Audi Gozlan, Ph.D., is a practicing attorney in Montreal, but he has another practice that took him to Houston this year. Gozlan led two Kabbalah Yoga workshops at the Texas Yoga Conference.
Gozlan may be the only yoga teacher that fuses the ancient art of yoga with the equally ancient divine teachings of the Kabbalah. While Madonna and others may be yogis that study the Kabalah, few integrate the two as tightly as has Gozlan.
Most historians believe that yoga developed 5,000 years ago in the Indian subcontinent. Meanwhile, although the Kabbalah flourished during the 13th century, its roots date back to the time of Abraham, also approximately 5,000 years ago.
Eyes pop open when they see Gozlan’s sketches of the Hebrew alphabet alongside the yoga asanas (postures). During his yoga flows, he creates words in Hebrew, using the poses that approximate the letters.
Gozlan says, “What I’m am offering is the fruit of my years of practice of Hatha yoga and Kabalah study. Years ago I drew the letters on photos until the family of asanas was created.”
Tsedek (righteousness), for example, begins with the yoga tree, flows to warrior 3, and then to the goddess pose. Bayit (temple) is formed with cat/cow, child’s pose, and warrior lunge.
“I believe that Kabbalah’s wisdom on the Sacred Shapes, Hebrew letters, can help so much in our practice,” he explains. “You begin with a meditation, create an intention as inspired by the Hebrew letter meanings. This now becomes your Bhava, or soul level, in the posture.”
Perhaps the studious soul of Gozlan is what got him to this “aha” point. Having studied the Kabbalah for many years, and cognizant of the meanings of the letters, he was in a Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior) pose, when it dawned on him that his body was shaped similar to the Hebrew letter Alef which is associated with “oneness.”
That was when he created his own Hatha flows based on “tapping into the body, rootedness, structure, shape, breath, pulsation of the movement and soul, intention and feeling of the Sacred Shape.”
As he led a group of several dozen yogis through a Shabbat practice, he spoke of planting the seed, lighting the flame, and opening the heart, through poses such as dancing camel, beit crescent, dandasana and tadasana. He also choreographed a Shabbat Mandala Flow, inspired by Shiva Rea. The beit, for example, is in both of these flows and symbolizes the home or sacred space. In the asana, it blossoms with an open heart, arch-backed low lunge that mimics the letter beit.
So why does chet resemble a wheel, dalet a warrior 3, and tet the crow? We know about the Jewish diaspora, but don’t really know how the yogic postures developed. Some have said that when the British ruled the Indian subcontinent, they brought with them military-style exercises that forever changed yoga. So why not the same evolution of yoga with the Jews in India?
Beyond the similarity in the names, Brahman and Abraham, there are other commonalities. “I have found many interesting connections between the Torah and Yoga. One being that Brahma is said to have been Abraham, father of Brahmans who wrote the Vedas. The Torah says he sent his sons Zimran, Yakshan, Madan, Midyan, Yishbak, and Shoach to the Eastern land (India) with precious gifts. This has been documented, and interpreted as secrets of creation and deep wisdom.”
While many identify yoga with Hinduism, the Indian subcontinent was a region that embraced people of all religions. There were Jewish communities in several regions of India, dating far before British rule. Some scholars suggest there were Jews in this land dating back to the 11th century BCE.