Our asana practice can be really powerful, but ultimately we're just making shapes and biding our time if we don't dip a little deeper...
how deep do you go? what can 'surrender' really mean to you?
It's my conceit and a great dose of my teaching that the asana practice is simply mimetic of life, and practice for death. It's no mistake or accident that every tradition in the Yoga realm concludes in Savasana - the pose of the corpse - prior to 'rousing' and 'sealing', and then the new beginning. I would posit that Savasana is the most important, and yet most under-appreciated and under-utilized pose in the canon.
How and why corpse pose? Because it mimics the trajectory of the life-cycle in the asana practice; we generally begin down on the ground, small, settled and contained, We build vigor, we rise to standing from which we grow into expansion, power, movement, experimentation, success and failure through the peak. The natural trajectory then begins to diminish and we move closer to the earth, into slower and more grounded movements and a more restorative contemplative experience. At the culmination of the practice, we release the body from asana and we release the breathing from the pranayama – release, let go, let dissipate, allow decomposition, letting it die.
Sometimes, it almost appears that we’ve stopped breathing in the depth of savasana, as if we were being breathed from the external, rather from the energy of our musculature. This is release, union and absorption and dissipation. This is the metaphor for death. To let go in practice so when presented by the actual, we have an association to inform.
This belief is expressed in the aphorism:
'shivah shakti vihinah shavah' - or
'Shiva deprived of Shakti is Sava (a corpse).'
Statements such as this recur in most of the Tantras in one form or another. Without the animating grace of the feminine to come into the male corpse, we wouldn’t have the form of Shiva… and, without the corpse that desires the animation, Shakti would have no lover.
Body without spirit is corpse; spirit without body yearns for expression and union, like the lover. When we practice for death in the final pose of the asana practice, we invite the life-force to come and once again reanimate us into the dance of life… dance every day, until Shakti leaves Shiva and Sava is all that remains.
Practice, all is coming. Release, for all is going.
“Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.”
I'll be teaching a special workshop around this theme coming up at Practice Yoga Austin, on Saturday the 4th of April.
Check this sentence for a link to the event!
Give thanks and praise, not dead yet!!