To me, the hardest yoga pose in the world is Shavasana.
I know, I know. It’s called corpse pose. It’s mostly just lying on the floor and sleeping. But you just have to stay so still. And grounded. And quiet. I hate all three of these things.
I’ve been practicing yoga for the last few years now on and off, and I know that learning to be still and quiet are important aspects to the practice, and to life. But for me, sitting still on a mat is way, way harder than trying to do something like run a half-marathon.
I’m loud and high-strung, and there are a lot of athletic things that I do love doing. Most of them are considered a bit masochistic (running half-marathons, circuits of death, kickboxing), and I consider myself to be a cardio junkie. If I don’t regularly keep physically active, I end up going bat-shit crazy. Without exercise, my mind starts racing and I start worrying about when the next World War III will be while convincing myself that I have cancer and that no one will ever love me. So instead, I exercise.
In order to really take care of my body, I realized a few years ago that I wanted to incorporate a yoga practice. It’s good for body awareness, and to keep my muscles stretched–plus, I need to pay someone to tell me to breathe every now and then. I don’t even like to admit to people that I do yoga, because I’m one of those assholes who once declared that they would never ever do it. I never wanted to be a “yoga girl.” In my head, they were skinny blonde people who never ate cookies and talked in soft voices about “bullshit that was stupid.”
Besides being prejudiced against blonde thin people, the slowness of yoga drove me nuts. I’ve experimented with a lot of different types, and the one that I like the best (also one of the ones that people often think is masochistic) is Bikram Yoga. In the Bikram practice, you go through 26 poses in 40 degree C (90 F) heat. There are some wonderful poses throughout the practice, but my least favorite is definitely Shavasana. (Which you have to do in between postures of the entire sitting series.)
While I lie on the floor in corpse pose, trying my best at playing dead, my inner monologue is very much alive, and generally as follows:
“Am I doing this right? Hey, there’s a crack in that ceiling, it kind of looks like bunny. Is God real? What if 9/11 happens again? Oh my god, brain, shut up. Seriously, you are a stupid fucking piece of shit. What if I never have children? Do I even want children? I wish this teacher would stop talking. AUGH. I want chocolate. SHHH. Stay still. Stay still. I wonder what everyone in this class is thinking right now. What would happen if I asked them. HEY! YOU GUYS! YOU GUYS! ARE YOUR THOUGHTS MORE QUIET THAN MINE? RACHEL YOU F***ING ASSHOLE STAY STILL AND BREATHE. Do you think I got that email I’m waiting on in my inbox? I have to check my iPhone. This is dumb. I want to stand on my head. Oh my god, Rachel, YOU SUCK. YOU SUCK. YOU SUCK SO F**ING HARD!”
Then the teacher generally says something like, “Quiet your mind,” and instead of doing that, I keep calling myself a string of swear words in my head. Then the pose is over, and I have spent the whole time not meditating and yelling at myself for not meditating.
According to most teachers I’ve asked, the mental “chatter” (or in my case, yelling) is completely and totally normal. One of the points of the pose is to get our minds to stop the chatter/yelling.
Some of the ways I have attempted to do this are by pretending that there is a long, old-answering-machine-style “beep” during the duration of the pose; challenging myself to only say nice things to myself if I’m going to talk to myself while I’m in this pose; and focusing on my breath the whole time.
While I still haven’t wrapped my brain around this pose, deep down I know that getting my mind to quiet while lying in it, is just as valuable, if not more valuable than sweating my anxiety out in cardio classes. Sometimes it’s better to sit with where you are instead of trying to get rid of it out of your pores. Trying to get rid of things fast instead of sitting and feeling what I’m feeling is something I do all the time. Maybe learning how to sit still in Shavasana is the key to being less anxious and mean to myself. Maybe if I practice for another gazillion years, I’ll finally master it and I’ll be able to be at peace with myself.
Now which one of you wants to come to class and practice this f**king pose with me?
What are you experiences like with Shavasana? Let’s chat about it! Tweet me @RachelResnik and make sure to also tag @litdarling!
Photo by www.flickr.com/photos/bradleypjohnson