Tuesday, April 8, 2008

peace and calm in the eye of the storm

Have you ever read the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst?

Well, it was one of those days. On a typical day, I'm a calm, happy person (just don't withdraw my daily dose of dark chocolate). Usually I'm able to take things in stride, and life is good. But sometimes, especially after a long bout of peace and quiet, life gives you a tidal wave.

Admittedly, I am an emotional eater. On a typical day, I make fairly healthy choices. But tonight, dinner consisted of ginger snaps and dark chocolate (thanks, Meredith!), a couple of mandarin oranges, and green tea.

And my yoga asana practice today consisted of the following:


Yes, you read that correctly. Savasana, or corpse pose. That's it. That's the only yoga asana I did today. On other "terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad days", sometimes I feel the need to run and release energy. But today was just exhausting. Physically, mentally, and emotionally. So I did not want to sweat through a power yoga or a vinyasa yoga practice today; nor did I want to do even a flowing Taoist yoga practice. A long savasana was in order.

Savasana is one of the highlights of my yoga asana practice. After doing moving sequences such as sun salutations and other poses, savasana is the time for final relaxation. You just lay there, close your eyes, and breathe. It's the time for just letting go, of releasing control. Those of you who know me well, you'll say this is a departure from the other controlled areas of my life. There's no pressure to achieve anything (Again, if you know me well, this is a departure from my sometimes over-achieving self.).

But this is why savasana is so needed. Over-achieving or not, anyone can benefit from this practice. Whether you lay here for 5 minutes or 50, it can do your body and mind lots of good. In savasana, just be.

Interestingly, savasana can also be one of the most challenging asanas. Letting go can truly be challenging. Every day, we stick to schedules and commitments and exert control over our activities and choices throughout the day. Every day, we are connected to our phones and computers. Disconnecting from that can be hard, and re-connecting with yourself can be hard as well. We are constantly bombarded by thoughts. Do you find yourself going through long stretches of time in which you just can't quiet the mind? I know I do. We go through our days talking, sending emails, doing chores, surfing the Internet, watching TV. One day, it just hit me that I have 4 email accounts. Quieting the mind can be so elusive! It helps to really "set the stage" for true relaxation.

In savasana, I just lay down and use props to make myself as comfortable as possible. Using props can make a world of difference in yoga, and you can use what you already have around your house:

- a bolster or pillow to place beneath the knees, to elevate the legs slightly; this also helps those with lower back discomfort
- a blanket
- an eye pillow (I have one that is filled with seeds and dried lavender for a relaxing scent)
- soft music

Just close your eyes... allow your body to become heavy, almost like you are sinking or melting into the ground. Thoughts naturally can come into your mind, and just acknowledge them, then let them go... without really attaching to them. Sometimes, when it's extra difficult to quiet the mind, repetitive phrases (mantra) can help. In my savasana practice tonight, I repeated this mantra in my mind: "I am safe. I am whole. I am loved." What a great affirmation -- I need all the positive energy I can get!

Then, release all control of your breath -- let your belly naturally rise and fall with every inhale and exhale. You can visualize your stress, tension, or negative energy leaving your body as you exhale, and let it just float away into space.


I just did a long savasana. It was like being in the eye of a storm, where everything is quiet and completely still. And I can't erase the fact that it truly was one of those days, but my mind is a bit fresher, my energy a bit more positive. Perhaps, despite the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, I can go to sleep peacefully, thinking about positive affirmations. Tomorrow is another day....

And tomorrow, I'll be looking out for spring blossoms. It WILL be a better day.

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