For most people, the word “Hanukkah” evokes images of candles burning on a menorah, Adam Sandler’s song or a pile of enough presents to cover eight nights. Images of yoga? Not so much.
But tying Hanukkah — or Judaism, for that matter — to yoga isn’t such a stretch. They’re both steeped in rituals that aim to center practitioners while promoting an inner sense of community, said Ayelet Krieger, owner of Oasis Therapy Center. She’s leading a 90-minute, bring-your-own-menorah Hanukkah yoga class at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue on Dec. 9, the fourth night of the holiday.
For instance, lighting the menorah turns the mundane act of lighting a candle into something sacred. “No matter where you are in time and place, every person who is lighting on time is lighting at the exact same moment when the sun goes down for eight days, ” said Krieger. Jewish holidays begin and end at sundown.
She’ll start by lighting a menorah (others are welcome to join in with their own) to “have that as a beacon throughout the class, ” Krieger said. It represents not only the holiday, but also the light of consciousness and your internal spark.
Then Krieger, who is certified in the Prana Flow yoga practice, will lead the class of up to 50 participants in a series of warrior poses to pay homage to the small group of Jews who triumphed over the Syrian-Greek people who ruled the land we know now as Israel more than 2, 100 years ago. To celebrate their victory and reclamation of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, the Jews lit a menorah using a day’s worth of oil. It stayed lit for eight days. Hanukkah, known as the Festival of Lights, commemorates that miracle.Ayelet Krieger is owner of Oasis Therapy Center. (Jessica Torch Photography)
One of the poses will be Warrior 1, in which you stand with one leg one behind the other, toes turned slightly in. The front leg is bent 90 degrees with the toes, hips and knee pointing forward. Arms reach up with palms together as your gaze shifts upward, too.
Humble Warrior pose starts like Warrior 1, but rather than reaching up, you lower your chest to be level with the inside of the front bent leg and clasp your hands behind you, reaching out of the shoulders again as your head hangs toward the floor.
“When you get out all of that energy and all of that warrior focus and assertiveness, how do you drop into that, which is a little bit deeper, a little harder to access, the more quiet connection between the mind, the body and the heart?” Krieger asked. The answer: By performing restorative poses.
One she plans on is a hip-opener called Pigeon pose, in which you’re on the floor with one leg extended behind you, the top of your foot on the floor. The other leg is in front of you, knee bent with the shin parallel to the front of the mat. Hips stay squared to the front of the room, and hands can be at your sides or you can fold forward over the bent leg.