This weekend is the start of Passover. All over the world, Jews use this holiday to remember and remind each other of the struggles and hardships in history. Why is this a topic to discuss on a yoga blog?
During the seider on the first night of the holiday, the story of the exodus from Egypt is commemorated. The Jews had been slaves of Egypt’s pharaoh for many years, and when they finally were freed from that strain, they wandered for 40 years through the desert before finding the promised land. Some use this occasion to tell their children about the history of a people, and some find a lot of wisdom in the symbols that are used to reflect the different aspects of this narrative.
Whether Jewish or not, the Passover story has a great deal of relevance for all of us when approached from a yogic perspective. We all are slaves of our own pharaohs. Attachments, desires and judgments rule our behavior, and freeing ourselves from these chains sometimes can take a lifetime. Most of us wander for much longer than 40 years in the desert that our lives can be, constantly wondering: did I take the right path? Can I look back and turn around? Where is that promised land and what will it look like? Would I already be there if I had turned left instead of right at the last crossing?
During the evolation teacher trainings, we see that, for most of us, the concepts of Patanjali’s yoga sutras are hard to grasp; applying them to our own traditions and experiences often helps illuminate both. In one of the sutras that we discuss at length, Patanjali talks about accepting pain as purification. Through this lens, we start to see that the hardship the Jews experienced under the pharaoh’s reign was preparing them for their exodus and their long journey through the desert. It was precisely that struggle that made them ready to arrive, finally, at the longed-for destination. Likewise, our daily struggles and the pain we experience is what gets us where we need to be. It is how we deal with those attachments and desires that brings us closer to our land of Self-realization.
There are many ways to get there. In the Jewish tradition, it is common to clean the house completely, so no crumbs of bread are left when for a week matza (bread of misery) is eaten. Many people of various faiths and traditions observe a similar ritual when we pick up our brooms and commence spring cleaning. This time of year is the perfect time to cleanse our surroundings so we can start purifying ourselves. We can start the cleansing and purifying of our bodies by looking at our diet. Is what we put in our body really what it needs? Of course our yoga practice helps tremendously. Practicing in the heated room certainly helps us sweat out the toxins that we have built up over the winter. Once our house is clean, as well as the temple of the body, we then can start the purification of the mind. Focus, determination and patience will help free our minds from the slavery-chains of attachments and desires. We walk on the path through our desert, one step at the time, to our promised land of Self-realization.
Happy holidays, happy spring!
Zefea had her first experience with yoga at the age of 4 when her parents practiced with renowned teacher Angela Farmer in the Iyengar tradition. She forgot about yoga during her teens and twenties and trained for boxing and the combat system Krav Maga. Zefea rediscovered the benefits of yoga when she started practicing Bikram Yoga in her home town Amsterdam. From 2006-2008 she represented the Netherlands as the Dutch gold medalist in the International Yoga Championships, finishing in the world's top 10. Zefea experienced new depths of yoga through practicing while pregnant (up till the day of giving birth).