Winding down my last yoga session on the last night of being age 36, as I surrendered at last into a peaceful savasana, I felt as if I were giving birth to a new stage in my practice and a new chapter in my life. In the past, I have greatly resisted this asana. While the body is meant to soften, I could never fully sink down into the pose. My pelvis rested unevenly on the mat. My forearms gently trembled and my fingers sought to curl stiffly instead of lie limp. With a restless body and the cacophony of my mind, the restorative purpose of the pose seemed lost on me.
It is not surprising that I have been so resistant to savasana. It is less about doing and more about surrendering the self into a neutral state of contentment. I thrive on dynamic poses that challenge my body’s flexibility, strength and balance. I love the dance between breath and the moving body. In the process of doing, my mind sharpens with focus and bodily awareness. In the motionlessness of savasana, my mind tends to wander.
My experience in savasana, also known as corpse pose, is not dissimilar to my experiences trying to fall asleep at night. Finding the ability to rest the body and still the mind—free of pain, tension or ceaseless pondering—is one of my greatest challenges at bedtime. Yet I have found the stage-by-stage relaxation sequence to meditation exceptionally helpful: deeply and evenly breathing in and out, I draw attention to the body, part by part—starting with the feet and the left side—coaxing each part of my body to release any tension or pain before moving up to the next part. Once my body is fully at rest, I am clear to focus solely on the inhalation and exhalation of breath, entering deeper and deeper stages of relaxation.
On the eve of my 37th birthday, I found myself unconsciously doing the same while in corpse pose. Minutes flew by without my awareness of them, and I eventually found myself in that tranquil state intended to remove fatigue and gives rest to the mind. Rather than leaving my yoga practice energized yet exhausted as usual, I felt calm, relaxed and refreshed.
I’ve heard other yoga teachers meant say that corpse pose not only allows us to rest in peace while still living, but it brings about a symbolic death of our old ways of thinking and doing. Now, I finally understand what they meant. As with seated meditation, I realize now that savasana is not about forcing the mind and body to relax; it is about surrender and letting go through the exhalation of the breath; and by doing so, finding peace.
Practicing corpse pose is a way of being reborn–which coincidentally is also the meaning of my first name–into the present, just as you are now, rather than as a ghost of the past or a harbinger of the future. I am—we are—free to move forward with peace and a fresh start. I cannot think of a more perfect way to leave age 36 behind and to embrace the new year of life ahead.
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