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November 13, 2013

Death on the Yoga Mat. ~ Sapha Arias

The room is quiet and serene.

All the hard work and emotional release that has transpired over the last few minutes has passed and the stillness is settling over the room with a gentle layer of ease. It is the sweetest moment; when all who are present are able to disconnect and release.

It is the space for savasana and it is a sacred space for all involved, including the teacher.

With the lights turned down and a few sighs of release; the magic begins to take place. For some, the challenge is daunting and nearly impossible to withstand, and yet for some others, this moment is a bigger blessing than a mid-morning nap or a much needed hug.

So why is it that this seemingly easy pose is so crucial? What makes this one pose so necessary that every single yoga class must include it? Why is it some people simply walk away before it even begins? Are they afraid of the pose? Is it really that challenging?

The answers to these questions are complex. But I have found through my own experience on the mat that the power of savasana is unlimited and that with out it, one can never truly evolve.

This may sound a little far fetched to some, and some others will likely dismiss my take on this pose as some “hippie yoga teacher stuff.” Although I admit I am a bit of a hippie at heart, I have been one of those people who hated every minute in savasana and saw it as an inconvenience that should be taken out of the practice all together.

So, I understand and I simply wanted to share what I have learned from this pose and how it has changed my perspective. And who knows, this may even change the way you see savasana forever.

One thing that has become crystal clear to me about the practice is that it emulates our lives. We come to the mat to release, change and hopefully improve our lives and the way we perceive them. We use the breath and movement to quiet our minds and help explore our possibilities.

We focus on being present and remaining open to grace while learning to see our worlds in a different light and hopefully heal our body, mind and soul in the process.

Every flow, every restorative moment, every meditation or chant, they all have a reason for being and they all have the potential to change us forever. And the flow of a class generally mirrors our entire life.

From birth, as we move slowly into tadasna, cat/cow or find our way onto our backs to warm up before coming into child’s pose, etc, etc. We then make our way through our youth, exploring the poses tentatively and taking our time to stabilize, find our rhythm and begin to listen to our bodies and their needs.

To mid-adulthood, where we expand, strengthen, challenge our selves and the way we see the world (inversions anyone?). And then into full adulthood, when we can be more patient and calm; when we need to slow down, cool down, restore and be gentle. T

his last stage then leads us to, dare I say it, “Death,” aka savasana; corpse pose.

This may be a morbid thought if one has never experienced the blessing that comes from this “small death” of ours, but part of the magic of the pose is that it does not end at death. See, it took me some time to realize this, and there may be many who disagree with me on this, but I strongly believe that our “death” on the mat, upon which we surrender completely and prepare to simply exist, takes us down a stream of transformation and peace that leads us to re-birth.

After savasana comes life.

Again, if this concept seems baffling and contrary to what we “know” about life and death, first allow me to say that I understand this doubt and hesitation completely. Having been brought up in a family of faith, I can see how this can present a conundrum of sorts, but please note that there are many different ways to look at life and death. Just as there are many ways to look at the world around us.

And in this particular case, I am speaking of a different kind of death and re-birth. I speak of the death that allows us to come face to face with who we are. All of our “flaws” and “imperfections” suddenly becoming palpable to us (which is, incidentally one of the many reasons people can not tolerate this particular pose for too long or at all).

You see, savasana brings you face to face with your true self. It pulls back the curtains from your eyes and allows you to experience your self in the deepest, most terrifying and yet most rewarding manner.

When we enter savasana there is no more need to control or arrange or change anything around us or within us. Therefore, we are presented with the spectacularly daunting task to simply exist.

This may seem easy but in truth, it is like taking a huge magic mirror and placing it directly in front of you, allowing it to show you your true self. And, just as in the stories, finding out who we are at our core can sometimes be much too much to bare, so, naturally, some of us hit the eject button and disengage from the experience before we can get to the bottom of our being.

Fear and intensity is normal and can be disquieting at times, but it is absolutely necessary. Think of it this way; if you came onto your mat with anger and heartache, ready to move on and forgive so that you can heal and grow but you stop the process before it has been fully completed, how much have you truly evolved? How much have you actually dislodged? How much are you still carrying around with you just because you were afraid to know your true self?

It is powerful, this savasana of ours, it presents us with an opportunity to surrender to the moment and it challenges us to let go of our egos and judgments so that we can truly be re-born. It gives us a chance to complete our healing and gives us the chance to exist with out the need to change or modify anything specific about ourselves, but rather, gives us the opportunity to slowly regenerate and renew our beings from the very depths of our souls. This regeneration will lead us to an exponential evolution and it will hopefully allow us to live life more fully instead of hiding behind our preconceived judgments about how things should or shouldn’t be.

So, be kind to yourself in savasana. Know that this is a necessary step in your journey through the yoga tree and allow it to bring you peace even if it is challenging or even frustrating at first. Trust that the re-birth will follow and do not be afraid to come face to face with who you truly are.

Chances are you will be amazed at how truly wonderful and unique you are, so give yourself the chance to find out. Try not to run out of class before or during savasana and try to enjoy every moment in this little death so that you can be renewed fully.

And as the lights dim and everyone settles in to rest, let your body relax, make no effort to move or change things internally or externally. Allow the journey with in to begin and expect nothing but healing and light to guide you down this road. Simply be.

“So then, when you die, you’re not going to have to put up with everlasting non-existence, because that’s not an experience. A lot of people are afraid that when they die, they’re going to be locked up in a dark room forever, and sort of undergo that. But one of the interesting things in the world is—this is a yoga, this is a realization—try and imagine what it will be like to go to sleep and never wake up.

Think about that. Children think about it. It’s one of the great wonders of life. What will it be like to go to sleep and never wake up? And if you think long enough about that, something will happen to you. You will find out, among other things, it will pose the next question to you. What was it like to wake up after having never gone to sleep? That was when you were born. You see, you can’t have an experience of nothing; nature abhors a vacuum.

So after you’re dead, the only thing that can happen is the same experience, or the same sort of experience as when you were born. In other words, we all know very well that after other people die, other people are born. And they’re all you, only you can only experience it one at a time. Everybody is I, you all know you’re you, and wheresoever all being exist throughout all galaxies, it doesn’t make any difference. You are all of them. And when they come into being, that’s you coming into being.”

~ Alan Watts

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Assistant Editor: Daniel Garcia/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Lululemon athletica on Flickr.

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