Published: 15-10-2010 - Last Edited: 12-08-2021
confessions of a wandering mind
When I’m in savasana, I may look like I’m resting, but my mind is far from relaxed. Less than a minute after laying down and closing my eyes, I’m already planning what I’ll be doing after class. When I’m done with that, I make mental notes about errands that I need to run.
If I have any more time, I spend it analyzing past events. My tendency to lose my focus in savasana puzzled me. I didn’t find it difficult to concentrate while I was practicing other poses, yet corpse pose was an entirely different matter. Lying on my mat in a darkened room with a group of people in the middle of the day made me feel like I was in preschool again. During naptime, while the other children fell asleep as soon as the lights went out, I would just stare at the ceiling thinking and wondering. As an adult, not much had changed. I still find it hard to relax.
In savasana, I knew that I was just going through the motions. I wasn’t exactly pretending to do corpse pose, but still my heart wasn’t in it. Shouldn’t I give savasana the same care and attention that I gave the rest of my practice? After all, corpse pose must hold some significance in yoga if it was practiced at the end of almost every class.
I wanted to practice corpse pose whole-heartedly, but I wasn’t sure how. I have tried to make myself relax in the past, but it never worked; every attempt I made toward this goal always created more anxiety. So practicing savasana was a tricky situation for me. How could I try to relax without trying at all? I had no idea. So, I took a stab in the dark. I decided to practice breathing awareness whenever I was in savasana. I figured that it was something I could do that was relatively low-key. While I lie on my mat with my eyes closed, I turned my attention to my breath. I didn’t try to slow it down or change the quality of my breathing, I just watched it.
Eventually, my breathing awareness helped me recognize other sensations in my body. I noticed that there was pressure around my forehead and temples, as if I were wearing a headband that was two sizes too small. I wasn’t sure what to do about it, so I just paid attention. Then I noticed how tightly my jaws were clenched. I wanted to open my mouth and release the tension, but I didn’t know how to do it gently. So I continued to observe the quality of the tension around my mouth. At some point, my lower jaw began to feel heavy. Slowly, it fell away from the rest of my mouth. With much of the tension released around my mouth, my attention turned back to my forehead and temples. The pressure was still there, but now the headband was only one size too small.
In savasana, I found many places in my body where I carried tension. There were typical spots like the neck and shoulders, but there were also places that hadn’t been so obvious to me, like my legs and lower abdomen. When I first felt these sensations, I thought they were appearing out of nowhere. Eventually, I saw that they had been there all the time; I just hadn’t realized it. When I sensed tension in a part of my body, I instinctively wanted to relieve it somehow, but I was mystified as to how to do it. In the end, I just observed and sensed the quality of the sensations in my body. Over time, the tension very slowly diminished. Usually, it took until the end of savasana for me to feel a little less tense.
One day as I came out of savasana, I felt as if I had just woken up from a good night’s sleep, except that I hadn’t fallen asleep. A feeling of spaciousness filled my body. Immediately, I wanted to figure out how to make it happen again. I spent a lot of time analyzing the experience so that I could come up with a plan.
Unfortunately, I came up with nothing. The simple reason was that I had no idea how my experience in savanasa came about. Never one to give up easily, I tried to analyze the situation some more, but in the end I had to admit that I couldn’t control my experiences in corpse pose. It was a little galling to have to go back to just observing my breath and the sensations in my body, but I had no other choice.
The next time I got into savasana, I did it with resignation. As I closed my eyes, a surprising sense of liberation materialized beside my feelings of surrender. Maybe resting wasn’t about thinking less, worrying less, or breathing more slowly; maybe it was about seeing things as they were, and letting them be what they were. Could it really be that simple? I didn’t know. Maybe that was okay, too.