Running into the Waves

Many yogis consider savasana (the pose that comes at the end of every yoga practice) to be the most challenging yoga pose. The physicality of it–lying on your back with your eyes closed–is easier and more effortless than any other pose, but mentally, it might be more challenging than all of the poses combined, at least for busy minds (and who among us doesn’t have a busy mind?). It’s a pose of total relaxation, letting everything go. Its (seemingly morbid) English name is “corpse pose” because you’re meant to be totally still in mind and body. 

For some of us, the simple task of not thinking is a steep climb up a high mountain. It might even provoke anxiety. This is certainly true for me, and there have been times when I’ve spent the entirety of savasana getting caught up in the explosion of thoughts in my brain. I imagine if we were able to make images out of someone’s mind during meditation, a Buddhist monk’s might look something like a smooth, perfectly spherical marble ball–and mine would just be a cloud of black squiggles squirming around haphazardly. 

So lately I’ve been taking a different approach. Instead of trying to clear my mind completely, I try to at least put myself somewhere peaceful. After Tuesday’s gentle hatha practice, I saw a meadow full of grass as soft as feathers, where I danced and felt the sun warm my skin. 

Then something kind of interesting happened during yesterday’s savasana. I went to that same meadow, then moved through it, to a forest that resembled one that’s very special to my family. I continued moving through, not on the ground but among the treetops, where a bird might fly. On the other side of the forest, I found an ocean. Then I came back to the ground, and I ran into the waves. They looked quite like the ones I pictured when I wrote this post, but in this meditation, I was not afraid of them. I dove into them, I moved with them, I relished the smell and feel of the salt water. I was not struggling against the ocean; I became a part of it. I moved with the currents, and then they moved with me. 

I left class feeling blissed out. It was a cloudy, drizzly day, but all I noticed was the smell of the rain. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like that, even post-yoga. It’s not as though it’s permanent, but I am grateful to have experienced that feeling. Now I remember it. I remember that it exists, that it can be real. And I remember that the ocean is not my enemy–it’s a part of me, and I can choose to try to move with it instead of struggling against it and wishing for dry land.

Maybe savasana isn’t so bad.

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