Unbelievably, the title isn’t hyperbole. Savasana, or “corpse pose,” is usually the final resting pose in a yoga practice. In can be the most maddeningly difficult part of class, the greatest reward, or—more commonly—a little of both. Asanas, the pose part of yoga, were originally meant, thousands of years ago, to get the body stretched, flexed and ready to sit for several hours of meditation. Today, that meditation is often squeezed into a few minutes of frustrating bliss as we all strive towards a clear mind.
Remember: A lifetime of so-called successful meditation usually entails only a few minutes or even seconds of true, clear meditation. (In other words, don’t give up!).
Savasana can take many forms. Some teachers prefer to let students just reflect quietly, crafting their own savasana in silence. Others prefer guided meditation, describing a scene that’s meant to direct students towards peace, reflection, and a meditative state. When I teach, I try to use this opportunity to share complementary poetry that can be used as a tool to inspire, tuck into peace, or intrigue. Hey, that’s the byproduct of being a poet. Shameless plugs featuring my maiden name can be found here and here.
It All Started at an LA Fitness …
It’s easy to see how someone can say savasana “saved their life” over numerous classes, and I’m not knocking that one bit. Of course savasana can save and change lives because that’s exactly what yoga and meditation have the power to do. My experience, however, happened much more succinctly with a rabbit punch to the gut kind of moment.
I take yoga pretty much however and whenever I can get it, and that includes at big box gyms. You might not think a life-saving moment would happen at an LA Fitness, but mine did. I was at my absolute lowest weight and had 13 percent body fat. For comparison, female Olympic athletes have 19 percent on average, and professional female crossfitters have 18. Half my hair had fallen out (no exaggeration there, and I’d spent $4,000 at Hair Club), lanugo was sprouting on my arms, neck and stomach, and I was a diagnosed insomniac who peaked at 36 consecutive hours of being awake at a stretch.
During this particular savasana class, the instructor asked us to think of five things we loved about ourselves. Just five. How hard could that be? It could be anything, she explained. Nothing was too minor.
I thought, I really did. I thought hard. I could not come up with a single thing. Not one.
Sure, there were things I didn’t mind about myself. Things I was indifferent about. But love? Nothing. I was still trying when she began guiding us out of savasana.
It was in that moment that I decided to get help. I found a specialist that afternoon and began what has been and will be a lifetime of recovering—though I don’t believe in being “recovered.” Like an alcoholic, it will always be a work in progress with no finish line in sight. Would I have started on such a path if it hadn’t been for that savasana? Maybe and maybe not. All I know for certain is that I wouldn’t have done it as soon, and there’s no telling if waiting would have meant I was too late.
Being severely underweight comes with a menagerie of misnomers. For starters, very few people die of starvation. There’s a lot that happens before that. A lot of people who starve themselves actually die of heart failure. The heart is a muscle, and just like every other muscle in the body, a lack of nourishment will destroy it. How fitting, then, that yoga—a practice that so often has a cue of “heart center,” “heart forward,” and “heart shine”—was what brought me ‘round the bend. How perfect that it was savasana, corpse pose, that helped me dig my way out of that metaphorical grave, through the dirty and squirming worms, and back to the world of the living.
(Photo from iStock)