Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Rabbi gives yoga a uniquely Jewish twist

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YOGA, the ancient spiritual and physical discipline that originated in India and is now a worldwide phenomenon, is not an activity that is usually associated with the orthodox Jewish Chabad Lubavitch movement. Rabbi Dr. Laibl Wolf, however, has taken this ancient meditative practice and given it a uniquely Jewish twist. He has done so by merging much of the basic philosophy of yoga with the basic teachings of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah. The end result is something that he calls Mind Yoga, which is trademarked.

Dr. Laibl Wolf is a lawyer, educational psychologist, orthodox rabbi and expert on Jewish mysticism and meditation. Based in Melbourne, Australia, he is the son of Polish Holocaust survivors, the author of the book Practical Kabbalah and the founder of the Human Development Institute. This institute, according to its website, is "dedicated to the progress of humankind through insight and personal mastery."

The idea of personal mastery is one of the main concepts of Mind Yoga. Through this discipline, individuals learn how to tap into Kabbalah in order to master their mind and emotions, achieve spiritual enlightenment and empower their lives. Mind Yoga teaches adherents to eliminate negativity in their lives, find balance between their emotional and physical selves and better understand the motivations behind their often conflicting and controlling thoughts, emotions and behaviours. Many of these same lessons are inherent in standard yoga practice.

"Yoga is an eastern compilation of earlier Indian-based wisdoms," explains Rabbi Wolf. "Many of these early wisdoms arose from Abrahamic teachings that originated in the Middle East in the person of Abraham and travelled east.

"Not all eastern teaching is to be identified with Kabbalah," he adds, "but you will find many of the original truths of creation, as expounded in Kabbalah, in aspects of yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism and others."

Rabbi Wolf developed Mind Yoga, in part, because he saw so many young Jewish adults, ironically, drifting over to these eastern teachings.

"My inspiration was the estrangement of Jews from their spiritual roots," he explains.

This estrangement pushed many of them into the arms of eastern religions and practices. Mind Yoga, combined with other Kabbalah teachings, has helped Judaism welcome many of them back.

Rabbi Wolf extrapolated on the practices and origins of Mind Yoga, and also demonstrated many of its techniques, when he was in Winnipeg last month as a guest of the Jewish Learning Institute (JLI). The JLI is the adult education arm of Winnipeg's Chabad Lubavitch movement.

The positive response to Rabbi Wolf's visit, his second to Winnipeg, reflects the burgeoning interest among Jews, as well as people of other faiths, in spiritualism, mysticism and finding a deeper meaning in life. Similarly, unprecedented interest in a six-week Soul Quest course currently underway at the JLI reflects a widespread desire among both observant and non-observant Jews to expand their knowledge and connection to abstract ideas and interpretations of Jewish thought.

"There is a tremendous thirst and curiosity for Jewish mysticism and the teachings of Kabbalah," says Rabbi Shmuly Altein, director of the Jewish Learning Institute. "JLI's SoulQuest has close to 50 students enrolled and has thus far been an incredible success."

Rabbi Wolf echoes this observation. "There is a definite and profound rise in interest by people to deepen their lives," he says.

This interest may be a result of a number of factors, including the emergence of the global village, daily chasms, geopolitical schisms and a basic human quest for meaning.

"This quest can lead down many different spiritual pathways," he adds, "one of which is Kabbalah."

Kabbalah is a 4,000-year-old body of spiritual wisdom. Yoga is a 3,000-year-old body of physical and mental wisdom. By merging the two into Mind Yoga, Rabbi Wolf has created a new-age concept deeply rooted in ancient teachings and traditions and committed to helping people find harmony and wholeness in modern times.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 5, 2009 H13

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