On the second Thursday of every month, Hooverwood residents are taking advantage of an unique opportunity in Indianapolis: Jewish yoga.
Jewish yoga, also known as “Aleph bet” yoga, is characterized by poses that resemble different letters of the Hebrew alphabet. A typical sequence of poses spell out Hebrew words and prayers.
“It has a spiritual component,” explains Rabbi Dr. Nadia Siritsky, who leads the class for Hooverwood residents. “It’s a way of entering into prayer in a deeper way.”
At Hooverwood’s most recent Jewish yoga class, for example, Rabbi Siritsky led our residents through a series of poses that reflected the first part of the morning blessings.
Jewish yoga benefits
Hooverwood residents also reap physical rewards from the activity. Many of the postures correspond to physical therapy exercises that trigger slow-twitch muscles, which contribute to residents’ daily endurance.
And even though roughly 80% of the class is in wheelchairs, every one of them is able to participate, thanks to the unique adaptations that Rabbi Siritsky developed specifically for nursing home residents.
Meet Rabbi Siritsky
Rabbi Siritsky has been leading Jewish yoga classes with Hooverwood residents and her congregation since 2011. A longtime student of traditional yoga, Rabbi Siritsky began studying Jewish yoga in New York in 1998.
When she moved from New York to Louisville, she adapted the Jewish yoga moves to make them wheelchair-friendly. She taught modified Jewish yoga to nursing home residents there and in other places across the country for six years.
Something for everyone
In Rabbi Siritsky’s experience, Jewish chair yoga, though it may seem tailored to a specific niche, has something for participants of all backgrounds and abilities.
“Even dancers and athletes tell me they find it challenging,” says Rabbi Siritsky. “And you can really reflect on what it means to connect to a greater power — especially when you’re pushing yourself physically.”