One night I truly succeeded in tapping into my feminine side - I dreamt that I was pregnant. Initially I was quite happy at the realisation that I’d be having a baby but there was some pain in my lower back. This was uncomfortable as I was somewhere towards the end of the second trimester and I was feeling quite heavy. My concern about any back pains soon disappeared as I suddenly realised that there was a bigger problem on my hands: How the hell was I going to deliver my baby?
Yoga continually seeks to balance the masculine and feminine energies within us. A couple of texts refer to the way that yogic practice can ‘devour time’* and take us back to the start of creation when Male and Female were all One (according to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika). “It is the reintegration of the primordial androgyne, the conjunction in one’s own being, of male and female – in a word, the reconquest of the completeness that precedes all caution”** writes one commentator.
We all have male and female sides. During a fully integrated physical meditation practice such as yoga, we are discovering our female aspect and our male aspect and continually balancing the interplay between the two different energies. Humans are made in the “image of God” says the book of Genesis, “male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Today’s Kosher Sutra is leading us towards reconnecting with our feminine aspects and in turn connecting with the feminine aspect of God (Shechina).
In our narrative, the Children of Israel are finding life difficult and complaining to Moses. He is so sick of their moaning that he turns around to God and says “Did I conceive of this people? Did I bear them, that you should say to me ‘Carry them in your bosom as a nurse carries an infant?’”. There’s something unnecessarily sarcastic about this response. God’s response is to create more prophets to share the burden with Moses, although the initial plan of 70 new protégées isn’t brilliantly successful and there are only two fresh prophets who really cut the mustard. Their names are Eldad and Medad. When we dig a little deeper we’ll see that their names are actually holding a coded message for us.
A few verses earlier we read about the famed mannah, the food that was from above and it is described as tasting “like dough kneaded with oil”. The commentaries teach that the taste was excellent and differed from day to day depending on who was eating it. Rashi (12th Century) ups the game and provides a raunchy reading of the word “L’Shad” which, rather than ‘dough’ can actually be read as “breasts” (on Lev. 11:9). The midrash raises the stakes even further and says that “Just as a nipple is of one variety and changes to many varieties [that is, the infant tastes many flavours from it], so would the manna change into whatever Israel wished” (Sifrei 89).
The names of Eldad and Medad hold a clue as to one mode of connecting with God. They share a final syllable which comes from the Hebrew ‘dud’, meaning nipple. They were bringing forth prophecy which is like the milk of God, meant to nurture us and support us. Elsewhere Moses and Aaron are also described as being ‘two breasts’ (Shir HaShirim 4:2***).
Today’s Kosher Sutra is about retuning to feel our feminine aspect and the posture – Extended Child’s Pose – is an opportunity to feel the support of the ground and to contemplate the supportive and nurturing aspect of God. However many responsibilities we have, however many daytime stresses and night time obligations, there is a huge benefit to reminding ourselves of the child inside and to feel embraced by the Shechina, the great feminine presence.
*Hatha Yoga Pradipika IV, 16-17.
**Mircea Eliade, p271.
***Rashi brings the more detailed explanation on this.
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THE KOSHER SUTRAS © MARCUS J FREED/BIBLIYOGA 2010/5770
Marcus J Freedis the creator of Bibliyoga, USA & North America Director of Yoga Mosaic – the association for Jewish yoga teachers, and yogi-in-residence for JConnectLA and Jewlicious Festivals.
EXTENDED CHILD's POSE
i. Take the same position in CHILD pose but place your hands in front of you.
ii. Crawl your hands forward on each inhale to elongate your spine, and hold onto the ground with each exhale.
Benefits: Child’s pose stimulates the body into a state of relaxation and dissipating stress.
Modifications: Place a cushion between your buttocks and ankles, and a second cushion beneath your head if required.
Seated Variation: Lean forwards with your chest on your knees, or place a cushion on your thighs and lean on that.