Special to the Journal
Yoga has a spiritual element that transcends reality. Many people do it for relaxation, meditation or stretching, and others, like Stacie Nardizzi, connect their practice to the Jewish faith.
In Movement for Your Jewish Soul, a class sponsored by the Lappin Foundation and held at the JCCNS in Marblehead, Stacie unites yoga with the Jewish festival of Rosh Chodesh. While it doesn’t necessarily fall on the exact day of the holiday, this monthly workshop always honors the first day of the month in the Hebrew Calendar, which is marked by the New Moon. The timing of the Jewish festival is an automatic reset, fitting nicely into the purpose of yoga according to Stacie. “Rosh Chodesh is a chance to reground down to the mat and connect to the Earth. The new moon is a chance for us to see our aspirations and dreams. It’s a beautiful holiday that every religion should recognize.”
Just as the new moon is universal, so too is yoga, and it can connect to almost anything or anyone, including Judaism and the Jewish people. “It was natural to start connecting yoga and Torah. In a sense, when you’re teaching yoga, you’re teaching your ‘Torah,’ said Stacie. “And there are so many parallels to Judaism. The word yoga in itself means to unite, ‘om’ (the traditional mantra) means to make one and Shalom includes om right in it,” she added.
Stacie believes that yoga, like Judaism, is very spiritual. “While reciting namaste in class, we talk about it as a way to honor the light in our own selves and also in the lights of others around us. To follow one’s own eternal light is a concept that deeply parallels Judaism.”
While yoga is spiritual, it is also physical, and the two are constantly crossing over in practice. From the root, yoga is about focus; focusing on the poses, on clearing the mind and on the breath. Judaism, alike, is about concentrating on prayer, on traditions, and on Torah. Yet in those constructs of yoga and the Jewish faith, there are still many ways to experience a pose or to interpret what Judaism has to offer. Stacie curates each class using the framework of the Jewish theme she is teaching.
“There are so many different techniques to experience movement and so many ways to learn Judaic concepts through the poses. Yoga is made up of open and closed poses, which reflect different elements of our Jewish heritage. Closed poses represent times of struggle, when we were enslaved, whereas open ones embody freedom and exodus.” The gentle poses of the Rosh Chodesh class mirror the fluid nature of the month’s change. By interweaving Jewish poetry and music into the practice, Stacie further highlights the spiritual and physical link.
Just as Judaism is about relating to each other, so is yoga. Stacie believes her classes are about each person honoring both themselves and the others surrounding them. “Practicing yoga allows the breath to permeate and extend through the limbs into a form of energy, eventually reaching out to someone in your class, in your community, reflecting that we are all connected.”
This relationship extends to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam (to repair the world). Stacie finds that practicing yoga is one way to do our part as Jews to repair the world. “We are only here on this Earth temporarily; we are ‘renting’ our bodies, and it is our souls that make up who we are. This gives my students a different perspective on where they are in relation to everything else.”
In the closing series of chandra namaskar, or moon salutations, the moon’s glow lit up the studio. Ending the class with the bold, vivid image of the moon continues to signify God’s light and the ever-present union between yoga and Judaism.