Relaxation And Meditation...Do I Really Have To?
The short answer is: yes, you have to. Well, that is, you have to if you want to get the most from your Yoga.
Now here's the longer answer to the question:
Relaxation at the end of a class - also know as Savasana (Corpse Pose) is absolutely essential to any Yoga practice. By practicing asana (the postures of Yoga), we tire out and balance our bodies through stretching and strengthening in order to prepare ourselves for Savasana.
Savasana might seem like you're just lying around doing nothing, but it's the most important of all the Yoga poses. It took me many years to understand this. For years I thought Savasana was just a useless form of torture - lying still for minutes on end I used to think, "What a colossal waste of time!" but now I understand better: it is the ultimate Yoga pose!
To start with, it's a really high level of difficulty - not because lying down is physically taxing but because being still is a tremendous challenge. If you don't believe me, try lying utterly immobile for ten or fifteen minutes straight - not moving a single muscle and keeping your mind focussed completely on your breath - and then tell me that isn't tough to do!
The next reason is that experiencing Corpse Pose allows us to momentarily take the form of a corpse (in the same way we take the form of a cow, a cat, a frog, etc, in other poses) and thereby experience a symbolic death. This reminds us that life is transient. The aim of this is not to make us upset, but rather to remind us that life is short, and we should therefore live each day fully.
Following on from that, the symbolic death of Savasana connects us to every living being on the planet. This is because every living being will ultimately die, and so in that way we are exactly the same as all life on Earth - and therefore very much connected to all life on Earth.
As a teacher I find it's quite a common problem for people to leave when it's time for Savasana. But the very last thing you should do is to not stick around for Savasana. To begin with, it's extremely rude and disrespectful to both your teacher and the other students to leave a class before its completion - it's like walking away from a person when they're mid-sentence. And secondly, you're not doing yourself any favours by skipping out on this most important part of a Yoga practice.
After Savasana we roll over onto our right side (so that we roll away from the heart) and into a foetal position. Doing this symbolises rebirth. Going foetal after being a (symbolic) corpse in Savasana is a reminder that every day of our lives - in fact, every moment of our lives - we can choose to start fresh and live in the moment, without the weight of the past or worries about the future. Then after being in a foetal position for a short length of time, it's time to sit up again for the final part of the class - meditation.
As with Savasana, meditation is a vital component of a Yoga practice.
As I said, all preceding asana leads to the ultimate pose of Savasana. And that in turn leads to the ultimate purpose of Yoga: meditation. We stretch and strengthen our bodies through asana and then relax in Savasana so that we're able to sit comfortably for minutes at a time in meditation.
Don’t be deceived into thinking that meditation is just lazy sitting about. Meditation is actually very challenging - in fact, more than Savasana because not only do you have to be completely still in body and mind (like Savasana) but you do it sitting up instead of lying down so it's moderately taxing physically too.
Week to week, your teacher may guide you through a variety of meditation techniques using an array of focusses such as an image, visualisation, a mantra, the breath.
You'll find that the main tool used to meditate, however, is the breath. This is for two main reasons. The first is because of the importance of the breath - breathing is what keeps us alive, hence its (obvious) importance. And secondly, the breath is constantly with us and therefore available to be used as a point of focus any time at all to help us cultivate calm in times of stress.
Although controlling the activity of the mind via meditation is certainly challenging, there's great benefit in consistently and persistently developing this difficult skill. There's power in meditation, my friends, because in conquering the uncontrolled fluctuations mind, we can conquer all the challenges in our lives with grace, patience and serenity.
SAY NO TO PUPPY MILLS! SAY NO TO ANIMALS IN PETSHOPS! SAY NO TO BREEDERS!
Adopt a homeless animal instead - they all deserve a second chance
It's estimated that 130,000 dogs and 60,000 cats are killed every year in Australia because there are not enough homes for them all. And the global numbers amount to millions upon millions every single year.
Puppy mills are a major contributor to the terrible problem of overpopulation. Puppy mills are essentially 'dog factories' where dogs are forced to churn out litter after litter, with no thought for the welfare of the dogs and all thought for profit. The dogs live in appallingly dirty, cramped conditions all their lives, and when they no longer serve their purpose they're killed, dumped or sold to vivisection laboratories.
Petshops fit into the picture because puppy mills are generally where petshops get their animals from. Furthermore, having animals in shop windows encourages impulse purchases, and adding an animal to your family should be a conscious, careful decision - NOT one to be made while shoe shopping.
Breeders contribute enormously to the tragic statistics above too. And it doesn't matter whether they're professional breeders or backyard breeders, and whether they breed for profit or not, because while there are homeless animals sitting on death row in shelters, any and all animal breeding is utterly irresponsible.
Now, here's where you come in. You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution. You can either buy animals from puppy mills, petshops or breeders and be part of the problem. Or you can adopt from a shelter or rescue organisation and be part of the solution.
If I haven't convinced you, visit your local shelter to see the homeless animals. Let their innocent faces convince you that adopting is the only responsible choice to make.
All information and photos are copyright © Despina Rosales.