Isn't it so weird how a minor event or a casual word can change your entire perspective on something you've thought of in a particular way forever?
I went to a different yoga studio last weekend. I'm trying to work on my flexibility, and I wanted to go to a slower paced class which would allow me to hold poses for longer. The teacher was one of those people who always has a beatific smile on their face, barely speaks above a whisper, and quotes Deepak Chopra casually. Basically someone who makes you want to roll your eyes and be like seriously, are you for real? but also makes you feel calm and lighter just from being around them.
She, with the soft voice and smile, changed the way I view my practice.
Class often starts with an intention. They have practical applications for your time on the mat like "balance" or "patience", but also transcend it. If you can learn patience with yourself when you're struggling with a pose that you did perfectly yesterday, you can learn to have patience with yourself in your daily struggles etc. I go to class and make intentions so often that I rarely think of their meaning or their impact on my life.
This, too, has changed for me.
We held poses for an uncomfortably long time. Yogi's believe that the tendons and ligaments in our hips hold emotional memories; it is here that we store our frustration, pain and sadness. In stretching, we try to let go of those things. Letting go is painful; we don't want to remember, and when we do, we don't want to let go. A class filled with hip-openers held for an eternity was painful and emotionally draining. By the time we got to the end, I was ready to collapse and desperately grateful for shavasana or "corpse" pose.
We do shavasana at the end of every class, and it is exactly as it sounds. You lay on your back like a corpse and try to completely relax - it's a place of conscious relaxation that goes beyond sleep. I've always thought we did it because we're exhausted and it feels nice; I never thought of the implications of "corpse." And then the teacher said: We hold corpse pose because it is a way of putting all the negativity, everything we do not want to engage in or embody, to rest. It is a death of those things.
So all that stuff that made me want to cry when I was holding hip-openers? Not only did I let them go, I killed them.
After shavasana, we always roll onto our right side for "fetal" pose. Again, I just thought we did this because it is a nice transition to a seated pose. Not so. My teacher explained that we do this because it gives life to positivity, to all the qualities we want to embody and the seeds we want to grow fruitful in our lives. We are giving life to the intention we made at the beginning of class.
I know it's easy to dismiss anything symbolic or yoga related as "new-agey", but that ignores the truth about human beings. Our lives revolve around symbols; we communicate in symbols that we attribute meaning to. And there's nothing new about yoga; it is a tradition that predates all religion.
These revelations gave new meaning to poses I do every single day, and also kind of made me want to drop into shavasana every time something I don't want to welcome into my life is happening -- but I'll probably just save it for my mat. I've been very worried recently, and I'm finding comfort in the idea that I can bring death to worry and life to hope through two simple poses :)