The corpse pose.
Every yoga session ends with this pose. Lying on your back, arms and legs resting neutral and heavy by your sides, useless extensions of your own body. Static. Immovable.
Following an intense yoga practice, Savasana is a restful and restorative experience for most. The silence and seeming solitude steers the yogi into a state of near-slumber. The room is warm. The voice of the yoga instructor is soothing. The silence is loud. The vibrations of the entire world simply fade away into nothing and you are left alone…
Purely and intensely alone.
It is probably no surprise that many a Savasana has lulled participants into a deep sleep, letting go of everything, casting off the bowlines, and allowing your whole self to drift away into a vast and infinite sea of solitude and serenity. Except I don’t ever fall asleep. I always cry. I cry every single time, the monsters and shadows of my own subconscious reaching up from the depths of the unknown and pulling me down into their swirling, dark waters.
I’m not talking about a peaceful, tears-slipping-down-my-cheeks kind of cry. This is a face-contorting, sobs-racking-my-body kind of cry. I’m drowning in it. Before the yoga practice even begins, I know I will cry. Though I am not yet anywhere near being in tears at the beginning of Savasana, I assume I will eventually cry, and that’s ok. I have learned to accept it.
I understand it. I am prepared for it.
Here’s what happens: I’m lying there, in Savasana, floating on the edge of consciousness and awareness, and I am tuning out the sounds of the world around me—the air conditioning or furnace in the building, the traffic and sirens outside, the wind, the weights, music, other people in the gym, and I am suddenly and terrifyingly alone with my thoughts.
Completely alone. Alone in a way that only ninety minutes of physically exhausting yoga practice can make me. Alone in a way that only a dark and silent room can make me. Alone in a way that the only things to focus on in the whole wide world are the things that cause me mental stress or anxiety or sorrow or pain, or that make me think and question my entire everything.
Like looking through a waterfall, my pain remains barely visible throughout the day, but Savasana brings these thoughts into sharp focus. My heart aches. My head is clear and my mind is focused, but my heart feels physically squeezed by a thousand million gallons – a veritable sea – the weight that it carries from a lifetime of NOT facing everything inside.
I don't think I'm alone when I say that the hardest part of yoga is the release. The surrender. The cognizant decision to be vulnerable. Choosing to allow the floodgates to be ripped open and send a torrent of whatever is inside out into the open, to the forefront of the mind, to the edge of the ocean. So all the debris floating under the surface is suddenly deposited on the beach for the mind to examine.
Of course the physical practice is challenging, and challenging in a way that is different from all the other styles of training I do, but the mental challenge is far greater. After I've expended a tremendous amount of physical energy, and my mind is allowed to enter a state in which all the world around fades away, and I have to look my thoughts square in the face and see them – really see them – that's when the waterworks start.
My heart twists up and my face starts to leak, and I know my body is shaking with my silent sobs. It is a relief. It is an opportunity to let go of something that I didn’t even know I was holding on to. It’s a chance to see what I could see/couldn’t see and to stop bottling it all up inside of me and to just…
Push my head above the sometimes-raging waters and breathe through the pain and the hurt and the scars and the fear and the anxiety, and breathe into the hope that I can handle it all. “It” being life. This life. My life. The proverbial LIFE. Because life never goes where you think it should go, and people never do what you expect they will do.
You get hurt, and you get disappointed, you feel defeated, and you lose hope, and if you – like me – just keep all that garbage, damage, and hurt all cooped up inside you, then you NEED an outlet for letting it all go, or it will slowly kill you like it was slowly killing me, dragging me down, down, down until I couldn’t even see the surface anymore, and I began to wonder if it was even there.
So I cry. I cry during Savasana. I cry during every single solitary Savasana, and I like it. I like it because it is the only time I really cry. It is the only time I really release the water from the dam. It’s no gradual release, either. I tear down the wall and let it all pour out. And if that isn’t restorative, then nothing is.
by Jacey Barnes – Jacey is a Middle School English teacher, aspiring writer, mother, and fitness enthusiast in Kansas City, Missouri. As a single working mother of two young boys, she has discovered the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of maintaining a daily yoga practice. Jacey is passionate about teaching and learning and hopes to give voice to her experience and encourage others to embark on their own yoga journey.
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