Finding Peace in Corpse Pose
For a long time, I considered the final position at the end of my practice a total waste of time. I did not get it. Just laying there, being still; what are we accomplishing? Where is the value in this seeming nothingness? We weren’t exercising, and we weren’t burning calories. We were just being still.
I couldn’t take it. The clock was ticking, and I had things to do. As soon as savasana was over I would jump up, roll up my mat, hit the shower, and give myself a mental check mark next to ‘work-out’. Mission completed. Next.
As I continued practicing, I’d hear the instructors tell us that, “Corpse pose is the most important posture.”
“Really?” I’d mentally quip, totally unconvinced; yet still, the words haunted me.
“This is when our body processes all we’ve done. We clear our minds; we create space.”
“Creating a space? What space? I have space.” I went on with my life; chalking those people up to being quirky, loose ended, and maybe even a little crazy. Surely they didn’t understand the real world.
But were they crazy? After all, always being on the go, running around stressed out over stuff like bills, work, and leaky faucets; my reaction to these things – these problems – was always to be frantic. Which, when you think about it, is a close cousin to crazy. So who actually was the crazy one—them, or me? They looked calm, and I did not.
I wanted some of this calm; I wanted a piece of this peace. I began to reconsider my definition of crazy, and the value of the corpse pose.
At the end of my next practice, the instructor had us lie on our backs. “Get comfortable and prepare for savasana,” he said. “Clear your mind and try not to move. Just let all of your thoughts go…” His voice was like chocolate to my ears, lulling me into a deep relaxation. I could get used to this.
“Be still? No problem.” I thought. Except, my pony tail was poking me in the back of my head. I reached back and discreetly removed the rubber band. No more distractions. I laid back down, but then my hair was loose and a piece of it was tickling my cheek. There was no way to be still with that going on, so I moved it. Then I tried to get really, super still.
I had it this time; I was going to master this. Then I noticed my underwear had sort of, um, crawled up in… there. So just one more minor re-adjustment and I was comfortable; ready to be totally still.
Clearing my mind, drifting into black space… and then,“Damnit!”
“I need to call and cancel my doctor’s appointment. What am I gonna say? Should I reschedule?” I fell into the mental trap of thinking about not thinking. It was frustrating. This corpse pose was harder than I’d expected.
This continued on for a while, fidgeting during corpse pose. I began to feel bad about myself. Why couldn’t I be still? Why couldn’t I clear my mind? I was failing. I felt hopeless, like I’d never get the hang of it; I would never know bliss, or peace, or whatever.I know we aren’t supposed to judge or listen to our egos, and all that beautiful yoga stuff, but I am a work in progress, and it takes time to grow to that point of enlightenment.
Then, one day it finally just clicked. I was doing a My Yoga Online practice with Meghan Currie, Sweetened with Core. We’d finished the physical practice and now we were lying back for corpse pose. I felt myself getting tense. I knew I was going to fidget, again. Never mind all the cool things I could do with my body; I couldn’t clear my mind; I wasn’t a real yogi.
I have a tendency to get tuned into the wrong stuff (imagine that). This time though, I tuned into her voice, groovy and sweet. She had a happy quality in her throat, and I liked it. I was totally digging it, and even during distraction, I heard her admit something absolutely shocking.
“See how fully you can let everything go.” She said. “So that doesn’t mean your brain stops thinking, or that your body stops feeling. What it means for me, at this point in my practice, is that I don’t take it so personally. I can allow my thoughts to move, to swirl…watching it all like I watch the clouds pass…”
Hold the goat! An instructor that has thoughts during savasana and admits to it? She could lose her job! What was she thinking admitting such things?
But, I liked this. This was human. This was real. Sure, I had thoughts, I had feelings, but I didn’t have to take them so personally. I could let them go, drift, send them away, float them down the proverbial yoga river.
I closed my eyes, and became very still. The laundry needed washing; I smiled at my dirty clothes and let them drift down the river. The cable bill was due; I sent it down the river. Our dog needed her morning walk; I kissed her on the head, and sent her down the river too.
“Begin to come back into your body, wiggle your toes…”
“Wait…what? Was it over?” I wondered.
“Turn on your side…”
Holy tic tacs! It was over, and I totally did it! I had found the elusive bliss! At least, that is, for that moment and to the best of my ability. But really, that’s all we ever have, our abilities in any particular moment. It’s what we do with those moments, how we grow in them, that provides the bliss to come off the mat.
And now I do find this bliss, though I’m not in some constant state of euphoria or anything. It’s more like I am calm and at peace with the things that go on around me. It’s just me, being aware that life isn’t always in my control; and knowing that even if things go wrong, I don’t have to fall apart. I can pause, observe the situation, and take a course of action.
Problem solving doesn’t require having a total meltdown, it turns out. It just means changing what you can change, and not worrying about what you can’t. I practice this now. I’m not perfect at it, but I work towards getting the hang of it, daily, when I am on my mat
I still struggle with savasana from time to time, but like Meghan says, I try not to take it so personally.
Amy O’Bar grew up in a series of small towns in Texas, served four years in the Army running crew drills, and, in the mean time, falling in love and getting married. She went to college, majored in English, became a teacher, and ran three marathons. She’s a freelance writer and enjoys soy lattes, walking under trees, and practicing yoga.