In a Gesher Yoga a™? Meditation & Jewish Spirituality session, we begin with a pasuk (verse) of Torah (teaching), Ta€™fillah (prayer) or Middah (soul quality). Laura has been practicing yoga since the early 1990a€™s, beginning with a wonderful teacher, Hari Zandler, in a private home in Mt. Lauraa€™s personal meditation practice began in the attic of her family home on an old carpet swatch placed by a window, way back in Jr. Fresco of Approving of bylaw of Society of Jesus depicting Ignatius of Loyola receiving papal bull Regimini militantis Ecclesiae from Pope Paul 3. This group bound themselves by a vow of poverty and chastity, to "enter upon hospital and missionary work in Jerusalem, or to go without questioning wherever the pope might direct".
They called themselves the Company of Jesus, and also Amigos En El Senor or "Friends in the Lord," because they felt "they were placed together by Christ." The name had echoes of the military (as in an infantry "company"), as well as of discipleship (the "companions" of Jesus). Yoga offers us exactly that; a bridge that yokes our outer world of skin, muscles and bones to our inner world of breath, soul and intuition.
An aspect of this pasuk becomes a thread woven throughout the asana (posture) practice and gives the student a concept to reach for in their mind, heart, body and spirit as the session unfolds. Ignatius of Loyola, who after being wounded in a battle, experienced a religious conversion and composed the Spiritual Exercises to closely follow Christ.
The fresco was created by Johann Christoph Handke in the Church of Our Lady Of the Snow in Olomouc after 1743.
Mindfulness meditation offers us a similar experience as we become aware of physical sensations while we sit, walk, do simple daily tasks with engaged attention or even lay down in a restful yet alert posture (this may be the most compassionate pose if you live with a chronic health condition that makes sitting or walking difficult).


What an amazing introduction into the beauty and friendliness towards ones own sacred vessel these foundational yoga experiences were.
She did not know she was meditating, did not have the vocabulary to describe it as such back then.
Mindfulness meditation offers us a similar experience as we become aware of physical sensations while we sit, walk, do simple daily tasks with engaged attention or even lay down in a restful yet alert posture (this mayA  be the most compassionate pose if you live with a chronic health condition that makes sitting or walking difficult). Jewish Spirituality also instructs us on how to live a life that is simultaneously secular and sacred through the ancient teachings found in the Torah, commentary on the Torah, historic and contemporary midrashim (stories), prayers, and mitzvot (commandments) and ultimately by listening for the still small voice of the Divine who dwells within each of us. Also incorporated into the practice is a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy tool for self-inquiry.
These classes were an entryway, much like a garden-gate leading toward a flower edged path.
The question: a€?Whata€™s happening now?a€? is offered at selected moments within the structure of the class to allow the student to dive deeper into the present momenta€¦the simple yet potent question a€?Whata€™s happening nowa€? becomes a Gesher, linking each persons mental, physical, emotional and spiritual experience to the teaching as well as their own sacred intelligence. But looking back it is clear that that is exactly what she was doing; her young heart and mind, body and spirit KNEW what to do, how to be, how to just BE. With patience and nurturance through asana practice, meditation and the wisdom of a kind and wise teacher, the cultivation of these seeds of love could begin, and their tender roots and shoots began to grow into a lifelong passion.
Really, it could be said her mindfulness began much earlier perhaps at six or seven with long walks in the woods around her house and (was it hours?) reclining on her favorite dogwood bough gazing endlessly at the changing cloud formations in the vast sky above. Her first experiences of yoga as a Jewish spiritual practice was through Pa€™nai Or Fellowship, a Jewish Renewal Community in Philadelphia a few years later.


Her formal sitting practice began in 2005 through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, under the guidance of Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg. It wasna€™t until she met Rabbi Myriam Klotz through the Institute for Jewish Spirituality however, (where Laura completed an 18 month in-depth spiritual leadership program for Teen Educators), that she began to truly understand the potential of combining the ancient wisdom of Judaism and Yoga. She receives ongoing support from Sheila and even though she might not realize it,A Sylvia Boorstein, who Laura had the pleasure of studying with at a 5 day silent meditation retreat co-facilitated by Sylvia and Sheila (a dynamic meditation duo!) Laura also had the honor of taking an online metta meditation class with Sylvia through Spirituality & Practice. Laura was fortunate to go on to be one of the first graduates of the Yoga & Jewish Spirituality Teachera€™s Certification Program at Elat Chayyim with Rabbi Klotz and Diane Bloomfield (author and founder of the Torah Yoga Association in Jerusalem, Israel). Laura has participated in several online meditation courses with Gil Fronsdal through Audio Dharma,A and a heart opening online class with Janice Lynne Lundy called Buddha Chicks. She was called upon as a featured educator at events such as Cornerstone Fellowship, a leadership program offered through the Foundation for Jewish Camping and Jewbilee, a retreat offered through TCI (The Curriculum Initiative). Laura was also interviewed by author Paula Amann and featured with several other Jewish yoga teachers in the summer issue of Jewish Womena€™s Magazine 2008.



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