Ahhhh Relaxation

posted in: Relaxation, yoga | 3

Who has time to relax anyway? I mean what with multitasking and all. Does anyone come to yoga class to just kick back? Hmmm, come on, you want a work out, right? You want to become buff and beautiful. And then get back to you ever-expanding To Do List. You have important work to accomplish in this lifetime. You are going to save the world–or at least some small part of it! So let’s run to yoga class to get in some exercise after work, before putting the kids to bed and cleaning the house and preparing tomorrow’s lesson and listening to Sis on the phone discuss her problematic in-laws. The first actual full breath of the day comes only after 5 minutes of sitting on a bolster in a room that is more serene than anywhere you’ve been all week.

When the teacher announces that tonight it’s going to be a relaxation class you don’t waste any time heading for the door, but then you realize that this class is so small and it’s going to be really obvious if you sneak away and how are you going to face the teacher who is beaming at the prospect of a class of students stretched across bolsters, brainwaves lengthening and slowing like the breath, their prana vayu descending, their organs stretching blissfully inside their bodies and their eyes softening with lavender-scented silk bags placed lightly upon closed orbs.

Squirming, without making eye contact, you obediently follow her prompts and find yourself, well, uhm, fairly comfortable. Wait a second, I thought this was yoga and it was SUPPOSED to hurt.

SUPTA BADDHA KONASANA: anytime you see the “supta” included in a pose name, it alerts you to the thought of lying down. This pose is sometimes referred to as Butterfly. When the soles of the feet are together, you can draw the knees up and down as if they were wings on a butterfly. Since this is a supported version, use a blanket rolled from the short end. Place it beneath the thigh and shin bones. Recline back onto a lengthwise bolster that has a blanket on the top for your head and neck support. Your chin should be at the same height or lower than your forehead. You may enjoy a blanket underneath each arm. Place the eyebag softly over your eyes.

Amazingly, you don’t fall asleep, at least not right away, and that is your first surprise since, in your current sleep-deprived state, any lack of motion usually induces immediate somnambulism. The chattering in your mind becomes very loud though and you begin a little inner agitation about being placed in such a silly position. After all, nothing is happening–you’re absolutely sure of that. Then the teacher suggests giving yourself permission to let go of all the “stuff” of our lives. “You can save the world AFTER class. Give yourself permission to become a human being for a little while; release your identity of a human doing. The spinning world with all of its problems and challenges will still be there after class.”

When she quietly announces that you can wiggle your fingers and breathe more deeply, you realize that even if you weren’t perfectly relaxed, you’d achieved some sort of state of quietude. As you move into the other poses–only 2 or 3 this evening– the quiet mode follows along with you like a friendly inner cat purring into your heart center, releasing stress with every mew. Each pose carries you a little further into quiescence and at some point you are not sure what state you’ve been in. Were you in fact, sleeping? But, you seemed to be aware. You’d definitely heard her voice prompting and you moved when she suggested.

After the final savasana (Corpse Pose), which was glorious, because for once the inner agitation slowed to the point you COULD actually follow your breath and release your chronically tight belly, you moved as if on a cloud-you felt that light. As you wriggle into a seated kneeling position with your hands in prayer position and your head bowed slightly, you realize that, at least for a few minutes, you could accept yourself, just as is. Nothing to do or change or become. And who you are is really AOK.

Corpse Pose (Savasana)

today’s mantra: Just BE.
Spend a few minutes everyday relaxing, doing nothing in particular, just enjoying being with yourself.

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3 Responses

  1. Devin

    Hm, i always like the relaxation nights of yoga!

  2. Medium Yogini

    have you ever had everyone fall asleep during a relaxation class?

  3. Hi Medium Yogini,
    Falling asleep during a relaxation class??? Heck, yes!!
    Snoring….absolutely. ….Falling asleep and snoring during savasana or “corpse pose” at the end of any class–again, an emphatic YES.
    Have I ever done such a horrible thing??? Most definitely…and you are going to laugh, but even when I was the teacher, I have been known to drift a bit into a somnambulistic state (and please don’t tell anybody, but I’ve even let go a wee snore or two in a very long yoga nidra!).

    Let’s not even discuss what I’ve been up to during seated “meditation.” One of these days I’m sure I’m going to roll right off my chair! Jack Kornfield, the renowned Buddhist teacher and author of A Path With Heart, recounted somewhere his experience of meditating while sitting on the edge of a well. His attention stayed “on” and focused since of course, he did not want to roll forward into the well!

    What are the YOGA POLICE supposed to do in such a situation? Amnesty!!! If someone is in class and needs to sleep, well, what can I say….there’s nothing like a good ole savasana rest. Afterwards the student feels incredibly refreshed and hopefully, not too embarrassed.

    Only once have I ever needed to touch a student’s toe when they didn’t wake up from the general movement around them as the class returned to sitting.

    The senior Iyengar yoga teacher, Francois Raoult, has said that in times past teachers were known to (I cringe at the thought) kick students if they were found falling beneath wakeful consciousness. Now he says, don’t try to fight it so hard. If you find yourself really sleepy, relax into it. Usually after a few minutes, I find that that mini-rest did the trick and I can maintain my awareness for the remainder of the time left in savasana or in whatever relaxation pose I happen to be practicing then.

    If students are sleeping, and I remember a really warm day last summer, when all of us in a “seasoned” class fell asleep during savasana.
    Again, the teacher can decide if h/she wants to let it go, or wants to speak more to stimulate and guide the student’s awareness. Something such as “Bring your awareness to your heart center and invite the breath to open that place of perfect contentment and peace…..” Alternatively, the teacher could play some soft music, though music can have a sedating effect and may backfire on you.

    All of these tricks you can use in your own home practice as well. Learning to stay awake and focused comes (at least it comes more often) as the practitioner grows more seasoned. Remember, I like to remind my students, the point is not to sleep, the point is to become more fully awake to all aspects of our lives, so that we can live more deeply, less reactively.

    I’d love to hear what happens to you, Medium Yogini, and what tricks you use and how you self-talk during relaxation as you try to awaken to this moment.

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