*I have some great contributions from health & wellness folks as part of this feature series for Well and the City; where they could share their own personal experiences in the health and wellness world. Below is Feature Part 3: from my good friend Kristi, MBA and certified Yoga instructor. Thank you Kristi for your wise words about quieting your mind and getting the most out of yoga practice!
Savasana: The Best Part
Oh Savasana, the best and most difficult pose. Instructors always say this – that Savasana is the most challenging pose and I think, “Yeah right! That’s such an annoying thing to say because it only applies if you’re a crazy yoga master, have been doing yoga for years.” I know people say Savasana is such a hard posture because it is difficult to quiet the mind and let go of inner criticisms, worries, and less-than-mindful thoughts, which is the whole point of Savasana. But come on, it also takes an extreme amount of effort to balance all the weight of your body on the palms of your hands with your elbows bent, knees bent and resting on your triceps, also known as crow pose. Side note: I hate crow pose and all balancing postures only because I don’t think I am good at them. I use all the tips and tricks offered for crow pose such as spreading my fingers wide and griping the mat to give myself a strong foundation, bending my elbows as if I were doing a Chaturanga Dandasana, tucking in my belly button to engage the core, and gazing 6-12 inches in front of me so I don’t accidentally roll forward onto my face. But despite all this, crow has been frustrating for me. If you can’t tell from my oh-so-subtle ranting about my self-perceived inadequacies, I am clearly not quieting my mind, or letting go of inner criticisms, worries, and less-than-mindful thoughts. But I should be doing this if only because my defeatist attitude isn’t helping.
This is when I realize I can take a more carefree approach to yoga. I can choose to practice crow-pose, hang out in frog pose (feet flat on the floor at a 45 degree angle, knees wide and bent so that thighs and calves touch, hands together at heart’s center), or stay in child’s pose (shins on that mat, big toes touching, knees wide, sits bones resting on heals, palms and forehead to the mat, fingertips reaching forward) for the entire 60-minute duration of the class. The most important thing is that I am being mindful and loving myself. I once read in the book, Meditation for Beginners, by Jack Kornfield, that instead of beating ourselves up for small mistakes, large mistakes, or for nothing at all, we have the option to treat ourselves as we would a puppy. If you have ever had or been around a young puppy that is not yet house-trained, you know the puppy will inevitably pee in the house. The puppy does not know any better and most people would not blame the puppy for this mistake. Instead, the puppy would typically be brought outside as a reminder that the outdoors is the appropriate place to pee. Why not show ourselves the same gentleness and understanding as we would a puppy? Every one of us is trying our best and doing what we believe to be right based on our prior experience and practice.
Back to crow pose; I decided long ago to treat crow pose as play time. I will practice the posture and work to become better at it because I want to. But I will not beat myself up if I fall out of the pose or can’t even lift my toes off the floor because I am only doing all that I can given my previous experience practicing. As for Savasana, I now see the great benefits and purpose of this pose. It is the opportunity for me to thank myself for my hard work, for coming to my mat and treating myself right. I thank myself for the numerous chaturanga dandasanas I did to build my upper body strength, the revolved prayer twist I performed to release toxins from my body, the tree pose I held to improve my balance, and the half pigeon pose I enjoyed to open up my hips.
I also use Savasna as the opportunity to let go of my “monkey mind.” I cease contemplation of how I well performed in my practice, how cute my (or other yogi’s) yoga pants were that day, or what I have on my to-do list. I feel my breath slow and allow my body to sink into the mat. I pay attention to my inhales and exhales. With each inhale, I feel my belly and chest expand. With each exhale, I feel my abdomen contract. As new thoughts enter my mind, which happens about every 3 seconds, I gently push them away. It takes focus to keep random thoughts from occupying your mind. It is challenging to think only about each inhale and exhale. But doing so helps cultivate calm in one’s mind. This is what all those yoga instructors meant by saying Savasana is the best and most challenging pose. All the other poses, while being beneficial in their own way, are really just for fun. Yoga is meant to leave you in a better state physically and more importantly emotionally. This is what makes me love yoga so much and keeps me coming back to my mat. I hope you can find the same playful and peaceful joy in your yoga practice.