Ask most yogis and they will say that Savasana is either their most favorite yoga post or their most dreaded. For many people, lying still and doing nothing but breathe is an almost impossible task. However, Savasana is quite possibly the most important pose of all.
Whether we're doing a nice, flowy vinyasa, a sweaty, invigorating Ashtanga series, or a restorative yin practice, we always end our practice with Savasana. Also referred to as Corpse Pose, our intention in Savasana is to let go of effort and allow our practice to sink in. However, it is not just an ending, it is also a beginning.
The original intent of asana or yoga poses was to prepare one's body for meditation. It helps us work out the kinks in our bodies, so that when we sit to meditate, we aren't distracted by the pain in our hips, back, or neck. We also focus on the breath during asana, which primes our minds to more quickly find a relaxed state.
Yoga asana practice also helps us go forward and face our days with more grace. Our practice teaches us to be aware of and honor our bodies as they are at any moment. If we notice our backs hurting from being hunched over at our desks, we can remind ourselves to pull our shoulders down and back as we are taught in Tadasana. If we are feeling anxious, we can practice four-part breath - breathing in, retaining our breath, breathing out, retaining the emptiness - to deepen and calm our fight or flight response. If we are in a challenging situation, we can remember that time we thought we'd never be able to make it through pigeon pose, but we stuck with it and lived to tell the tale.
When our teachers call for Savasana at the end of our practice, it's not something to be rushed through or skipped. It not only marks the end of class and an integration of our practice, but it marks the beginning of a new life. Each moment we are lucky enough to receive is a new beginning and our yoga practice teaches us to meet each moment with awareness and grace.
We all know that one person who seems to have it all together. She never seems to be in a rush; she always has time to answer a question or lend an ear; she always has a thousand things to do, but never appears flustered; she makes a decision and runs with it; and even though she ran out of the house without her shoes because it was super early and she had to teach yoga, she just smiles and says she’s thankful that she didn’t really need shoes anyway.
And we also know that person who doesn’t seem to have it together at all. Her moods are constantly changing; she complains a lot and never seems to be satisfied; she’s always running late no mater how early she got up; she can’t make a decision even when it’s crucial to her well-being; and she gets overwhelmed and flustered when she has too many things to do.
Full disclosure: I am one of the later. My emotions run the show. I’m never satisfied with anything for long. I’m always running late because my internal clock seems to be five minutes off (it’s a Matrix thing). And I stink at multi-tasking, which means I get overwhelmed when I have more than one thing to do. I’d rather not be like this. I would rather be a calm, steady person who takes life as it comes and doesn’t let much throw her off kilter. So when I was asked to write an article about steadiness, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, because steadiness is something I struggle with every day.
Since I’m a word nerd, I turned to my well-worn Webster’s New World Dictionary. It defines steady as:
v. 1. firm; fixed; stable. 2. constant, regular, uniform, or continuous. 3. not given to sudden changes. 4. not easily agitated, excited, or upset; calm and controlled.
I also looked up antonyms for steady. Some good words are imbalanced, unstable, weak, and wobbly. Bingo! There’s the word I was looking for. I’m wobbly. I’m knocked around by my emotions. One minute I’m happy as a lark, the next, my mind grabs hold of one of those well-practiced negative emotions, and suddenly I’m in the depths of despair. I have a hard time even siting still. When I’m anxious, I pace. When I’m siting, my knees jump around like they’re ready for me to cut and run at any minute.
What would it take to go from wobbly to steady? I struggled for days trying to figure out how I was going to approach the subject of steadiness, when I came upon a quote from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard that said,
“In Zen archery, for example, you forget about the goal – hitting the bull’s eye – and instead focus on all the individual moments involved in shooting an arrow. (…) If you’ve perfected all the elements, you can’t help but hit the center of the target. Te same philosophy is true for climbing mountains. If you focus on the process of climbing, you’ll end up on the summit.”
I had a bull’s eye to hit: steadiness. What I didn’t know were the elements I needed to to perfect. As I often do when I have something on my mind, I turned to yoga. My teachers say that how you deal with things on the mat is how you deal with them in life, so what better place to learn about steadiness than the place that purposely throws you off balance.
It’s not hard to believe from what I’ve just told you, but I stink at standing balance poses. I’ve struggled with it for years. Some days I’m calm as a cucumber. Other days, I can barely lift a toe off the ground before falling over. My teacher tells us to let the wobble happen. It’s okay to fall out of a pose, because falling out of a pose teaches us what we need to know to stay in the pose.
Standing balance poses are often asymmetrical, which automatically throws you off balance with one leg standing and the other leg off in an entirely different direction. The first step to achieve balance in an unbalanced pose is to provide yourself with a firm foundation with your standing leg. It has to be straight like a pillar. If it’s bent or your hip is jutted off to the side, your body wants to correct itself and it does so by wobbling form side to side and front to back, like a bad attempt at the Hula Hoop. With a firm standing leg, there’s less need for correction.
The next step is to find a focal point, a stationary point on which to concentrate. When you were a kid, did you ever stand on one leg with a bunch of other kids? I’ll bet it was pretty hard to keep from falling over or dancing around on one leg while all the other kids were wiggling around as well. When you focus on something fixed, like a spot on the wall or the floor, your mind can’t think of anything else and everything else falls away. With that pointed focus, your body relaxes and becomes stiller. What naturally follows when your mind and body are still and relaxed is that your breathing slows, which in turn calms your mind and relaxes your body more. It’s a deliciously, vicious cycle.
You may wonder why relaxing your body is so important. Wouldn’t you want your body to be tense so that you could control it and stay in the pose? Imagine standing on one leg with the person in front of you swaying and trying to stay in their own pose. They distract you and soon your arms try to help you keep your balance like a man on a high wire. You tense up trying to use your strength to stay upright. You wobble from side to side like a Weeble. You may actually even fall down. (What the heck is a Weeble, you ask? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFzhjnjXc2o) I’ve found that when I start to lose my balance, I find a spot on the floor or the wall to focus on. I take a super deep breath, bring my arms closer to my center, and consciously make my body relax. Soon I’ve slowed the wobble to a manageable level.
How does all this translate into steadiness in our day to day lives? The most important thing is to be able to recognize the wobble. It’s not as easy when you’re in your car or behind a computer screen as it is when you’re standing on one leg, but the signs are still there: your body is tense, you can’t concentrate, and you feel overwhelmed and anxious. When you feel yourself getting wobbly, take a few deep, full breaths. It’s okay, too, if the breathing thing doesn’t work right away. As with the standing poses, if you fall out, you can always try again. As you continue to breathe, you can find something to focus on like your breath or your heartbeat or the air moving against your skin. Soon, your heart rate will slow, your thoughts will slow to a nice meander. You’ll feel calm and relaxed. Steady.
You don’t have to be a yogi or sit cross legged on the floor to fix your wobble either. Anything that gets you “in the zone” will have the same affect. Being “in the zone” doesn’t just happen in sports. It can happen while playing music, gardening, cooking, taking a bath, or even cleaning out the garage. Being “in the zone” is the ultimate in steadiness. When you’re doing something you enjoy, you’re focused. You’ll even think about other things while you’re doing it, but the thoughts come and go without needing your attention. You are relaxed. The residual effects of that relaxed state will last for hours afterward.
I’ll give you an example from my life. I recently took an art class and one of our projects was to make an interesting drawing by using Zentangles®, which is a method of doodling that promotes meditation and stress relief. (For more information on Zentangles®, go to www.tanglepaterns.com) I liken it to making my own adult coloring book. I decided on a drawing and picked a few tangles, and got to work. As I began drawing my tangles, I noticed that I was focused, yet unfocused. I was simply drawing patterns, over and over again. I probably had a thousand thoughts, but they came and went. I was super relaxed and definitely felt steady. Nothing could rock my boat. The next thing I knew, it was several hours later. Where had the time gone and how had I not noticed that the sun went down? I felt so good though, that it didn’t mater that I hadn't done the dishes or made my bed.
But what if you start to wobble at work? The good thing is that the main element in our process toward steadiness is breathing. You do it all the time anyway, so no one will notice if you’re putting a little more emphasis on it or not. Instead of opening Facebook or surfing the internet, why not sit still, do a little intentional breathing, maybe focus on the elephant figurine on your desk or even the stapler for that mater, and just let all of the busyness around you fall away. Or if possible, go outside on your lunch break. Find a nice, out of the way spot to sit quietly for ten minutes. Take some deep breaths, notice the people walking by. You’re not likely to run up and grab one of them by the leg and make them drag you along with them like you did to your dad when you were a kid. You’ll simply notice them and let them walk on by. The same goes with your thoughts. Notice them and let them pass on by. When your ten minutes is up, you’ll feel calm, cool, and steady as a rock.
It‘ll take some practice, but soon you’ll notice that you’re steady more often than not. Te most important thing is to recognize when the wobble starts. It’s much easier to steady yourself before the wobble gets too big.
I’m certainly happy that I was asked to write this article. I’ve struggled with the wobble most of my life, but it wasn’t until I sat down to write that I realized how much of a struggle it is for me. I even wobbled trying to write about the wobble. Jack Kerouac famously said “One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” Today, after all that struggle, I found the right words and they are simple. Notice. Focus. Breathe.
Vinyasa is my go-to style of yoga. Vinyasa links breath with movement—inhale/move, exhale/ move—that gradually leads the practitioner to a “peak” pose. When a teacher asks students to “take a vinyasa”, it also means to move through the transitional sequence of plank to chaturanga to upward-facing dog and then downward-facing dog. This transition resets the body, allowing for the work of the prior series of poses to sink in, so to speak. The vinyasa flow is an integral part of this style of yoga, but it’s also the part that sometimes gets taken for granted. The sequence of poses is often fairly rigorous and downward dog is a considered a resting pose, so students will often rush through the flow without much regard to alignment in order to get to down dog. However, it’s vital to move mindfully in order to reap the most benefit of the transition and avoid shoulder injuries.
I’ve always been physically strong. When I was five years old, I helped my grandpa cut down a cherry tree. He sawed off the branches and I hauled the pieces back to the patio. I overheard my grandpa tell his friend that he had never seen such a strong, hardworking little kid before. I’m no longer anywhere near five years old, but that one little sentence shaped a big part of who I am today and how I live my life. So when I started feeling a twinge in my shoulder in chaturanga, I simply powered through. I can take it. I’m strong, right? Over time though, I couldn’t power through any more. The twinge became a chronic pain that I could no longer ignore and that’s when the words of my yoga teachers started to sink in. They would always give us an option to go through vinyasa or not, depending on whether it suits the body that day. Even though it has bruised my ego, I’ve had to change the way I do my flow in order to heal my shoulder. Instead of powering through the pain in straight legged chaturanga, I now have to go to my knees to lower down, go through a small cobra instead of up dog and then push back to my knees and up into down dog. Sometimes, I’ll give in and hang out in down dog instead of opting for the flow and sometimes I simply sit back in child’s pose if I’ve overdone it. This injury has taught me that I don’t have to be strong ALL the time. I can be vulnerable and no one will judge or think less of me for it. It’s humbling, but also a relief. It’s also a great lesson to put into practice in my day-to-day life.
I’ve often heard the saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. This saying definitely applies to my work life. I’ve been searching for the right work all of my adult life. I’ve tried many different things that I thought would interest me as well as make money. My last job held a lot of promise. I was working for a new small business, manufacturing herbal products. On paper, it was the perfect job for me and it was…for a few months. Then I began to feel, as I had in all my other jobs, unappreciated, undervalued, unfulfilled, and restless for change. I powered through for six more months. I kept believing that if I stuck with it a while longer, that emotional twinge would get better. However, like my shoulder twinge, it only got worse. I knew that I had to change the way I was doing things in order to find the work that satisfied my restless soul. So, after ten months of powering through, I quit my job. And this time, as my favorite YouTube astrologer says, I “have to do it different.” I realize now that I can no longer keep doing things the same way expecting different results. The question is, exactly how does one go about doing it different? I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take some time off to do some soul searching. I’ve found that, for me, doing it different means that I have to give up my belief that all I have to offer is my strength, my ability to work hard, and the perseverance to power my way through every situation, no matter how unhappy I am. I know now that I can’t just have a job that pays the bills; I need work that makes my soul happy. And to be happy, my soul needs to create. It wants to be seen and heard. It wants to be valued. It wants me to quit believing my old hand-me-down beliefs, and pay attention to the twinges that are guiding me toward what I need to be happy. I’ve decided that this time, I won’t rush through the transition out of fear. I’ll move mindfully and in alignment with my soul’s desire—maybe even take a nice long child’s pose—so that I can do it different and heal my life.
Author Stefanie Jones
Photo by Stefanie Jones
“Work Work Work” by Rhianna is the anthem of today’s society. In today’s society, media marketing has less than three seconds to get consumers’ attention and with a plethora of options, we consumers are connected digitally all the time—when we walk, run, drive and fly. Getting the attention of the consumer is one problem, the second becomes keeping it.
This is where meditation can come into play and make a huge difference in our lives by helping us reset from the hyper-stimulating world around us. This is the gold that yoga instructors, wellness coordinators and personal development teachers have been focusing on to help our well-connected population reconnect to themselves. Corporate Offices and International airports now include yoga and meditation rooms to aid their employees and travelers in conscious connection while in the flow of the day.
Everyone can learn meditation with practice. Everyone can learn to relax and calm their minds in a few minutes, and you can build your meditation time with practice. Meditation can be done in silence, through movement, or with guidance and music. Each person will find their own unique way to begin a meditation practice, but for most, guided meditation is easiest. There are many digital options available like Hay House, HeadSpace, and YouTube. Whatever you desire – there is an option available – if not you create it.
Meditation can be quite simple and the benefits are well worth the effort. Meditation has been proven to increase focus, feelings of well-being, inner wisdom, insight, gratitude and even mystical experiences. The simplest way to get started is by:
Three minutes of your time can change your life, in meditation you may discover a message that was calling to you when you were not listening.
Andrea Bell is a connective consultant with a background in risk management, insurance, nutrition and wellness. She loves to travel and learn and has been involved in many coaching organizations including Tony Robbins Platinum Partnership, Institute for the Psychology of Eating and Integrative Nutrition.She is in the process of writing
her first creative book for teenagers.
If you look at your life as a computer – wouldn’t you want to upgrade your software to become the most optimum operating system?
Apple is currently upgrading to the El Capitan OS. PCs are updating their Windows software all the time. Also our phones are updating constantly to get all the bugs out. Sometimes you are ready for the updates and sometime you push them aside. But at some point you will have to hit the Accept Update button. This updating is very much akin to a person hiring a personal coach to help improve the area of life, business or any other area that is warranted.
A personal coach can be someone who has been on the path before you. Someone who can help you see the blocks that you have consciously and unconsciously put in front of yourself. Coaches are on the sidelines cheering you on, but they can also pull you aside and tell you that you are running the wrong play. Pointing out that this wrong play has created the outcome you are experiencing at the moment. Coaches can have a playbook of education, modalities and experiences in every industry. These can come in the following areas:
The one thing about coaching is that you have to be ready to do the work.
You have to be ready for constructive criticism that may open a door that you may have shut yourself.
One of the biggest reasons for hiring a coach is when you are self-sabotaging yourself from your own evolution and attaining your goals. When your programming is stuck with the clock face turning too long – that is when you would want a second opinion. Coaches give a fresh perspective as most have worked through every scenario.
There are many reasons to consider utilizing a coach such as:
You will never know how extraordinary your life will be unless you try.
Contact the author at www.intuitivearrow.com