Hi, Rabbi Wolf,

My question is regarding yoga and the Chabad way of looking at it. I noticed you had wording in your web site regarding yoga. I'm practicing now with a woman who comes to my home two days a week. It's hard for me to go to a studio because of all the alters and idols, pictures. I want to one day eventually teach yoga from a Judaic outlook and am trying to find out as much information as I possible can. Any advice?

'Janet' from Chicago, IL

Dear 'Janet' (real name withheld),

I wish you much success in growth and development, of mind, body, and of course of the soul's expression. Each soul 'family' has its special expression, which for the Jew is through Torah and Mitzvot. I sense you are clearly directed on this path and wish to expand the modalities available for such expression. Hence there are 'seventy faces to the Torah' allowing for individual expression even within the stream of souls that are Jewish.

Yoga derives from a non Jewish pathway and is not necessarily compatible with a Jewish soul. Like all spiritual food for the soul, one must be careful about the 'diet' and the 'rations'. I advocate Yoga's possible use only for the purposes of developing poise, agility, balance, health of the physical body as needed.

But you are very wise if removing yourself from any spiritual aspects that may be foreign (and therefore dangerous) to the Jewish soul. Therefore the teacher you choose is the key to maintenance of integrity of your spiritual nature as a Jew. There should be absolutely no spiritual teachings of Yoga in the classic sense as is formulated in the eastern spiritual pathways of Pantajali and other more contemporary teachers of the Indian traditions.

While Yoga may serve a functional role sometimes in other spiritual 'families', it should be 'restricted food' for the Jewish soul, and applied solely for physical health and wellbeing, and not for spiritual insight. Relaxation and balance through use of breath and body stretching etc. is indeed useful and necessary. These should be used practically and purposefully for the health of the body.

Your aspirations to teach it in the future should be well matched and balanced by your involvement in Jewish spiritual studies, as in Chassidut. I am sure you are therefore maintaining at least an equal growth-path in understanding Jewish spiritual teachings alongside your interest in body development and maintenance. If you have any difficulty in accessing an appropriate teacher do let me know and I will refer you to several in your area. The balance of body and soul is essential but do not lose sight of the ultimate goal - expression of the soul through the body - not the reverse.

I wish you a joyous Purim and no doubt you are familiar with the four Mitzvot of Purim: the listening to the reading of the Megilla, conferring benefit of charity to those less fortunate or causes that raise funds accordingly, gifts of at least two different eatables to two friends, and of course the Seuda. As Purim is characterized by an unlimited flow of joy, you will no doubt imbue these four Mitzvot with a joy of 'ad delo yada' - a joy that brings all opposites into harmony, something that can only be achieved through the infinite soul - the Neshama.

May your generous and kind heart continue to evolve love and concern for all your brothers and sisters - both in their material and spiritual welfare and wellbeing.

Wishing you joy and success in all your endeavours on behalf of others.

Laibl Wolf