As we head into Yom Kippur, the final culmination of Yamim Nora'im - the day where we, the Jewish people receive our final judgement and how our year is determined as we are sealed in G-d's Book of Life, it is great to reflect how our yoga figures into this, and how we can connect our yoga practice into this great day.
I have written in different sections of Kosher Om, how yoga practice plays directly into our Jewish religious practice, and overall, our day-to-day lives. As yogis - and to an extent we are all yogis - we focus not only on our overall physical health, which includes yoga as an exercise and breathing practice, but where we are metaphysically. Yoga, the term itself means "union", and this union is comprised of 2 aspects.
The first aspect is the union between your self and your highest self. Self means you in your everyday life. What are your immediate obligations and your accomplishments, and where do you stand in this world. Your highest self pertains to your fullest potential - your highest purpose in life. What are you as an individual expected to leave behind to make this world a greater place?
Aspect number 2 of yoga is the union between your highest self and The Divine Source, with the crown of your head, your highest chakra acting as antenna connecting you with The Source, and at the same time being the receptacle to take in that spiritual energy. As a practicing Jew, if these concepts sound familiar to you, that is because this is our purpose in our everyday lives. That is to live up to our highest potential and to prepare ourselves as vessels to serve Hashem and to receive His Divine Light - the Shechina in our everyday lives.
As human beings, it is easy for each and everyone of us to become preoccupied in day to day lives, whether it is our work, home life, chasing after our kids or our monthly bills. Further complicating our issues is the constant noise and distractions we receive not only from our phones and computers, but that which is right in front of our eyes - material desires such as fancy cars, earthly desires, and the smells of high calorie unhealthy junk food. With information and material things at our fingertips, it becomes progressively harder to create yoga between ourselves and our higher selves, as well as to attain the perfection required to receive the Shechinah. This is why we are given the gift - the Yamim Nora'im - to reflect upon ourselves and continue to work on attaining our lofty levels.
In our yoga practice, we have seven energy channels, our chakras, and each chakra is associated with a sound. Our crown - the antenna to the Divine and receptacle for the Shechinah is associated with the sound of Om. Om is the sound of white noise and light which permeates throughout the universe and makes us as one with the universe and all living things. When you recite this sound, you focus on the vibration, allowing it to resonate throughout your entire body and create balance and equanimity within your chakras.
Spiritually and healthwise, we need to be doing this every day, but since it is easy to forget to do so in the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, what better day to do this than the holiest day of the year - Yom Kippur. The origins of the name allude just to that.
The word Kippur means to atone, and it is derived from the word "Kaporet." The Kaporet was the covering of the Aron HaKodesh, the Holy Ark, which the Kohen Gadol approached only once a year - the day of Kippur - where he would atone for the sins of Klal Yisrael and beseech Hashem for a year of good health, and fortune. The Kaporet, thus in the days of the Bet HaMikdash was our crown, the receptacle where we collectively received the Divine Light so that we may have a good year.
Today, we lack the Bet HaMikdash and are not exactly sure of the whereabouts of the Aron, so the only "Kaporet" we can rely on is that within ourselves - our highest self which we must constantly work on attaining - our crown. And that one day of the year - Yom. Now without meaning to disparage the different pronunciations within the diversity of the Jewish world, the correct way to pronounce this word "Yom" (which means "day") is with a long 'O' rather than with a short 'u'. And when pronounced as such, the sound is strikingly similar to the sound of "Om."
I believe that it is no coincidence that the word "Yom" contains all the elements of "Om". The word "Yom" means day, meaning that each day of our lives we must reflect and meditate in order to bring yoga - union - between ourselves and highest selves, that is to live up to our highest potential each day of our lives. In this way we attain oneness with the Shechinah as well as ourselves, eventually being led to discover our highest purpose in this world.
When we meditate on this very day of Yom Kippur, carefully going through our Selichot, and concentrating on our Viduuy with utmost Kavanah, let's make the conscious effort to focus on the words "Kippur," meaning atonement, derived from Kaporet the highest point of the Aron HaKodesh located in the Kodesh HaKedoshim, and the word "Yom," day, meditating on the sound of Om.
The Om is especially relevant as we recite our Amidah, standing upright with our feet together and our hands out in prayer, reminiscent of our Tadasana - mountain pose, with the sound of Om resonating through our bodies, in which through this, we can focus on the vibrations of that mem sofit, and allow its energy to penetrate through our antennae, the crowns of our heads, all the way to the soles of our feet rooting us to the earth, while at the same time making ourselves one with the Shechinah. May we all have a meaningful fast this Yom Kippur and a healthy, successful and peaceful year, and may we merit the coming of the Mashiach and attain the yoga - union between ourselves and the Shechinah. Amen