Tag Archives: savasana

The Phoenix From The Flame

I’ve been preparing for the workshop and lecture I’ll be giving later this year for the Luna Yoga Teacher Training on Hindu mythology and how it relates to the yoga postures, and I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t passionately loving every second of my research. I’ve been going over the myths I’m already familiar with, as well as hearing some of the more obscure ones for the first time, and I keep having these moments of realization where I can really stand back from my life and see how the path I’m on is truly my dharma…it’s unreal, intense, and satisfying, all at the same time. As I finish with one myth, I put down my books and walk away from the computer, and sit down in silence to think about what I’ve read, and how it applies to my life and my approach to life. The approach that I have to yoga is 90% philosophical and 10% physical, and this is why: I believe that the asana practice is purifying for the body, absolutely. But I also believe that the practice allows for a shift in consciousness, one that opens up new windows of insight and belief systems that challenge who we find ourselves in this moment, how we got to this point, and where we see ourselves moving forward with the knowledge and insight that we have at our disposal. I believe that the mission for all of us in this life is to fully realize that the only thing that matters is to re-connect to the higher energy that is the source of every single thing in existence around us, and within us. Everything else is secondary. How we come to that realization is really up to each of us to figure out, but I can attest to the fact that yoga absolutely opens up gateways to the soul, gateways that can shed a bright, refreshing light into the annals of our consciousness to allow us to see with new eyes.

One aspect of the asana practice that has always fascinated me is the final posture we take before closing out the class: savasana, deep relaxation, corpse pose. When I first started practicing in 1999, savasana was the lifeboat at the end of the long swim through what was then my practice. Whatever happened during class, I knew I could collapse at the end and recharge through the act of doing nothing. At that time, I remained conscious of the fact that my thoughts kept whirling, my eyes would continue moving around, and all I could do was stand in judgement of myself, staying critical of the fact that I couldn’t let go. That changed after a while. I then found myself hearing a voice telling me to connect to the sky, which became my mantra and which enabled me to visualize a beam of light emanating from my third eye and beaming upwards, and it was through this connection to a higher energy that I found myself completely letting go and finding that I had indeed drifted off to some other place during my savasana, a place where I was still conscious, but not of, or in, the body. And now, recently, 12 years later, I have had another revelatory awakening from my savasana: this posture of letting go, where we allow the body to absorb the physical practice we’ve just treated ourselves to, has taken on a new role, one where I set my intention as I lay down to put to sleep that which does not serve me and which identifies with the ego, so that I can rise up at the end of the relaxation period re-born and re-focused. Ever since the adoption of this new approach to savasana, I feel like I have been speeding closer and closer to a new place of spirituality and connection to all that is. Call it re-birth, call it a step closer to a state of enlightenment, whatever. All I know is that yoga has once again offered me a tool where I can be responsible and accountable for shedding off the attributes, events and conversations that have only served to weigh me down and distract me from my focus towards truth, so that I can rise up again after my repose with renewed focus, strength and determination. Focus on my soul and tapping into what it already knows, strength to be unwavering in my journey, and determination to pass on what I myself am living and learning, understanding that if I don’t share these insights, then I’m truly missing the point. And so I hope that you reading this will try out this approach..to savasana, or to any process that you find yourself undertaking that has both a beginning and an end. Allow yourselves to infuse whatever it is you do with the knowledge that you have the power to let go of what doesn’t serve you, and to come out the other side of it with a new sense of clarity and understanding. The tools are already there…we just have to pick them up and use them.

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The Devil and Greta Garbo

As my students floated through their post-Savasana haze this evening, I was approached by Lindsay, a regular student of mine, who wanted to know why we roll over onto the right side of the body when coming back into a seated posture after the deep relaxation of Savasana. I had my suspicions from an anatomical standpoint, but those quickly took a back seat to what I found when I came home and did some research, and what I found brought me back to a subject I had written about years ago.

As both the left and right sides of the body are each respectively attributed with feminine/Shakti and masculine/Shiva energies (in addition to being connected to the sun and the moon, “Hatha” yoga being the composite word bringing Ha, or lunar, and Tha, or solar energies together), when we roll over onto the right side of the body, we let the left, or feminine/lunar/Shakti side dominate in all its therapeutic glory.

What I love about teaching is that I learn from my students, and this evening was the perfect example of this. But the information I found brought me back to an essay I had written years ago regarding the left and right sides of the body, and how throughout history the left side of the body was attributed to the feminine energy, along with being associated with the devil. So I figured I’d re-print that essay here…such a fascinating topic, all thanks to Savasana (and Lindsay 😉 )…

I was recently taking the bus from Stansted Airport to Heathrow Airport in England, and as the bus turned at the off-ramp, I noticed a sign on the side of the highway instructing slower drivers to drive in the left-hand lane. The instructions were repeated below the English text in French, and further down, in Italian, and one word from the Italian text caught my eye and has kept me thinking ever since. The Italian word for “left” was written as “sinistro”, and all of a sudden I was wracking my brain for all the information I’d ever absorbed about the mythology and history of the left side of the body, and more specifically, left-handed people. I found it odd that the Italian translation for the word denoting a side of a determined area had a dark, even evil connotation to it. I swore that when I got back home I would delve into this subject, so here is the fruit of that endeavour.

It seems that in most of recorded history, the devil has been attributed with not only being left-handed, but with baptizing his victims with his left hand. As a result, most people over the past couple of millennia have associated the left side of the body, and more precisely, the left hand, with evil.  Superstitions grew rampant regarding the left side of the body as best depicted by the classic image of a person battling their conscience – the angelic aspect was always nestled on the right shoulder of the person, the demonic aspect perched on the left shoulder.  In biblical times, salt was a prized staple to have in a household, and if by some horrible twist of fate some salt spilled on the floor, it was believed to be akin to sacrilege, and therefore customary to then throw a pinch of salt over one’s left shoulder as the spilled salt was being cleaned up.  The intention behind this act was commonly believed to blind the devil so he couldn’t see the transgression, but another line of thinking was that the thrown salt simply kept him at bay.

One of the most famous lefties in history, Julius Caesar, created most of the right-handed customs that exist today (the handshake, for example) because they freed up his left, weapon-brandishing hand to be ready for combat at any given moment. This line of reasoning also served as the basis for driving on the left side of the road in the United Kingdom and some of its colonies.  Driving in the left-hand lane is rooted in the UK’s often-violent medieval feudal society where the majority of people were right-handed.  Being right-handed, it made sense to keep a weapon at the ready as people passed each other on their respective right sides.  Similarly, jousting knights would charge at each other, passing each other’s right side with lances pointed in battle.

Studies released in recent years suggest that 10% of the world’s population is left-handed and that being so inclined is rooted in a recessive gene passed down by one’s mother.  Based on Dr Chris McManus’ book “Left Hand, Right Hand”, two left-handed parents have a 26% chance of having a left-handed child, while two right-handed parents have a 9% chance of having a left-handed child.  A mixture of one right-handed and one left-handed parent have a 19% chance of producing a left-handed offspring.

A survey conducted by the Left-Handers Club (www.lefthandersday.com) has found some interesting tidbits:  left-handed musicians will have more of an uphill battle trying to find instruments for lefties, and once found, they will pay a great deal more money for said instruments.  Lefties also have more of a challenge when at a bank teller station or a post office counter, as they are set up for right-handed people.  Conversely, lefties are also more inclined to have a greater aptitude for expressing themselves, generating ideas, and composing stories due to a greater facility with words.  They are also more creative, open-minded and non-conformist compared to their right-handed peers.  Those who work on a computer are able to type and use the computer mouse at the same time, and are more adept with the standard “QWERTY” keyboard, as the keyboard was “originally designed to slow down right-handed typists”.

There’s a whole other world of information pertaining to this subject available to those in search of it, and it’s all fascinating.  Check it out, and in the interim, I’ll leave you with this list of famous lefties, some of which definitely fall into the aforementioned creative, idea-generating category:

Drew Barrymore, Aristotle, Joan of Arc (who was accused of being left-handed, but that may have been solely for the purpose of persecuting her as a witch), Charlie Chaplin, Jack the Ripper, Peter Ustinov, Brad Pitt, Oprah Winfrey, Marilyn Monroe, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman, The Boston Strangler, Gary Oldman, Greta Garbo, Woody Harrelson, Ronald Reagan, Colin Powell, Helen Keller, Whoopi Goldberg, and the list goes on and on…