs, posture and back.
Marcus J Freed is teaches yoga with a Jewish twist with classes every wednesday - Click here for more information. Marcus is the President of the Jewish Yoga Network and Yoga Mosaic USA, for Jewish yoga teachers and practitioners. He’s also the artist-in-residence for Jewlicious Festivals and he tours internationally to communities, JCCs and Hillels teaching and performing his one-man Biblical comedies.