"Yoga is as vast and varied as the ocean" says Diane Bloomfield in her book, and judging by the diversity of practitioners in the world today, she is right. Diane's Torah yoga adds another voice to the field, a radiant Jewish voice, and provides further proof that spiritual practice can transcend race and religion and also be practical, helpful, even necessary in modern life.
Diane writes of the Torah as "black fire on white fire", an allegory for the dancing letters of Hebrew against the plainness of the manuscript, or the discipline of words and study against the receptivity of yogic practice and meditation. It is a summary of her unique and compelling attitude, which is to deliberately pursue higher consciousness whilst catering for a very real need to include and care for the body as a spiritual instrument. In how many ways do we ignore or denigrate the body in modern society? Countless ways! Diane paints a vivid alternative with serene strokes of language that resonate with truth and sincerity.
Her approach in this book is definitely personal, but there are enough erudite nuggets in there to satisfy a theosophile without losing the flow to mere doctrine. A manual for yoga it is not, indeed, the poses are shown in an order that I would be hesitant to recommend as a guide for practice. While I am not familiar with the Torah, Diane's enthusiasm for her faith is evident and infectious. For example, I enjoyed reading her (brief) exposition of the unspeakable Hebrew name for God, YHVH, which when pronounced by its individual letters sounds just like a breath, and when written vertically looks like a stick-figure human. What a beautiful connection between her faith and yoga, which promises a stairway to the Divine made of breath and physical discipline!
I put down this book knowing a little more about the Jewish faith and no more about yoga, but that is not its value. It made me recognise the hunger I see in my yoga students, whether they know it or not: that unspeakable longing to reside even for a moment in the strength and light hidden within each one of us and frustratingly out of reach amidst the noise of modern living. Diane quotes the first chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Kook, and leaves us in no doubt as to why she wrote this book:
" 'All existence whispers to me a secret:
I have life to offer - take it, take it...
Arise, and live, and sing to beauty and to life...
Draw delight unending from the dew of heaven.'
With yoga, you can hear your own breath and body whispering to you: I have life to offer - take it, take it."
I commend her example, as I commend her book.