Inspired by the video which took place in Tel Aviv, where hundreds of Israeli women gathered together in a mass yoga event for the release of the hostages, women’s yoga gatherings replicating this concept have sprung up around the world since the October 7th massacre.
Toronto is a unique city in that three of these events were organized by the Toronto Jewish women community. The most recent one, I had the honour to be one of three yoga teachers at an event of 100 women in Toronto. At this event we came on the mat to mourn the devastation of October 7th and the death of soldiers still dying in Gaza. Since yoga can be a very therapeutic tool to channel the emotional pain of loss and grief, this event was a meaningful display that we are one with our collective family in Israel.
Why yoga? Why choose this movement practice to express our yearning for the safe return of the hostages, the safety of the soldiers, and the pain of loss of life of the Jewish people that have been killed by Hamas?
Toronto has one of the largest pro-Israel communities in the diaspora, which attests to the strength of the Canadian Jewish identity. Although Toronto isn’t safe from the threat of assimilation that exists across all Jewish communities, there is something to be said about the pride and strength of Canadian Jews. It is this pride that has taken on new levels since October 7th.
Critics may argue that yoga is not a Jewish practice and therefore an improper choice for Jews to channel their pain and yearning for the release of the hostages and the peace of the Jewish people. As an orthodox Jewish woman and yoga teacher/trainer, I disagree. While nothing should ever replace Jewish prayer, yoga is a powerful & therapeutic way to voice one’s pain through movement.
Sometimes, words can’t capture the magnitude of what we want to express. The grief that we Jews feel for our kidnapped and murdered brothers and sisters, is a pain that we are struggling to communicate to the world. It is a profound pain of being ignored, gaslighted and mocked by those choosing terrorism over peace. It is a confusing emotion to put into words and where words sometimes fall short.
When we step on the mat, moving and breathing together in unison, our limbs do the talking. We literally stand with Israel. We actually raise our arms gesturing in silence and in movement to be heard. Our minds and bodies manifest what we cannot articulate with language. We raise funds for those who have been affected by Hamas’ death & destruction. We raise our spirits, refusing to be dampened by the hatred of those who do not want us to exist.
While Dara Horn put it bluntly when she titled her book “People Love Dead Jews”, on our mat we protest this and show that we are alive Jews. We breathe and exist. Our bodies moving in unity reflecting the collective Jewish body, calling for the release of those in captivity, and taking action for the Jewish souls who have been murdered throughout history and no longer walk and move in this world.
We take up space on the mat as a symbol for our right to exist in time & space. Am Yisrael Chai, the nation of Israel lives. We live, we breathe, and we move our bodies into the dance of “Never Again is Now”.
Thanks to Andrea Unikowsky for organizing the Together We Stand Event