Temple Beth-El yoga school to ‘enliven prayer’

Temple Beth-El yoga school to ‘enliven prayer’

For one Great Neck temple, yoga can hold the key to deepening a connection with the meanings behind Jewish prayers.
For the past six years, Temple Beth-El has offered yoga classes intertwined with Jewish prayer, said Sharon Epstein, a  congregant and independent yoga instructor.  
Beginning this fall, Epstein said, the temple will  officially open its Jewish yoga school, which aims to mix yoga and prayer for a deeper connection with God, and offer seminars, retreats, teacher certification opportunities in addition to the classes it already holds.
“It became clear to us that there was a need and a desire and a growing interest to do more of this work within the Jewish community,” she said.
Epstein said that in 2010, she and Rabbi Tara Feldman studied various Jewish texts and developed yoga classes for congregants in an effort to “liven the meaning of prayers.”
She said that yoga, which originated in ancient India, provides people with a solution to becoming stronger or obtaining a more flexible body, but it can also fulfill more than physical needs.
“As you get deeper into yoga, you learn it is way more than just physical. It is actually mental. It is also spiritual and brings us closer with the divine,” Epstein said. “That can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people but we’re bringing it with Jewish concepts of what we call God.”
She said Temple Beth-El’s yoga school will aim to enliven someone’s “prayer life” and connect them  with their Jewish faith.
“Often times people move away from Judaism because it’s not meeting what they want, or maybe there’s even a disconnect between the head and the body,” Epstein said.
The yoga school will offer new classes, seminars, training and retreats, as well as provide teacher certification and networking opportunities.
Epstein said the Jewish tradition is “very rich,” and sometimes just reciting prayers can lose its impact on one’s life, which yoga can help improve.
“It’s a way to go deeper and find more meaning within this tradition that is tremendously alive and rich,” she said. “There’s actually a richness and a liveness and a depth in the texts of Judaism, but sometimes you need to break them down a little bit more and delve into them with body and chant and coming together with the community.”
Temple Beth-El will celebrate both the opening of the yoga school and the holiday of Sukkot on Oct. 18 at 9 a.m. with a “Sukkah Yoga service” and open house.
Epstein said that the temple will  offer an abundance of yoga classes, including prenatal yoga, which occurs on Mondays at 11 a.m. from Oct. 31 to Dec. 12.
There will also be Monday “gentle and restorative yoga” classes from 7 to 8 p.m. from Sept. 12 to Jan. 9, and Tuesday classes from 9:30 to 11 a.m. beginning on Sept. 6 until Jan. 10.
Epstein said that by 2017, the temple would  offer Jewish meditation classes.
On Jan. 29, 2017, the temple will  offer its first training seminar on leading morning yoga services from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The goal, Epstein said, is to train teachers and offer more Jewish yoga classes for different groups, such as teenagers.
She said that people of all faiths are welcome to attend the temple’s classes.
For more information, those interested can contact the Temple Beth-El office at 516-487-0900 or visit www.tbegreatneck.org.

By Joe Nikic

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