There’s a new yoga trend in Crown Heights, Brooklyn…and no, it’s not a certain kind of expensive bra top or extra-long heated classes. It’s kosher yoga: For Hasidic and Orthodox Jews!
Yoga as it is conventionally practiced in the Western world is kind of a no-no for Orthodox Jews, who generally can’t wear revealing clothing or engage in any kind of non-Jewish spirituality practices. They also aren’t really supposed to have much physical contact with people of the opposite sex (aside from their own families). That’s why the yoga classes instructor Sarede Switzer are teaching is such a great development for this community—it allows religious Jewish people to get all the benefits of yoga without having to feel uncomfortable or break any religious laws.
Switzer, who is a Lubavitcher (a type of Hasidic Jew: Not all Hasidic Jews are Orthodox, and vice versa) founded Crown Heights Fitness a few years ago and is a huge force in the growing movement. She says:
“When I first started, I thought people would think of it as this irreligious thing — like maybe we’re not even allowed to do yoga, like maybe it’s considered idol worship. I started out teaching in very small classes, and then the interest grew.”
Interest has grown so much, she says, she’s added an additional all-men’s class in additional to prenatal, power and restorative yoga, as well as “Jewmba.” She modifies the classes so they adhere to the strict guidelines of halakha, or Jewish law. Switzer added,
“I do sun salutations but I won’t call them that. I’ll say we’re doing warm-up number one, or flow number one.”
I think this is so cool! I am a huge proponent of everyone—who wants to—doing yoga (see also: Star Wars Yoga). I think it’s so great that there’s a teacher and a studio willing to modify the practice a bit to bring it to a new audience.
Switzer’s classes are so popular that she and her business partner have started offering yoga teacher trainings in New York, Toronto, and even Israel.