Off the Mat, Into the World
Aharei Mot-Kedoshim 2010/5770
KOSHER SUTRA 'You shall be sanctified' Leviticus 19:2
SOUL SOLUTION Achieving a state of perfect spiritual balance.
BIBLIYOGA POSE Standing Leg Raise
BODY BENEFITS Balance, stability, toning the abdomen and firming the legs.

It can be tricky to find the balance between spiritual living and just getting on with life. These days we have endless opportunities for getting spiritual kicks, whether it is meditation classes, yoga retreats, shamanistic healing tents and much more. Today’s Kosher Sutra is about getting the balance to achieve that state of perfect holiness. To uplift our daily life into the spiritual realm. 

The context seems obscure. The command to ‘be sanctified’, or ‘be holy’ comes in the wake of the death of the young priests Nadav and Avihu. Ironically, they died because they were addicted to spirituality and tried to go too close*. They went for too much of a good thing and paid dearly.

Yoga is about elevating our physical body into something greater, through the use of breath, movement and moral principles**. The ideal is to find points of spiritual connection whilst practicing on a yoga mat - which is why it’s called ‘practicing’ – and then maintaining that sense of connection through the rest of the day. The organisation Off the Mat Into the World tries to do exactly this, ‘using yoga to ignite social change’. 

The Hebrew word for holiness, ‘kedushah’, actually translates as ‘separation’***.

We achieve a state of sanctification and spiritual uplift by separating ourselves, whether it is separating out some time for meditation (ie a Bibliyoga class) or putting aside a special day for a holiday or festival. The actual law ‘be holy’ is mentioned immediately after a list of sexual prohibitions (ie don’t sleep with family members, animals, etc) because a ‘holy’ sexual relationship is considered to be one where two people are exclusively betrothed to one another****.

Sexual energy is a key way to achieve holiness or to let it loose. The tantric aspects of yoga focus this energy through increasing self-control. As we practice today’s posture, the Standing Leg Raise, focus on breathing your energy through the base of your perineum to the top of your spine. Separate some time for this yoga practice and enjoy the benefits of increasing self-control and increasing your state of holiness.

Shalom V'Ahava



*The Chassidic Explanation in Maamar Acharei Mot 5649, as quoted in Torah Studies, R Menachem Mendel Shneerson, adapted by Chief Rabbi J Sacks.

**At least according to the Yoga Sutras. Although some scholars would argue that the moral principles are a later addition and that before the writings of Patanjali the yoga was more focused on asana (posture), vinyasa (breath-based movements) and pranayama (energy-breathing techniques).

***’’Kedoshim – Be Holy!’. This means, be separated” Sifra, Kedoshim, 1. “Wherever we find separation from arayot [forbidden sexual relations] we find holiness”, Rashi 19:2. Translations: R Matis Weinberg.

****The Talmudic formula for marriage is: ‘You are hereby betrothed (mekudeshet, from kiddushin) to me’. The Talmud then comments: “Those words imply that [the husband] prohibits this woman to everyone as if she were consecrated (mekudeshet) to God". Kiddushin 2b.




i. Stand in Mountain Pose. Breathe in and lift your right leg, taking hold of your big toe with your forefinger and middle fingers of your right hand.

ii. Breathe out, straightening your right leg.

iii. Energise your standing leg, focus on a point in front of you and draw both of your shoulderblades down.

iv. Be aware of keeping the posture as a clean line of energy, so that you don’t collapse your shoulders or lean over to one side. Balance and poise is everything in the Standing Leg Raise.

Modifications: Take hold of your right knee and hold it firmly with your right hand. This is one expression of the position. Another alternative, and perhaps more satisfying, is to hold your right foot with a strap, which will enable you to experience the full leg extension.

Another variation is to press your raised foot against the wall in front of you.

Advanced: When you are stable in the posture, inhale and lift your right foot higher so that you can bring your nose to your right shin.

Seated version: Lift your leg whilst seated in a chair, raising your leg as high as you are able whilst keeping your hands to the side or on your hips.

Benefits: Balance, stability, toning the abdomen and firming the legs.


Standing Leg Raise