Teaching all levels yoga classes presents some interesting challenges. How to accommodate the gentleman in back floating on his hands with clear Drishti (single-pointed gaze) and audible Ujjayi (breath) set, while assuring the young woman grimacing in angst that a gentle twist, not a spine-crunching shout, will do just fine in Revolved Crescent Lunge. But this teacher likes a challenge, and from what I’ve observed, newbies and longtime yogis can co-exist beautifully in all levels classes. In my best classes, there is a palpable spirit of give and receive:
- Newbies reigniting in longtime yogis a once-dormant passion for the practice through multiple epiphanies (woo hoo! I hovered in Crow Pose! Oh shit! I fell out of Half Moon but I’m laughing at myself!)
- Longtime yogis giving permission through example that yes, you can breathe like Darth Vader if that’s your thing, or take a breather in Child’s pose if you damn well please.
Which brings me to Savasana, sometimes referred to as Deep Rest. It comes at the end, and involves nothing more than lying down, quieting your mind, and resting for five or so minutes before leaving the room. Through my own practice and teaching I’ve come to believe this is the most challenging pose of the practice. Yes, you read that correctly: lying flat on your back with your eyes closed doing absolutely nothing is the most challenging pose of the practice.
I shouldn’t have watered the lawn at dusk…”
At the end of a powerful 90-minute practice with Jane Cargill at Baptiste Yoga Boston, sweaty and a little shaky from several two-minute holds sprinkled throughout class (Forearm Plank, Downward Facing Dog, Wheel), my mind gushed forth with thoughts like a hose I couldn’t turn off. The mosquito bite on my second toe, unnoticed up until this point, screamed at me with reminders to never water the lawn in bare feet at dusk. My sweet niece needed her letter of recommendation for fall sorority rush completed in a few hours. My cat hasn’t received enough hugs today. And on it goes…the mind. Savasana is Deep Rest not just for the body, but the mind. And it can be oh so hard.
Is your boss, spouse, or dog really gonna notice if you’re away just five more minutes?”
I smile and gently open the door prematurely for at least one student in every class that ‘has to leave 5 minutes early’ for one reason or other. And they always tell me beforehand, and I am completely fine with that. One of the guiding principles of yoga is non-judgment, and I’m grateful for every student who shows up for my class and shares their energy and spirit with me and others. But I’m also a little sad, because they’re missing the opportunity to practice the most challenging pose in the practice, and reap the rewards before heading back out into the chaos of life. There are so many benefits to the pose, and I’m hoping that listing them here will help me appreciate and practice it with intention as well, even with an itchy mosquito bite:
- Savasana is re-integration. I think of it as my halfway house of support to transport me out of the period of time working on myself and into being of service to others. Leaving the room in slingshot fashion out of a latter-part-of-class pose (classic Headstand or Shoulder Stand for example) and before Savasana leaves me feeling agitated and incomplete. Not how I want to greet those I’m about to come in contact with.
- Clean the slate of mental anguish. Paint over a wall with too many coats and the texture changes. It gets mottled, hiding the purest, sweetest form of itself. Savasana, when I can put aside the nagging thoughts and itchy bug bite on my toe, helps reveal the purest version of me. Not all my stories, anxieties, checklists and judgments. Just a calm, relaxed, strong woman who loves yoga.
- The perfect marinade. Lying in my own sweat, shaky from effort, in full surrender I feel totally at home. Because home is in my own body, which has proven once again all that it is capable of and all that is possible from this point forward.
Next time you practice, do take Savasana. Because sometimes it really is better to stay put.