November 25, 2010
Kosher Sutra: Turkey Day (Vayeishev)
Kosher Sutra: “Go and see how your brothers are doing” (Gen 37:8)
Posture: Pigeon Posture
Body Benefit: Opens hips and back
Every day brings new teachings. I learned today that once a year the leader of the free world, the President of the United States of America, spares the life of a turkey. It’s all part of the Thanksgiving festival and although Queen Elizabeth II would never try a similar process because of the sardonic reprisals of the British tabloids (regardless that we don’t have the death penalty), Thanksgiving is taken very seriously over here in the US. People even update their facebook status during the lead-up, listing daily things for which they are giving thanks.
Our Kosher Sutra is the instruction given by Jacob to his son Joseph. The latter has previously upset his brothers after he gave a bad report about their behaviour, and is being given a second chance to see the good in them. The siblings were further upset when they heard about Joseph’s famous dreams of his ultimate leadership and he is now being invited to revisit them and make amends.
We can read the whole passage from an internal, metaphorical perspective. How often do we cause depression through telling ourselves negative stories? We have the ability to bring ourselves to a state of being disheartened when we bring negative reports into our mind, about how our body is behaving, about what we should be achieving, about how we could have acted in a certain situation.
The Yoga Sutras discusses a principle called Santosha which translates as ‘contentment’*. Rather than criticising our body during a yoga practice or reinforcing negative thoughts, they suggested that we can cultivate an attitude of contentment in order to achieve satisfaction and ‘unexcelled happiness’.
Jacob tells Joseph to see the ‘shalom’ of their brothers, to literally see the goodness or the rightness of their work. According to the Radomsker Rebbe, Joseph is being encouraged to return to the scene of the crime and focus on their positive aspects rather than their negative aspects. He is being told to see the good and to talk about it. The Rebbe connects this with a Kosher Sutra in Proverbs 34:12 and understands it as ‘who’s the person who has a great life? The one who loves their days and sees the good’**.
We can begin our Bibliyoga practice by giving thanks for all of our limbs that are working. Count our blessings, one by one. There’s a lot to give thanks for. Today’s posture is Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). I was going to suggest Peacock Pose but it’s a fairly advanced one. There isn’t a Turkey Pose, to the best of my knowledge. The instructions for pigeon are below, but if you’re too full from eating Turkey, then you are officially pardoned. At least for today; it’s the least I can do.
*Yoga Sutras II:42
Variation: Place a cushion below your bent knee to soften the posture and reduce the stretch.
Advanced: Bend the left knee and take hold of your left foot with your left hand. Raise your right arm in the air and reach towards your left foot.
Benefits: Opens the hip flexors, lengthens the groins and hamstrings, improves flexibility in the back and opens the chest.