Feeling the Energies: The Kabbalah Yoga Series of DVDs

Curator's Note

Kabbalah Yoga: Ambitious Beginners and Attainable Advanced, DVDs released in 2005 by veteran fitness video producer Kevin Weaver, present themselves as novel spiritual mergers, joining the titular traditions “for the first-time ever.” But given that this conjunction was espoused by Aleister Crowley in 1938, what of the combination is new? Again, with solid precedent, each of the terms “kabbalah” and “yoga” are comprised of further, obscured, conjunctions. “Yoga” here, as on most widely marketed Yoga DVD cases, books, and studios, refers to “Modern Postural Yoga,” a blend of uncited but often historically discrete hatha yoga postures, peppered with “very basic and polyvalent suggestions concerning the religio-philosophical underpinnings of their practices” (de Michelis, 187). So "yoga" is multiple in a way that will surprise noone with a gym membership. But the “kabbalah” visible in the final postures, the instructors' red strings, the chanting of shal-om, and the disks' two textual introductions, not only blends divergent strains of contemporary kabbalah, but shines a clear light on the religious creativity empowered by the combination of DVD technology and contemporary branding practices.

If the inquisitive student clicks on the "What is Kabbalah?" lectures, she encounters something peculiar. Though they are presented as “English” and “Spanish versions” of a single lecture, their contents resist combination. In the English introduction, Rabbi Max Weiman (of www.kabbalahmadeeasy.com) roots kabbalah in what he calls “traditional Judaism.” As to "Who is Kabbalah for,” Weiman is fairly unequivocal: “Anyone who sincerely wants to join Israel by converting may do so.” This is not only different from, but in explicit contradiction with the answer to “What is Kabbalah?” in the Spanish texts licensed from the Kabbalah Centre, two clicks away on the disc. In Spanish, kabbalah is for all people, irrespective of religion. In fact, Jews only appear among the nebulous religious authorities from whom the Centre is liberating kabbalah, “your rabbi, priest, shaman, lama, guru, shrink & aerobics instructor [who] never told you” about kabbalah, and the “most rabbis” who were terrified of, and thus suppressed, kabbalah in the Centre's patent historical narrative. 

So, when you “Feel the Kabbalah Yoga energy,” what are you feeling? This kabbalah is paradoxical, being simultaneously specifically Jewish and explicitly universal. Perhaps, despite crossed licenses, you can feel the Kabbalah Centre's 2001 trademark on "Kabbalah."


Dear Vincent:

I very much enjoyed reading your post.  I was curious about the history/historiography of the conjunction between Kabbalah and Yoga.   Could you elaborate on that?  Also, where and how does this video fit into Kevin Weaver's previous work?  I'm also  interested in how these DVDs  are classified:  Are they considered "educational"  DVDs? Is that the genre label?   Do they get a MPPA rating ? 




Hi, Vincent.

I appreciate your observations and questions concerning the video.

I wonder whether this kind of Kabbalah-Yoga crossover is indicative of other East/West pop culture videos. I'm thinking of Tai-Bo and others that specifically reference "Eastern" spirituality in its fusion of mainstream popular exercise videos. Part of me feels that this is pure commodification based on essentialist notions of what it means to be "spiritual." Part of me feels that this may be a helpful way of opening up inter-fath dialogues. What do you think?


Thank you for your post, Vincent.  I find Monika's question about genre and Matt's question about cultural fusion to be particularly interesting given the ways that the DVD (or at least this clip) matches the visual repertoire of yoga videos with a voiceover that combines the names of the poses with spiritual instructions rather than physical ones.  For example, once the screen yogis assume chair pose, they (and the viewer) are instructed to "resist the desire to come out of this pose as you realize that you can have a beautiful body and a beautiful soul as well." The Tae-Bo videos that Matt mentions have a more comfortable position in the genre of exercise videos (if that is indeed the relevant label) than the Kabbalah Yoga video does because the Kabbalah video is so much more invested in Kabbalah than in yoga.  Both seem to exploit these fusions for commercial purposes, but the effects are quite different -- with Tae-Bo promising to transform your body and Kabbalah Yoga promising to transform your soul.


With that difference in mind, I wonder how and where the DVD is circulated.  I followed your link to the Kabbalah Centre's website, and I noticed that the DVD isn't available for sale at their online store. They do, however, have a variety of instructional CDs and DVDs available (covering everything from navigating a career to improving your sex life), and many of these are available in both English and Spanish versions.  I found your observation of the tensions between the two lectures on the Kabbalah Yoga DVD to be fascinating, and I wonder if similar contradictions surface in the other DVDs for sale.  


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