By: Danielle Wilson
Teachers have different tactics to gently pull you out of each blissful savasana, that long-awaited and well-deserved rest which meets you, kindly, at the end of every practice. We’ll ask you to take some deep breaths, take a soft rock of your head from side to side, or maybe even wiggle your fingers and toes back into a state of awake. Although these efforts do bring awareness back into the physical body, there’s a magical moment that lives between the stillness of rest and presence of body that I feel is imperative to maximize on before you leave your mat.
In this moment, you will typically hear me say something to the effect of “without movement, begin to notice your presence in the room—become fully aware of you.” I’ll pause before I explain that “the youI’m talking about is not your body, your thoughts, or your emotions.” So, who is this youthat I intend to get you and my other students in touch with? It is your spirit! You will not attain this divine connection to your truest and purest self every time, but chances are at least one person in the room is having a truly remarkable, out-of-body experience each time this moment presents itself, and if you’ve been open and connected enough to have it yourself, you know, without question, what I’m talking about.
As your body slips deeper and deeper into rest, the stillness manifests a sort of numbing, a pause, so to speak, that exists between physical sensation and the recognition of that sensation in the brain. If you’ve ever woken up out of a deep sleep keenly aware of everything, aside from your own body—almost as if you didn’t have a body at all—this is the state of being I’m referring to. This is the first step towards a wholehearted union with self. In my experience, I’ll even feel like I’m floating above my own body, with a spinning sensation happening in my head; I like to think of the circular motion as my energetic (spiritual) body since we typically refer to the chakras that exist on that plane as wheels of energy. The saying tends to be overused, and unfortunately recycled words frequently lose their power, but the idea that we are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, rather we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, is the realization to be made here.
The beauty of recognizing, accepting, and then experiencing the fact that you are not your body is that you can no longer identify or define yourself by physical standards. This is not only an opportunity to release insecurities revolving around physical appearance and any false standards you arrest yourself to regarding body image, but it is also a chance to honor the physical body for the sacred vessel it is! If you are a radiant, magical spirit choosing to call this human body home for a while, it must be for good reason. With this, the perspective of and appreciation for the physical body begins to shift, creating a healthy and nurturing relationship based in love and gratitude for the body you inhabit.
Cultivating this mindful separation of body and self is merely the first step. You must also understand and then practice the separation of self and thought. Higher intelligence, conscious thought, monkey mind—whatever it is you’d like to call it—is nothing but a symptom of our evolution as a species. It is one of many things—like our ability to walk on two limbs, opposable thumbs, and manipulation of elements—that has helped us grow and evolve into the super power we are today. Unfortunately, our society identifies with the purpose behind conscious thought all wrong. We have a tendency to believe that our thoughts are who we are, something that is highly encouraged (or at the least, not discouraged) in western culture.
Your thoughts are a culmination of every experience you’ve ever had, meaning they are entirely unique to you and you alone. The evolutionary purpose behind this is survival. Way back when, when we were cave people living in small tribal communities, if you could remember how your friend died at the hands of a tribe that wore specific garments, well, then you could recall that memory when discovering one of those garments lying in the forest and be on guard in order to protect yourself. A narrative is then created around this piece of clothing that is meant to ensure further survival. But what if you came into contact with a member of a different, peaceful tribe that assumed similar attire? The initial narrative is triggered, and you become fearful, or even violent, in the new situation for no reason at all. Now, imagine this reaction based on false narrative accumulating over centuries of human existence!
When you allow your thoughts to rule your life as if they are facts, as if they are you, life becomes a constant wheel of fear, doubt, and anxiety. This is what makes meditation such an important and life-altering practice. It is the observing, sifting through, and eventually, separation from thought. It is recognizing that thoughts of unworthiness, for example, that have haunted you all your life, are not truths that make you a person of lesser value, rather they are a narrative formed through experiences, most likely from your childhood, in which you were told or meant to feel unworthy. In savasana, or in life, if you can reach a state of non-attachment to your thoughts, watching them come and go as an outside observer without grasping onto or identifying with them, or even, a silencing of the mind all-together, you will be one step closer to embodying the authentic you that exists beyond the narrative.
Emotions work in a similar manner to your thoughts. They serve as a reaction to the world around you, triggering soulful memories through present experiences, allowing for larger depth in experience throughout this human lifetime. Like the physical body and thoughts, however, your emotions do not make you, you. The way in which the English language expresses the experience of emotions can be quite confusing and is undoubtedly a culprit in the misconception of identifying with emotions. We say, “I am mad, I am happy, I am sad,” the truth is, we are not these emotions, we simply are experiencing them. So, rather, “I am feeling mad, I am experiencing happiness, I am in a state of sadness” are all more accurate ways to depict the range of emotions for what they are. When you achieve this clarity, you release yourself of feeling defined by your trauma or your plight, allowing each moment to manifest as a new opportunity for you to live fully and openly!
All of this spiritual insight can be so much to take in, and unless you’re a monk living cut off from the world in the Himalayas, even more difficult to apply on a daily basis. This euphoric state we aim for in which we are free of body, mind, and emotions, merely existing as an infinite, energetic being comes and goes, and most likely won’t be found when actively sought out. It is a gift manifested through a surrender of will, opening of heart, and suppleness of being. Yoga provides us with an incredible build-up of physical exertion that exhausts the body into willful rest, focuses the mind into poignant thought, and regulates the emotions into steady experience. Once arriving at savasana and yielding to rest, these three key states of being present a magical opportunity to place you directly in touch with you, and I promise, once you’ve opened yourself to the power of your purest essence, life will feel more beautiful, more blessed, and more brilliant than ever!