42 By a Thread
The indigenous people of the American Southwest – the Dinhe’ – known to the English speaking world as Navajo, are famous for their high-quality and beautiful hand crafted wool rugs. People spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to own one.
But wisdom from this tradition has taught the Navajo to sew one small thread out of place into each rug’s pattern; thereby, working into the design a deliberate mistake. By including a flaw, Navajo acknowledge through the honesty of their art that even the most beautiful work is imperfect.
Life is an art, and the best artists know that every journey requires movement and motion. In yoga terms, our life could be viewed as an asana in which movement into time is beset with flaws and missteps. If yogis take this notion to heart, they will acknowledge, accept, and include their flaws as a necessary part of the beautiful mosaic their lives create.
Many come to yoga with their lives hanging on by a thread and their coping skills stretched to the max. Perhaps it’s the businessman or businesswoman burned out by economic demands and stresses. Maybe another person arrives in yoga with a broken heart, or someone else is tired of the fast pace of urban living, or fatigued with the demands of social media. In all these cases, yoga’s healing patterns in silence, in movement, or in stillness welcomes the flawed life into its creation.
This is why Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras (threads) have become must reading and study for the modern yogi. At a basic level, all of us can commit two or three of Pantanjali’s threads to memory. We can put the sutras to work for us when we’re on the mat, and use them in binding our brokenness off the mat.
The noun thread is defined as “a fine shard of twisted fibers.” It’s not a stretch to see the link between this definition of thread and the work of our muscles in asana, as the muscle is actually made up of many fine threads bundled together. One popular yoga anatomy book notes:
The skeletal muscle tissue we see with the naked eye is made up of bundles of fascicles. The fascicles are made up of bundles of muscle fibers, which are the actual muscle cells. Inside the muscle cells are bundles of myofibrils (Kaminoff, p. 56).
Thread also comes from the Old English braed, meaning pulled through a needle. The modern yogi can take one or several threads from Pantanjali and imagine them as bundles connecting breath to body and soul to the world. The chosen threads guide the yogi in this world, but also braid the yogi to a light not of this world, a light of brilliance into which the flaws of our asana – and our lives – are absorbed and dissolved.
If you feel like you are unraveling, let yoga help you by welcoming the threads of your life as they weave together and create a tapestry from your own unique collection of mistakes and beauty.
Reference: Kaminoff, L., Matthews, A., & Ellis, S. (2007). Yoga anatomy. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. P. 56
43 Release Into Savasana
I thought I knew about savasana because I do it regularly. But I don’t recall ever practicing savasana; neither have I heard of others practicing it. I’ve seldom heard people talk about savasana as a separate subject. There are few instructions and I’ve never seen any hands-on adjustment or correction to savasana.
Maybe we don’t talk about it because yogis think savasana is easy, and because we don’t practice savasana, we might think that anyone can do it with little preparation. In a sense, it’s the anti-asana, a time when all movement has stopped.
But the entry point into savasana is equally as important as our entry point into practice. For our yoga sessions, we prepare with meditation or breathing exercises. We set our intentions or dedications, and by active imagination, create mental space with a positive memory or feeling. These steps help us elevate mind/body readiness when starting our practice and then carry it through the session.
But recently, at the end of a one-hour session, I was moved when the teacher said, “release into savasana.” The statement was a fresh way for me to hear what that moment meant, and it’s provided a new way to let savasana absorb me.
Up to that point in class, I was engaged mentally and physically with the asana at hand. Certainly, asana is a beautiful moving meditation. At times, I find myself taking mental notes on my alignment, paying attention to my breathing, or monitoring how I’m feeling. Sometimes, I fall into the ego trap of self-consciousness. I wonder how I look and then I’m left to deal with self-recrimination for my self-centeredness.
Release into savasana is a marvelous phrase and a powerful reminder to let go of my mental wrestling, and to drop that which does not serve me during my time on the mat. In a larger sense, to release means to loosen my grip. And the more I meditate on savasana, the more I realize that I – and maybe you – hold tightly to life and its demands. It’s important to get a grip on our lives, but it doesn’t have to be a stranglehold.
By releasing into savasana, the sounds of other yogis breathing, the teacher’s voice, or soft music dissolves, and I am brought home to that place of peace, the heartbeat of the cosmos, where we are all ONE.
Perhaps this is why participation in yoga is growing. Many of us long for a place to release our grip – and we desperately need moments when the noise dissolves. We thirst for moments of freedom from our ego and its grasp, and we need savasana to help us soften our ego-investment in this life with its obsession on upward mobility and heirarchy.
The sacred space of savasana may allow us to see clearly – if only for a moment or two – but when this happens, our parting namaste’ at the end of class is truly an offering of our best self to another, and the savasana has opened us to receive the blessing from the gathered yogis.
Release into savasana is a time to peel away from the manic world with all its violence and strife. And for anyone vexed by the demands of this world, yoga offers a solution: get to a class, and at the end of your beautiful hour, release into savasana.
Artwork by Kira Kamamalu, Kona, Hawaii.