I recently began practicing yoga again. But not the hippies-in-a-hazy-room yoga like from my wayward university days. This is a structured and guided study of the forehead to knee and ujjayi pranayama in a 100-degree room, ending with Shavasana.
My twice a week class is the first time since my daughter was born that I've had any sort of "extracurricular" activities away from home. And while I still believe childbirth to be my body's greatest accomplishment, I am still amazed each time my eyes find the back wall in Ardha Chandrasana. Lying on the mat in Shavasana is still the only time I can lie still without having a child attached to me.
At the end of class, we prepare for Shavasana
This is where you get as comfortable as you can, often lying on your back. There's calming music that gently plays, and then you can meditate so that your mind is as relaxed as your body. My teacher, Gail, passes out little flat stones that you put between your eyes or on your forehead.
I go to the awesome yoga class at the local yoga center by my house. Since I discovered it, I try to go at least twice a week because I find the combination of gentle exercise followed by Shavasana to be the perfect way for me to set aside time for my own mindfulness and thought.
After a couple of weeks of not going, and because of factors I couldn't control like my youngest having tonsillitis, everything stopping for snow, and me getting bronchitis, I realized that if I didn't make an effort, I might never go back. I practically sprinted to class.
Coming Back to Yoga as a Mother
Despite my absence from the mat, I found that my body still maintained flexibility. I study daily, reading and practicing asanas, and can feel myself becoming more balanced each day. I thought it would take much longer to regain my strength. More than anything, I've now found Shavasana the most enlightening point of the class, even more so than the exercise.
Moments later, while lying in Shavasana, I realized why it was so easy for me to get back into yoga. It was because I had never stopped practicing at all. I've spent the past four years learning to control and soften my breath at the risk of waking a sleeping baby with an exhale.
I've learned how to relax my facial expression even though inside I'm gagging. I have truly accepted that nothing is permanent. Not sharpie marker on the walls, stickers on the furniture, or the dreaded "I don't like you, Mommy" phase. As the Shavasana benefits continued, I had these beautiful revelations.
I have mastered the ability to balance with heels up, knees bent, and arms out wide enough to comfort a crying child. I call it Mommy Asana and it's the most beneficial posture there is.
Shavasana Benefits, the music, the feelings
Most recently, the music that Gail played for Shavasana was Pachelbel's Canon in D. Gail dimmed the lights and I put my stone between my eyes and prepared for Shavasana. As the music floated over my body, my heart jumped into my throat. I was transported back to my wedding day.
My Dad walked me down the aisle to this piece of music.
As I listened to the music, every sense felt electrified. I could smell my Dad's aftershave and the cologne he had worn my entire life. It was like having a flashback, but in a perfect, tender way. I could feel the soft wool of his suit beneath my fingertips, even though I was stretched out in the Shavasana pose.
I lay on my comfortable yoga mat, with the cool stone pressing its comforting weight between my eyes, and I cried for a minute or two. Then, I prayed. Instead of indulging too much in my grief, I honored him as best I could. I tried to take the still meditation of Shavasana and give myself a chance to feel everything.
I've spent a lot of time falling into being a mom, and I'm so happy that I get to do that. Even so, the Shavasana really gave me the opportunity to remember what it was like to be the daughter. To remember where I came from and the incredible contact and relationship that I had with my own father and mother.
The tears dried up, and I found myself with a tiny smile at the corners of my mouth as Gail turned the lights back up, slowly, and brought us to a sitting position for a reading. I was blown away by what she read, and after a year of hardship and blessings, it seemed like she was reading it just for me.
It's called, simply, "Be Thankful", and the author is unknown:
Be thankful that you don't already have everything you desire.
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful that when you don't know something,
it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for your limitations,
because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for each new challenge,
because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes.
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you're tired and weary because it means you've made a difference.
It's easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who
are also thankful for the setbacks.
Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,
and they can become your blessings.
I was holding the Shavasna stone in my hand, feeling how it had warmed from my body heat, when Gail mentioned there is a word on each stone.
I turned it over in my hands and couldn't believe what I saw. My stone simply said: GRATITUDE.