What to do when Savasana isn’t so sweet

I love ab work. I do. Planks, climb the rope, butt lifts, crunches. Bring it on. Just not at the end of a yoga practice, please, as a student in a recent class insisted upon doing. As lovingly as I could, I encouraged her with my eyes to please lie back down already. The rest of the class could do well without the accompanying soundtrack of grunting and puffing through bicycle twists.

Sweet Svasana

Sweet Savasana

Savasana, or also known as deep rest, (or corpse pose if you can get past the morbid undertones) isn’t easy. Our minds typically want to be doing something. Anything. Even completely motionless, my mind is just one forgotten breath away from careening down a to-do list to tackle the moment I finish my final Ohm. Buy more bananas; freeze the spotted ones rotting away on the counter; clean the cat box before he kicks all the sand out of it, thus creating another project to tackle; call my Dad who just had a freaking tree fall through his house; eat fewer animal cookies. And down the fast lane it goes.

I’m capable of working up a bigger mental sweat in Savasana then 90 minutes of power poses.

Savasana is supposedly simple. You just lie down and shut yourself the f*** up. Alas, if only it were that simple. In our get a tighter ass-ana society (it’s why I first took a class 20 some years ago) with a twisted formula of push harder/work faster/get more likes on FB = better, doing nothing is pretty low on the priority totem pole. But it shouldn’t be. Here are a few reasons why:

Ma’am, could you kindly not step on my forehead?”

Savasana cultivates mindfulness. If we can get quiet even for a couple of minutes, once we arise, life as it’s unfolding right smack in front of us takes on a brighter hue. And keeps those around us a little safer. This morning a dear yogi next to me got up, made sloppy Origami out of her mat (no time to roll it, apparently), kicked her sweaty blocks to the corner and proceeded to kick me in the head as I attempted to relax in Svasana.

Savasana can keep your hormones from wreaking havoc. Cortisol, I’m talking to you. That pesky stress hormone doesn’t turn off by itself. We have to do that with rest. Otherwise all kinds of unyoga-like human carnage can result: perpetual fatigue, belly fat, react-now-and-regret-it-later behavior.

Savasana lets you feel, and celebrate. I don’t know about you, but after holding, twisting, balancing, sweating, and at times inwardly cursing, I want a little reward immediately following. And because none of my teachers pass animal cookies out after class, I find my reward in Savasana. The five minutes or so of rest is like my little victory lap after honoring my commitment to doing the work of yoga, on my body and my mind.

So yogis, lie down and relax. It really is quite sweet.


To Paris with Love: why I’ll keep carrying my journal and pen

Less than a month ago, walking through the Boston Public Garden subsequent to a delightful three-hour class stumbling through basic French at the nearby Cultural Center, the deepest concern occupying my thoughts was whether I would be able to roll my Rs distinctly enough to gain a shred of respect should I find myself in a Parisian Cafe requesting a croissant avec confiture.

Journal and pen

I took that same walk again this past weekend, but instead of inhaling the crisp scent of fall, absorbing the myriad shades of strewn leaves in my path and savoring the magic of life on a cloudless day, my heart dropped with sorrow. The lovely souls whose culture and beautiful way of life I’ve been celebrating vicariously through my language lessons were attacked. Senselessly, mercilessly, horrifically.

Who are these attackers? And how can God allow such heartless monsters to walk amongst us? To kill and maim our French brothers and sisters? I don’t know and I’ll never understand.

I carry a journal and pen with me everywhere – even when it’s not very convenient (skinny jeans sans purse poses a challenge) – to record my thoughts, observances, and the bananas I keep forgetting to pick up at the market on the way home. As I sipped on Moroccan Mint tea at a favorite coffee shop in Brookline with a soundtrack playing an equal-parts heartbreaking and comforting French Chanteuse vocalist recently, I prepared to scribble down all the confusion and anger over what happened. Before pen met paper, however, I came across several examples of love I had previously recorded. Little snippets of love in action as it had once unfolded before me – on a subway, at this very coffee shop, on a path. And that’s when I realized that in this moment I needed to read love. Not record sadness. Thumbing through my random, unfiltered notes lifted my heart, and confirmed that love is always worth noticing, even if it requires scribbling it down every time I see it:

October 19: They’re so cute…

Sitting astride at the four-top table when most couples would instead sit across from each other. She’s giggling, leaning into him, both arms wrapped around his left bicep as he pretends to read his iPhone. She plucks it away, he laughs and kisses her forehead..”

October 28: Her hands look just like his…

tissue white with lapis-hued veins and smooth skin. The joints are slightly gnarled but she interlaces her fingers with all the grace of the craftsman he was when alive. I want to hold her hands. Tell her I see my late papa whom I miss so much in her hands. I look briefly into her eyes, and as I turn away out of natural shyness I’m not quick enough. She holds my gaze and smiles deeply into my heart. Then grasps the handrail firmly to lift her tiny aging frame from the seat to debark the Green Line at the Longwood stop.

November 2: This is the third time I’ve seen them coming along the Somerville path…

Too many chance encounters to not connect now…the sweet young woman managing the German Shepard on one leash while reeling in the puny but springy white fluffy mutt on the other. She tells me she adores her pups. I tell her I want a dog but can’t commit right now. But how can you not commit to the love of a dog, she asks?