Hot tears leak unwanted from my eyes. They trickle down the side of my face and into my ears making the teacher’s voice a little distorted. I’m lying in savasana, corpse pose. Some say it’s their favourite yoga pose. How can that be? What do they find there that eludes me? Some say it’s the hardest pose of all. That sounds closer to the mark. Certainly today. I don’t want to be here. My mind squirms and wriggles, wanting to break free. My body is more disciplined and stays still.
And all the while I can hear the teacher stalking the room.
The theme of the class has been about questioning our beliefs and waking up in our lives. What is reality? What is life and what is death? What is the self? Do we believe in an immortal soul? The teacher touches on Buddhist notions of the non-existence of an unchanging soul or anything eternal. She asks us to examine our beliefs critically, not to move through life unquestioningly.
This doesn’t feel like a good theme for me. I ask myself these questions too often, till I’m weary with wondering. ‘Waking up’ for me sometimes feels less a gradual process of increased awareness, and more a repeated shattering sudden consciousness as if a loud alarm has gone off. And Groundhog Day style — over and over again.
So I practice sitting with these questions, learning to allow them to remain unanswered. I don’t need to be told to ask them! I know I don’t want to confront the idea of death. I feel too vulnerable already. My practice often leaves me feeling flayed, stripped of my protective layer of comfortable habits, raw and exposed. Please just let my savasana be a gentle unwinding, a quiet gift of gratitude to my body. I feel uncomfortable enough. I don’t need to be prodded harder into enquiring after the great truths.
I had in the past canvassed opinion among yogis I know if any of them practice savasana as a meditation on death and mortality. I’d always understood the yogic pose to be derived from or related in some way to the Buddhist practices of contemplation of corpses and bodily decomposition. So intellectually I was interested that this teacher presented it in some way like that. It was a far cry from the bliss and relaxation I’m more familiar with in other classes. But of course savasana isn’t an intellectual experience…
I reflected on all this as I travelled homewards on the train, allowing my feelings to settle. The landscape slipped past me, fluffy clouds hung in the late summer sky. I admired the textures of recently ploughed fields and the multitude of green colours nature provides, with each tree a rich palette of just a single shade. I felt childlike in my joy at these things, as if I were seeing them for the first time. I can’t confront death. I’m feel I’m only just starting to live.