Before I did my yoga teacher training, I would roll my eyes whenever I read or heard someone say that savasana is actually the hardest pose.
Eff that, I thought. I could corpse for days.
But time and experience has humbled me, and I now see why this particular pose is so challenging. We have designed a rat race of tasks to keep ourselves perpetually busy. And even when we think we are enacting self-care or rest, it is not genuine repose. We are not allowing ourselves to experience our minds and souls just as they are. Instead, the time between items on our to-do lists are spent making more lists, or feeling guilty, or taking in all the sensory input we can by overconsuming not just food, alcohol and drugs, but also content. We can’t handle the overwhelming expansiveness within so we avoid it with any kind of mental, physical or emotional activity that is within reach.
After I do my at home yoga practice, I rarely give myself the gift of integration that is corpse pose. I will gladly take it during a class I attend but to offer it to myself feels superfluous and self-indulgent. I better be moving and getting better at real poses, I seem to think. And this is a yoga teacher saying that! I know the benefits and importance of savasana, and yet I consistently skip it.
Savasana, the yogic rest where we hover between wake and sleep, and give our full attention to the present moment one breath at a time, really is the hardest pose of them all. To be with ourselves as we truly are without falling down the rabbit hole of thinking feels nearly impossible largely due to its simplicity.
To be overwhelmed with guilt for doing nothing is not genuine rest. To ruminate is not genuine rest. To plan is not genuine rest. And yet these are all things that we spend our precious moments in savasana doing.
So instead of adding to the pile of things to feel bad about, I suggest we embrace the struggle with savasana. I suggest we honour the difficulty in making the always available choice to come back to the present moment. Again and again.
I grew up with my mother’s conflicting refrains of how she would die for her children while at the same time how she absolutely despised having to take care of them. Let me be clear, my mother is a good, loving person but her outbursts and tantrums at how unfair her life was and the verbal dressing-downs I got as the supposed cause of her misery did a number on my head.
As a child, I grew up with the absolute knowledge that I had ruined her life and that I was the cause of all her suffering. This person who I loved dearly and depended on completely absolutely hated me. And I can look back now and feel a deep compassion at how fearful and inadequate my mother actually felt, but an eight year old doesn’t get it. To a child, the world is black and white, right and wrong, and I knew without a doubt that I was not wanted and I was not worthy of anyone’s time or attention.
My experience is not unique because all children are shaped by this contradiction of perceived need and what is actually available. This includes basics like food and shelter but it also includes time, energy and attention. And being raised by a single parent, all of these were at times in short supply. With my perceived needs not being met, all I could do was assume that it was because I was a worthless piece of trash.
We all cope with this in different ways. I retreat and numb. I try to get very quiet and very small, and when I start to feel worthless, I want to drown this out with any number of distractions. Eating, shopping, Netflix bingeing...basically I want to hurt myself if it means I don’t have to feel like a total loser for even just a few minutes.
My point, as a childless adult child, is this: no one needs you to be a martyr. No one needs you to be willing to die for them. No one needs your sacrifice out of a sense of obligation. What people actually need is for each one of us to genuinely take care of ourselves. To constantly check in with ourselves and really feel it all, including the icky sticky within. When we make room for our pain, fear, and hope, we move into authenticity. This keeps these uncomfortable experiences from mutating until we have no choice but to pour them into a giant cauldron labeled blame and dump it on some unsuspecting soul who just happens to have the bad luck of proximity.
And to any parent reading this, your job is hard. Like so hard that I said no thanks. And I am in awe of parents who can keep their shit together the majority of the time and I am compassionate towards those who can’t, because parenthood looks like a mindfuck of the most epic proportions. But please never forget that the soul you are caring for didn’t have much choice in the matter of becoming your child. And never forget that you too were once a child just as innocent and precious as your own, and it is a good idea to let that inner kid cry until its broken heart starts to mend with the love and strength of your hug.
We don’t need to die for one another: we need to live fully and truthfully for one another.
In any facet of life, mistakes are going to happen. They are inevitable. No matter how careful we think we are being, we might just be missing that last piece of the puzzle that would have made us realize how off course we actually were.
And the fear of fucking up can be a mistake because it holds us still and there is no growth in familiarity and comfort. If left unchecked this analysis paralysis can be the most costly mistake of all as it slowly but surely takes our lives, one fearful day at a time.
There is no detour to perfection. There is no way to avoid every single mistake. All we can do is prepare as much as our present knowledge and circumstance will allow, and go slow. Maybe we can’t avoid all mistakes but we can certainly limit their devastation by giving ourselves the space and time to pay attention and change course when the path ahead is no longer serving us.
The bottom line is this: we are all going to fuck up and that’s okay.
May we be safe. May we be peaceful. May we be brave enough to cut ourselves some slack.