Jewish Journal

The sh’ma portal

by Michelle Azar

October 18, 2012 | 12:22 am

As I lay on my mat for savasana the other day (Wanna know what SAVASANA is? Come to class..), the Sh’ma escaped me. Truly, that is how it felt. I have often said these words after practice in lieu of or in addition to the closing Sanskrit chant.  However, this time I said them not out of any conscious choice. This time, my first exhalation WAS the silent words of this prayer.

Sensible, the connection I suppose. The name of the posture seems not dissimilar to this prayer’s first sound. We practice both with eyes closed, and a sense of stillness.
In this moment of linkage, however, of prayer to posture, I was led somewhere else.

I think I found the Sh’ma portal. It was a bit like Alice going down the rabbit hole, save for the rabbits. I was aware of being guided, tenderly, through a long enclosed tunnel, and the sound SHHHH was all around me. It wasn’t a terribly long ride from my mat through this tunnel. Once there, I saw myself as a younger version of me, or at least, smaller than my already small stature. I was now in the company of a guide, male I believe. He remained next to me, quietly, smiling, as I looked around at the lush greenery of this new area.

I felt a surge of happiness. A blend of calm excitement, and infinite acceptance of myself. I knew here in this little portal, which the sh’ma and the post practice rest opened for me, I was safe and could always be so.

Since that day, when things get rough, I try to close my eyes a moment, and allow that sh’ma breath lead me back. Back to the portal that I know resides within me, within all of us, always.

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Michelle fell in love with the practice of Ashtanga Yoga, the system of Hatha Yoga taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, some 13 years ago while doing a play in San Francisco. Having...

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