We all do it sooner or later. We get into a panic. It is natural. It’s the way that the human system is wired. Our fight-or-flight system takes over, the sympathetic nervous system kicks into play and we are ready to run for our lives. Adrenaline floods our body and we are primed for war, or to make like a tree …and leaf. Worst of all, we forget to breathe.
Today’s Kosher Sutra; the children of Israel were ‘Kotzer Ruach’; short of breath. Some translate it as ‘impatient of spirit’. Either is good. The Kabbalah* locates the ‘ruach’ as the belly breath, the part of the breathing mechanism that is located around the abdomen. Again, it makes sense; these helpless slaves were taking short, panicked breaths that came as a result of exceedingly hard labour.
According to classic texts, yoga is the pursuit of inner freedom. The Sanskrit word for freedom is ‘moksha’, and here’s something that BKS Iyengar wrote around 12 years ago:
_'Moksha means freedom from the bondage of worldly pleasures….this liberation is only possible if one is free from afflictions such as sickness, languor, doubt, carelessness, physical laziness, illusiveness, despair, tremor of the body and gasping of the breath. It is also freedom from poverty, ignorance and pride. Emancipation sets in and divine beauty shines only when one is free from all afflictions. This is moksha’_**.
The purpose of Bibliyoga is to find internal liberation through the combination of powerful physical yoga asanas (postures) and ancient Hebrew wisdom. Our Kosher Sutra reminds us of how people were unable to fulfill their potential when they were curtailing their breath through the pressures of slavery. Many teachers have reiterated how slavery is an internal process, and we are aiming to banish the internal ‘slavemaster’ which is an internal voice. By taking deep and guided breaths, using the yogic practice of pranayama, we can begin to find more balance and ultimate freedom.
Nachmanides*** commented that this shortness of breath was due to fear. Unsure of what was going to happen next, the Children of Israel went into a panic. The result of this panic was that they were not only experiencing restricted breathing, but they also couldn’t hear the words of an incredible teacher who was standing beside them. The world is a narrow bridge, as Rav Nachman said, and the most important thing is to move beyond fear.
Breathe deeply, release the pressure inside your mind and listen closely to the people around you; they might just help to set you free.
**p104, Yoga Rahasya, Vol A, Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI)
***Ramban on Exodus 6:9.