Thursday, November 5, 2015

Yogic Reflections - Asanas --- Savasana and Fetal Pose

To die, to sleep - To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub,
For in this sleep of death what dreams may come...” Shakespeare, Hamlet

Shakespeare had it all figured out, even though he may not have thought of Yoga when he wrote these deep words. After all, somebody else said that life is just a dream, and that person may have hit the truth in its very core and essence.

I would not suggest that we all lie down and fall asleep for the rest of our existence, hoping thus to accomplish our mission to its highest level – no, we should stand our ground, firmly planted on our two feet! After all, that is what Warrior II is all about, right? Lately, on and off my mat, and at night when I lie in my bed and reminisce about the day's events, this thought enters my mind of its own volition: Yoga is life is yoga is life.....

I can see the symbolic correspondence between the two: some parts of living my life are easy, some are enjoyable, others, painful or labored, and others yet again, transitions between any combination of these options. I find the same experience on my mat: some postures are pleasant to my body and mind, others demand a lot of effort, some I feel I just cannot handle, and some fill me with dread for no rational reason. What I learn from practicing yoga is to envision all of it with an even and accepting attitude. Nothing will last forever, not the situations I perceive as pleasant, and neither the ones I dread to face. I learn to muster up the courage, and the resolve, to move through them in a somewhat detached frame of mind and spirit, taking not too much pleasure from the first kind and not too much pain from the later. Eventually, it will all balance itself out. I know it will.

On the mat, I like to think of the postures of Savasana and Fetal Pose as the 'bookend' postures, the closing and opening moves of the game of yoga, and metaphorically, the game of life itself. We move through the time of our practice, where we encounter all of the situations mentioned above, and when our 'dance' is done, we slide to the floor and let our body rest in the posture of death, the Corpse Pose, aka Savasana in Sanskrit. It is the posture of non-action. We just lie there, totally relaxed, and let our body and mind assimilate what occurred during practice. We do a total reset of all our levels of existence and consciousness, cleansing our slate so to speak, for the next phase of action to come. My teachers often call Savasana the most important pose, and they are right. We Westerners should learn to appreciate it much more than we usually do, busy as we are to get to the next thing on our list. Who needs to lie there for a long time and do nothing, right? Wrong! As much as breath is paramount to Hatha Yoga, as its rhythm dictates the movements, the efforts and releases, just as much we need the alternating rhythm of action and rest in our practice, and in our lives. They should ideally mirror each other. So then, the idea of a two-minute Savasana after a sixty minute practice sounds quite off....
Maybe it is a good exercise in itself to be able to stay on the floor in Savasana for at least five minutes. They may seem like an eternity to many of us yogis! Let's go to ten minutes once we can handle the five!

At the end of Savasana, we need to come back into our presence of mind and awareness of action. What better pose than fetal pose to get there? We need to remember that fetal pose is the very first yoga posture we get to practice when we incarnate: Nine months of it in our mother's womb! All that time, we are being carried by the mother, nurtured by her, protected by her, and we are being kept safe, nicely tucked into this very introspective position, while we prepare for another round of excitement on Planet Earth. The moment we enter this world, we unfold and stretch and begin our own, individual existence. We are given a new, fresh and clean slate, as we begin our life's path on our own two feet. We travel life's paths and postures until we come to the last posture, corpse pose, which will conclude our journey on this oh-so-entertaining Planet Earth.

On the mat, we are given the chance to re-enact these key events every time we conclude a yoga session. Think of Savasana as the conclusion of whatever actions/postures we practiced. Let it be the closing gesture of the active part of practice.
Then, get yourself into the fetal pose and think of it as a clean slate, a new beginning for another phase of the practice of life beyond your mat. Wipe the slate clean, (you might remember your Mom, and thank her for bringing you here!), then stretch out and start a fresh round.... what a great opportunity for change! You need not ask for permission by anybody; if you want it, you can simply make it so. We are the creators of our own lives. We should always remember that we have that power, and that we can make the decisions for all the things that matter in our lives! Let's put this to good use!

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