Today I was listening to a palliative care physician speak with Oprah about what he observes and feels during the end of life for individuals in his care. His comments reminded me of what the ancient Yogis were acknowledging while constructing their practices. Instead of only celebrating the Life Force, the earthly prana, the Yogis also included the reality check of Savasana, the corpse pose.
You would think that reclining face up and relaxing is the easiest thing to do but it turns out not to be true for all. Sometimes at the end of an asana class, students are reclining because the teacher told them to do that and maybe their eyes are closed, but their minds are busy - planning, emoting, daydreaming - and not at all deeply relaxing. No amount of skillful instruction can convince the person who is afraid and resistant to 'letting go' to relax. That person can't 'hear' the teacher.
I know because I was like that early on ... reclining there and thinking/fearing that if I really relaxed I would lose my sense of self. If I profoundly relaxed, would I sink to the bottom of the pool of Life?
Today I would compassionately label this gripping onto the ego and smile but back then, decades ago, it was my secret. Genuine relaxation and acceptance of the mysteries of life was beyond my reach then because I was in control mode. Blame it on the immaturity of youth but that would not be correct because, frankly, many humans will try to avoid the ultimate letting go well into old age, sickness and death.
OK, so you might have clicked on my website looking for an uplifting account of the benefits of Yoga and now you are bummed. I have good news for you - if you are smart and lucky enough to choose a traditionally trained teacher who studied with Indian or Tibetan yoga masters or those Westerners who did that, you will be guided to learn to be comfortable with the full range of human experiences, from birth to death.
"A good fire burns itself completely." - Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind