I’ve been practicing yoga for a couple of years now, on and off, and dabbling in various styles. In early 2015, I found Ashtanga Yoga and have been dedicated in my practice, with increasing discipline, ever since.
This year has seen its share of challenges, both on and off the mat, and I’d like to close my first year of dedicated practice by paying homage to, and expressing my gratitude for, one of my favourite postures, Savasana.
A seemingly simple pose, yet as my awareness expands so too does my understanding of it (along with a knowing that no understanding is ever final).
When I first started yoga I learned that Savasana was “rest” pose and well, who doesn’t like rest? My regime from the beginning of time has been to muscle through that which I hate, hurry through the grunt of it with as little attention as possible, and then, sweet bliss, take rest! Though, oddly, I never felt rested, even after rest pose. And that wasn’t just on the mat. That was the common theme throughout my life.
Enter Ashtanga Yoga!
Ashtanga has been a curse and a blessing, a love and a hate, a pain and a pleasure…I’ve hit numerous road blocks over the course of my short journey, and I know there will be many more.
At one point in particular, a few months into a more disciplined practice, I had hit one of those proverbial yogic walls. I started to hate my practice. I had lost my beginner’s mind, the one that has no idea where it’s going and knows only that it is involved in this new and exciting adventure – the time in Eden before the first bite of the apple.
I was tired. I was hurting. I wasn’t flexible (or so I thought). I dreaded each morning, dreaded facing myself and all of my shortcomings. I stepped on my mat each morning with a heavy burden of guilt and self-condemnation and I wanted to cry every time. The tears were often released through various poses during my practice and I wondered how much more I could take. The pain, both on a physical and mental plane, was incessant.
I couldn’t stop though. There was a voice inside of me that said, “Keep going.” I was more afraid of stopping than of the pain itself. If I stopped I would never see what lay around the next corner and that scared me more – accepting the belief that there are limits to what I can do, to what is available to me.
I kept going.
A short while later I came across an alternative notion that Savasana is really the death of the practice and this was sort of an “a-ha” moment for me. I mean, I’d heard of Savasana referred to as corpse pose before but I had always just thought that this was because you lay like a dead body, not because of an actual death of someone or something.
So, as I contemplated the notion of letting my practice die, I experienced a small sense of relief and a willingness and openness to keep going.
Letting my daily practice die at the end of each session prevents me from carrying it forward to the next. I no longer have to begin each practice holding the perceived inadequacies (a.k.a. self-judgments) of the previous day’s practice. They’re gone. Each days practice now begins anew. It has to.
If I continue to bring today’s experience forward, I refuse the experience of tomorrow and stop living in the present. By perpetuating an environment of judgement (i.e., today must be like yesterday or today mustn’t be like yesterday), I disallow the experience entirely and it becomes a completely fictitious event based solely on a past experience or future expectation.
This is so far-reaching for me. My whole life has started to feel like an accumulation of every transgression and now I can let it all die. The scoreboard can be taken down.
I have to wonder, as I try to draw parallels between the philosophies of Yoga and my Christian roots, if Jesus died once to cleanse me of my sins, is my persistence to live with the guilt of my past not a refusal of God’s power and promise of salvation and ultimately a denial of God’s Good News?
I believe so.
As I move in to 2016, I will practice Savasana with more humility and reverence and with an understanding that I need not carry such a heavy burden.
The present moment is all there is and living in it is the ultimate experience of salvation.