As a yoga pose, Savasana (corpse pose) is severely underrated. No matter how ‘inward’ the teacher cues you to turn, yoga in America is easily an experience of social reference. Look no further than the movement to make American yoga less ‘skinny white girl’ for proof that we are, indeed, checking out the people on the mats around us. Look at Lululemon and prAna, fashion companies built on the premise of sexy yoga wear. No, it doesn’t actually matter what you are wearing.
And then look at our success-oriented culture; what’s really driving you to attempt the birds-of-paradise pose? Does it truly make you feel gently challenged and harmoniously balanced? Or does it hurt? On the flip side, does serene handstanding-man in the next row over make you ashamed of your own limitations? Are you a jealous yogi?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going for the big poses and tough yoga classes. That style of practice is an honest reflection of our values as a culture. However, I encourage you to evaluate critically what sort of yoga practice you actually need most. What would your doctor prescribe?
Sometimes, the best outcome of yoga is not sheer calories burned, length of plank, or degree of stretch. You can maximize those things of course, if you want. But you don’t have to. You can embrace yoga’s spiritual roots, and practice accepting that you are a child of the universe, whether you are standing on your hands or feet.The universe don’t care if you look like a paradisiacal bird — it’s not fooled. Doing the opposite of what your ego craves is an effective way to develop strength and flexibility on a soulful level — and yoga is a safe space to do it.
Elaborate postures are tools — versatile, stimulating, gratifying tools — but not the end goal. I think a lot of us could stand to “give up” in yoga class; flop into Savasana the whole damn time, and accept that even when you are doing nothing at all, you are a valid and valuable part of this world. It’s well and good to seek new experiences and perspectives, and yoga is a great way to do that, sort of like traveling. But if you don’t have someplace to come home to, traveling easily becomes stressful and overwhelming. It becomes a cause of suffering, rather than joy or pleasure.
Savasana, in yoga, is like coming home.