At the end of every yoga class, the teacher cues you to breathe normally and asks you to relax your entire body. He or she is preparing you for the most important pose of a yoga practice, Savasana. This pose is an opportunity at the end of every yoga practice for our bodies to rest, to embrace the practice, and for our minds and bodies to heal in stillness.
There’s a reason why it’s the closing pose at the end of every yoga class. We live in such a fast-paced world. We run on “go-go-go” mode, especially those of us in the West. We rush from one place to another, we eat really fast, we talk really fast, and when we finish something we immediately move on to the next thing. We often find it really hard to rest and relax. I know so many people who need a vacation from their vacation because they fill up their holiday time with one activity right after another. Where does the “rest and relaxation” happen? I too, have had many experiences where I didn’t know how to relax. I would feel unproductive when I tried to “rest” and often guilty for being so unproductive. So then I do things to keep myself busy, because, what else am I going to do with myself?
I read an article on Yogi Times recently called “Taking your Grief to the Yoga Mat“, and love a particular part, where the author shares, “…I lay in Savasana and rested in a death-like pose. It occurred to me just then, that we rest at the end of activity, we restore ourselves and receive the full benefits of our effort. I experienced a calm and quiet and then I noticed that the nothingness and stillness I experienced to be enough.” Stillness is enough. How powerful is that insight?!
When I started my yoga journey 5 years ago, I saw yoga as a form of fitness. I went to the hot yoga studio because it made me sweat and it helped me lose weight. I felt bliss afterwards and attributed that to the post-workout endorphins. It wasn’t until mindfulness came into the picture during my 200-hour Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training with saigon om in 2016 did I really understand what yoga was about and the incredible, healing benefits. Yoga is often misunderstood as just a physical practice, but it is so much more. Yoga isn’t about the post (the asana), it’s about creating space where there wasn’t space before. It’s about learning to listen to our bodies. It’s about being kinder to ourselves. It’s about cultivating love, peace, and joy. It’s about coming back to our breath, trusting our breath, and letting our breath bring us back to the present moment. With mindfulness I live life with more awareness. No, this doesn’t mean I sit and meditate all day. Nor am I enlightened. I’m human, I make mistakes. By practicing mindfulness I bring awareness to my body, my feelings, my emotions and learn ways to take care of them while not dwelling in my suffering. My yoga teacher said in class the other day, “Life’s short. Why spend it suffering?”
One year later, I returned to saigon om’s training to complete Module 1. Why am I back at the training I spent 200-hours completing last year? I’m doing it again because even though I’m a “yoga teacher”, there’s always so much more to learn. The practice of yoga and mindfulness, the practice of understanding yourself, is a never ending journey. You don’t simply complete a month’s training and become a guru. I thought practicing for a week with them would be an excellent opportunity for me to deepen my practice, connect with a Sangha (community of like-minded people), and reflect on the past year of practicing, teaching, and traveling.
Just four days into the training, for the first time ever, I cried while laying in Savasana. The day started out with me being quite agitated and distracted. I couldn’t really focus, every little bug and noise drew my concentration away. And then we had our afternoon inversion practice. I came out of these inversions finding myself incredibly grounded and calm. That’s the power of inversions, they can be extremely meditative! You’re upside down so there’s not much you can think about or focus on other than your breath.
Rolling out of shoulder stand we moved into Savasana. Feeling supported and grounded with Mother Earth underneath me, my body and mind calm, a deep insight came to me. I’ve been struggling to process and navigate a particular relationship in my life. This relationship has had its ups and downs all my life, and lately, more down than up. As I laid there in deep relaxation, a wave of understanding washed over me. I was holding a lot of frustration and anger towards this person but with this wave of understanding came compassion. Compassion and understanding for what this person might be going through, why they act the way they do, and how much they must be suffering themselves. As this insight dawned on me, tears started to trickle down my cheeks. Releasing these tears on the mat was the manifestation of the release of the frustration, the anger, and the negativity I’ve been holding. I feel an overwhelming sense of relief and freedom. Freedom from the suffering that’s caused by the emotions of anger and frustration. With freedom comes the opportunity to embrace this relationship with more loving awareness. I’m not exactly sure what’s next for our relationship; but there are new possibilities now that weren’t there when I was dwelling in my own suffering and holding onto anger.
Moral of this story? The next time you want to leave a yoga class before Savasana, I’d encourage you to think twice. “When we calm the body, we calm the mind.” And in this state of calmness and stillness, magical things can happen. Healing and transformation can happen.