“Savasana” is typically the final posture of our yoga practice. The sanskrit name for the pose comes from the root word “corpse”. I used to find this name morose. I called it “final relaxation pose” or “naptime” as a joke. But over time I have come to appreciate the symbolism it contains. Lying down and assuming a stance of stillness can be a symbolic way of honouring the end of a cycle. We live in a society that tends to deny and avoid the reality of death, but taking this pose at the end of a yoga practice can gently remind us of our own impermanence. It might help us acknowledge that our time alive is limited, and awaken us to a deeper sense of appreciation for each moment we have to experience life and connection.
Deeper symbolism aside, life is busy, and our attention is often pulled in so many different directions. Savasana gives us a rare opportunity to do nothing. To rest, to breathe, to become aware of our thoughts and also to learn to let them go. Renowned yoga teacher and author Judith Lasater says, “to practice Savasana is to choose to lie down on the mat and to be become an introvert for 20 minutes, appearing dead to the outside world.”
I was feeling worked up, and they were feeling impatient with me. So their shortcut to harmony was to tell me to “relax!”
You can imagine how that went.
I didn’t lash out at them, but I did feel hurt. I wasn’t trying to be dramatic, but I had real feelings about the situation. And being told to relax was a quick dismissal of my feelings, rather than an acknowledgement of them.
I have this same thought about the phrase “Love your body,” which is a phrase I don’t really use, especially not when I am teaching yoga. I don’t think it’s bad, I just think it’s on the same end of the spectrum as “relax.” It is an instruction that, while well-intentioned, might miss the point. Telling someone (even yourself) to “love your body” may not acknowledge the real and complex experience that you have with your body. That it might be hard to love your body when you feel that the world has been telling you it’s ugly, dysfunctional, or bad your whole life. It might be hard to love your body if your body is the site of trauma. It might be hard to love your body if your body is in pain a lot of the time, or experiences anxiety or depression.
What I wish my friend had asked me (instead of telling me to relax) was simply “What’s going on?” Taking a moment to acknowledge my feelings might have made a huge difference in how I was able to be present.