Posted by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: I set before you today a blessing and a curse (Deut 11:26)
Soul Solution: Freedom from pain through non-attachment.
It is almost impossible to know who wins the lottery. The person who has the correct numbers and receives the prize money is not always the winner. Dr Steven J Danish is a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and has spent the last 12 years counseling lottery winners who face huge problems after receiving their sudden windfall. Stories abound of how the sudden abundance of money can magnify existing problems and families descend into jealousy, arguments and self-destruction. So, we may think that we have lost by not winning, but we may well have won by ‘losing’.
There are ominous words that form our Kosher Sutra, as Moses relates the words of God: “I set before you today a blessing and a curse”. A list of blessings and curses follows, but Hasidic tradition reveals an underlying switcheroo. Likutei Torah teaches that the inner side of every expression is a blessing*.
The yogis were keen to stress the importance of non-attachment, vairagya, because it allows us ‘mastery over the mind and realization of the true self’ (Yoga Sutra 1:16). As we get into a yoga posture we focus on the actions rather than the result. It matters not if we can get into a handstand or drop into a backbend. What is important is that we commit to the action. We do not have to complete the full pose but neither are we free from refraining to start it.
Underlying everything is a sense of ultimate trust (Hebrew: Emunah) and this can be attained through non-attachment. Another way of thinking about this is the idea of process vs results. If we focus on the process, the results will take care of themselves. An actor cannot force an audience to feel something, but if they fully commit to playing the scene then the effect on the audience will take care of itself.
Think for a moment of an occasion when you’ve faced a huge disappointment but later realized that it was an unbelievable source of blessing. I was disappointed when I got waitlisted and then rejected from the universities of Cambridge AND Harvard (now that’s yichus!) but in retrospect I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m even grateful for sustaining a couple of injuries through a somewhat reckless yoga practice because it has led me to learn new forms of meditation and alignment-based asana that have totally transformed my understanding of yoga.
We cannot always see the bigger picture, but then again, our job isn’t to run the world. We just have to commit our best to each passing moment, to enjoy each breath and let the result take care of itself.
**: 28th August 2011 - JConnectLA & the Jewish Yoga Network present Ultimate Yoga Day: An experience for the body & soul. Featuring classes with Marcus, Zack Lodmer (Om Shalom Yoga) and much more!!! Click here to book online. Advance tickets: $40. On the day: $50. Only 4 places left!!!!***
5.17.13 at 6:43 pm | Marcus does his thing.
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10.5.12 at 7:33 am | Yoga, Torah, Life & The Book of Marcus (7)
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10.27.11 at 10:12 am | The weekly Torah reading through yoga - Marcus. . . (4)
August 19, 2011 | 11:36 am
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: EAT LOVE PRAY
Kosher Sutra: ‘Eat, be satisfied and bless…’ (Deut 8:10)
Posture: Gormukhasna/Cow-face pose
Body Benefit: Open your heart space
Soul Solution: Lift up your heart
To almost everyone’s surprise, praying has come back into fashion. It’s called different things because praying is no longer a phrase in vogue, but whether you call it ‘manifesting the universe’, ‘setting an intention’, ‘submitting to a Higher Power’, it’s all pretty much the same thing.
A key element of yoga practice is gratitude, and that is the essence of our kosher sutra. To appreciate the food we have had and to say thank you for it. But that is not enough. The key element is that we enjoy it. ‘V’savata’ says Deuteronomy. ‘And you shall be satisfied’. We actually have to be happy. What a total drag.
The yoga teacher Aadhil Palkhivala, one of Iyengar’s senior teachers and the founder of Purna Yoga, focuses on the attitude of bliss in his book Fire of Love, where he focuses on the ‘inner smile’:
“.. illness is a function of the loss of the inner smile… hidden deep within the veiled recesses of the Heart Center is a smile that emerges from a sense of connectedness with all things. This unifying feeling is true love, far removed from the physical…Bliss is the connection with the heart, and is not to be confused with excitement. Most of us equate bliss with a thrill, and that is part of the problem. Bliss is a calm inner state, the manifestation of inner connectedness, while excitement is merely a passing fever” (Fire of Love p201-202).
When we find this satisfaction, we automatically lift ourselves to a higher place. A few lines on from our Kosher Sutra is a caution lest we miss out the vital element of saying thank you: ‘then your heart will be lifted up and you will forget God….’(Deut 8:14), and we find ourselves in a place of arrogance. There is a difference between opening our heart centre, our heart chakra, the place the Kabbalists called Tiferet, and becoming arrogant. In most yoga asanas (postures) we are aiming to open and lift our heart, but to do so in a spirit of gratitude and humility.
There is a famous Talmud imploring us to enjoy the world around us, and saying that if we get to heaven and we haven’t enjoyed our world, we will be asked why.
So what are you waiting for? Go and have a good weekend already. Just don’t forget to say thank you.
i. Sit in Staff Pose with your feet straight out in front of you.
ii. Bring your right leg over your left and aim to have both feet pointing backwards, with your ankles in line with your hips.
iii. Inhaling, bring your right arm over your back, your left arm under, and hold both hands together.
iv. With every inhale, lift your head even further and maintain the energy.
Variation: Sit on a bolster or evenly-folded blanket to make the knee bend easier, take hold of a strap between your hands.
Marcus J Freed is president of the Jewish Yoga Network and creator of Bibliyoga. He is teaching next week in Los Angeles for the Ultimate Yoga Day - An Experience for the Body & Soul on Sunday 28th August. Check out the line-up and booking details here:
July 10, 2011 | 1:58 am
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Dear Prince William and Duchess Kate
Welcome to Los Angeles! On behalf of the Jewish community, we hope you have a great time. Please come for tea if you’ve got any time before you leave; I think that Victoria & David should be stopping by at some point so it’ll be nice if we can all hang out.
as ever, your loyal subject-
Marcus of Watford.
June 13, 2011 | 12:53 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Last Sunday I had a profound experience in downtown Los Angeles. Skid Row is the poorest district in LA, and the setting for The Soloist. I was there as part of a volunteer day at a homeless shelter and got more than I bargained for. 150 homeless African Americans were in attendance for a meal served by volunteers and at the last moment I was asked to address their sunday chapel service. The filming quality is basic, but you’ll get the gist. I shared my favourite Kosher Sutra du jour - “Serve God with joy” (Ps 100:2) - along with a question - how can you feel joyful if you’re not in the mood?
Artist-in-residence for Jewlicious Festivals. Check out Jewnfest this week, 14th-15th June.
May 6, 2011 | 12:02 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: ‘These are the appointed festivals for God, you shall call them holy’ (Lev 23:37)
Soul Solution: Improved clarity and improved relationships
Body Benefit: Strengthen arms and legs, open heart space.
One of the greatest afflictions of our age is the lack of exclusivity. There are high rates of marital infidelity for both men and women, placing an ever-growing pressure on the institution of marriage. Our once close-knit social circles now extend to lists of virtual friends that number in the hundreds or thousands. Worst of all, our incessantly-texting generation has developed the inability to focus on the person we are with, as highlighted in the recent NY Times article Keep Your Thumbs Still While I’m Talking To You.
How does it feel when you are with a friend and they aren’t paying you full attention? Or you are betrayed by a lover’s affair? We don’t like it. It’s not the way we are wired. Often the problem lies deep within ourselves and according to the yogis we are in an age of mental distraction, which they called vikshipta chitta, a distracted mind, or mudha chitta, an infatuated mind. Oy.
Our Kosher Sutra: ‘These are the appointed festival times for God, you shall call them holy’ (Lev 23:37). The term for ‘appointed festival times’ is Moadim, which means an exclusive time. I recently heard it translated as a ‘date with God’. It’s date night!
The word kodesh, meaning holy, is elsewhere defined as separating something out to make it special. The Chernobler Rebbe and Sfat Emet explained that we can make time itself holy by marking it out for a specific reason such as a festival or sabbath. In this sense we also make the private relationship with our spouse holy because it’s separate, dedicated and exclusive. The commentator Rashi said that this word for holiness is often mentioned in conjunction with our intimate life (on Lev 19:2), and this is possibly because it is through sexuality that we have the greatest opportunity to be exclusive. Dating many people at once might hold sound fun, but it doesn’t lead to good results.
How would a woman feel if she received a piece of jewellery from her husband, only to discover that he also bought an identical item for his mistress (and indeed to discover that he’s got a mistress at all)? The festival sacrifices are described four times in the following sentence as milvad, i.e. specially-designated, or apart (Lev 23:38). In order to make a marriage special it has to be exclusive, or the person will end up levado, e.g.the same word also means ‘alone’.
The focus for our generation’s yoga practice is ekagratachitta, meaning a one-pointed or singularly-focused mind. The most common objection I hear for newcomers is, ‘I can’t do yoga because my mind is all over the place’. The response which I rarely say is, ‘you need to do yoga because your mind is all over the place’. We learn to be at one with our thoughts, singularly-focused in the moment. ‘If not now, when?’ asked the sage Hillel.
In relationships we thrive spiritually, emotionally and physically. When we learn to be focused in our thoughts and focused on the person we are with, we all benefit.
Bridge posture is good preparation for the full Backbend/Wheel position.
i. Lie on your back in semi-supine position and bring your feet so that they are on the floor in front of your buttocks.
ii. Place your hands facing down on the floor by the sides of your thighs.
iii. Inhale and lift your hips, pushing into the balls of your feet.
iv. Hold the position with your hips as high as possible.
v. Exhale, slowly come down and when you have finished doing the three to five times, hug your knees into your chest and roll gently on your back, massaging your spine and back muscles and releasing the lumbar.
Variation: You can place cushions underneath your lower back to support you in the posture.
Marcus J Freed is the creator of Bibliyoga, USA Director of Yoga Mosaic and artist-in-residence for JConnectLA & Jewlicious Festivals.
April 28, 2011 | 12:46 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
A personal message to HRH Prince William on the occasion of the Royal simcha. Mazeltov!
Marcus J Freed is an Englishman living in Los Angeles. He is a writer, performer and teacher, and has recorded over 80 broadcasts for BBC Radio in the UK. www.bibliyoga.com
April 24, 2011 | 4:45 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
The theme of the week is freedom and today’s Kosher Sutra is ‘Zecher L’tziyat Mitzrayim’ - the memory of leaving Egypt. Marcus J Freed presents the Kosher Sutra, combining powerful vinyasa yoga with ancient Hebrew wisdom. Visit www.bibliyoga.com to sign up for your free Kosher Sutra.
Today’s Kosher Sutra was filmed in something of a hurry - we only had 18 minutes - and was recorded in Boynton Beach, Florida.
Marcus J Freed is the creator of Bibliyoga - www.bibliyoga.com - and artist-in-residence for Jewlicious Festivals and JConnectLA.
April 15, 2011 | 3:19 pm
Posted by Marcus J Freed
Kosher Sutra: ‘Don’t get too close to your relatives’ (Lev 18:6)
Soul Solution: Peace with your family.
Posture: Tree Pose (stick to your roots, extend your branches)
Body Benefit: Strengthen legs and increase your balance.
At this time of year I begin to ask what it truly means to be freed. The journey of Abraham was a profound mission, as he was told to leave his father’s house, birthplace and country, so that he could become his own man and fulfill his destiny free from the psychological trappings of his home town.
During the festival of Passover, many children of all ages complete the opposite journey, as a three-line whip* is called for them to spend the festivities with their parents. In Portnoy’s Complaint, Phillip Roth wrote that “A Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy until they die!”. For plenty of people, the so-called festival of freedom is celebrated by going back to the house of bondage. Go figure. Eckhart Tolle wrote ‘if you think you’re enlightened, then go and live with your parents for a week’. He wasn’t kidding.
I once tried to teach my parents yoga. The class lasted for at least five minutes. I finally realised that I have a lot of yoga to learn from them. Why? Because they give me the opportunity to practice every principle I am trying to teach, such as moderation [‘Brahmacharya’ in the yoga sutras], being content with the moment [‘santosha’] or being non-reactive and non-angry [‘Ahimsa’]. Yep…hanging out with the family provides all of these wonderful opportunities…and many, many more…
The hilarious film When Do We Eat shows a Passover seder meal where grown children return join their family and promptly resume old fights, old opinions and old behaviours. Every Passover my family says ‘we were slaves but now we are Freed’ (yes, and we’re still amused every time we say it), but how many of us are truly freed? Do we have the power to free ourselves of the old behaviours that hold us back? The old fears that we have carried through the decades? Are we still grown children or can we truly be adults, able to maintain adult behaviours in the face of the emotional triggers that always used to get us sparked off?
‘Don’t get too close to your relatives’ is this week’s Kosher Sutra. Alright, so it’s a slightly free translation. The end of the sentence is ‘don’t get too close to your relatives to have sexual relations with them: I am the Lord’ (Lev 18:6). Hopefully the latter commandment is obvious, although the text then elucidates an entire list of forbidden relations, possibly because it was relevant for ancient civilisations**. Let us do a more palatable, contemporary reading of this. We are being encouraged to respect our family relationships. To be close with our families but not too close. To live the fine balance of experiencing our Abrahamic freedom (‘Lech-lecha’, e.g. get your distance and grow up), whilst respecting parents and coming home on occasion. ‘Tis a fine, fine balance. Oy.
This week’s Kosher Sutra comes from the reading that begins with the death of Aaron’s two sons. There are few things worse than this ultimate tragedy of parents having to bury their children, as I’ve seen in recent years with three families who have lost their children, all between the ages of 28-35. The healing, if indeed it ever comes, is slow and painful.
Despite the tragedy, God continues speaking with Aaron and his other sons as one unit, via Aaron’s brother Moses (Lev 17:1). The family ties are strong, the Divine presence is channelled into the world through the work of a united family and despite problems and obstacles they still find a balance. When the family business is later challenged by their unruly cousin Korach, necessary actions are taken.
Have a peaceful one. The next time you see your family, experience what it means to be freed. And if all becomes so stressful that you’re unable to implement the lessons and practices of this article, just remember that you can always click onto www.expedia.com and speedily get the next flight to a land far, far away.
*A three-line whip is a term originating from the British Parliament where each political party tells its MPs to vote on a particular bill. A one-line whip is less imperative. British members of parliament don’t actually use whips. At least not on official business, but what they do in their spare time is entirely their business. Well, their business and that of the Sunday newpapers when the photographs inevitably get leaked. Anyway, the metaphor seemed appropriate for this pre-Passover piece. I’ll stop talking now.
**. Chief Rabbi emeritus Dr J.H. Hertz, Chumash, p490.
Marcus J Freed is the artist-in-residence for JConnectLA & Jewlicious Festivals, creator of Bibliyoga and President of the Jewish Yoga Network.
TREE POSE - HOW TO DO IT
i. Stand in Mountain pose. Inhale and place your right foot on your right thigh, so that the foot is facing directly downwards and properly aligned with your leg.
ii. Open your hips so that your right knee points to the right, without compromising the position – your left hip should still be facing forwards.
iii. When your foot is secure, inhale and open your arms to the side, as you exhale, raise your hands above your head and push your palms together.
iv. Draw your shoulderblades downwards, and keep your tummy tucked in. Raise the arches of your feet.
v. Choose a point in front of you and close your eyes.
WHERE’S THE BIBLIYOGA LOVE-TRAIN A-GOING NEXT?
LOS ANGELES: Private classes, weekly.
FLORIDA: Late June, TBC
PORTUGAL (LISBON): World Yoga Conference, 24th-28th June, officially representing Yoga Mosaic & The Jewish Yoga Network.
LOS ANGELES: August (Camp Jewlicious)
LONDON: November (‘Elijah: First Action Hero’ national tour).
PALM SPRINGS: January 2012.
NEVADA: February 2012.
LOOOOOOOOOONG BEACH: February 2012 Jewlicious 8.0!!!!