Lessons from Yoga: Savasana and Letting Go

Savasana, or Corpse Pose, is a yoga pose in which you lay down on your back with your arms resting comfortably at your side. You lie on the floor and allow all of the muscles in your body to relax. It is usually practiced at the end of a yoga session as a time to allow your body and mind to settle after practicing yoga. It is a restorative and rejuvenating pose. To me it is also a pose of surrender.

I have a difficult time surrendering. I struggle with letting go. I have a hard time relaxing. Savasana is difficult for me. To lay on the floor, open and vulnerable to God, to relax and allow my mind to quiet and my body to rest in God’s presence is not easy for me.

Lately I feel like God has been calling me to live more open handedly. To not cling to my own imagined control but to let go and allow Him to work. I have especially been challenged with this in my prayer life.

Sue Monk Kidd writes in When the Heart Waits about how there are two levels of letting go.

“First, there is the active work we do with the conscious, surface attachments in our life – those patterns we recognize and can campaign against… to let go of these ‘you pray and suffer and hang on and give things up and hope and sweat.’ … The second level deals with deeper, more unconscious patterns – what Merton called our ‘secret attachments.’ To uproot these he cautioned that ‘we need to leave the initiative in the hands of God working in our souls either directly in the night of aridity and suffering, or through events and other men.’… We let go our letting go. We stop struggling, stop saying, ‘I will let go, I will, I will.’ Instead, having done all we can, we allow God to work directly on the more secret and deeply ingrained attachments we have to self. We allow god to release us through the experiences, encounters, and events that come to us.”

I’ve been thinking about that lately, the deep letting go that comes by letting go of letting go – The rest that comes from allowing God to work change in us instead of just striving to change ourselves. I want to be able to rest in God and allow him to do his work within me, but it’s difficult for me. I want to control even the process of letting go of control. I want to hold on to my old self, my old life, my old ways, my hidden sins, and bad habits. I want to come to God and with open hands allow him to do his work within me, but I also want to run away from the transforming work He is doing in me. I want to let go but I am scared.

“It seems that at the moment of our greatest possibility, a desperate clinging rises up in us. We make a valiant attempt to ‘save’ our old life. In the words of Daniel Day Williams: ‘We fear it is all we have. Even its sufferings are familiar and we clutch them because their very familiarity is comforting… Yet so long as we aim at the maintenance of this present self, as we now conceive it, we cannot enter the larger selfhood which is pressing for life’.”

Then yesterday I started to again read With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen. The first chapter is entitled With Clenched Fists and it talks about how prayer begins by opening our clenched fists to God.

“Praying is no easy matter. It demands a relationship in which you allow the other to enter into the very center of your person, allow him to speak there, allow him to touch the sensitive core of your being, and allow him to see so much that you would rather leave in darkness… to let him into that place where your life gets its form, that is dangerous and calls for defense… The man invited to pray is asked to open his tightly clenched fists… But who wants to do that?… you don’t want to let go. You hold fast to what is familiar, even if you aren’t proud of it. When you want to pray, then, the first question is: How do I open my closed hands? Certainly not by violence. Nor by a compulsive decision. Perhaps you can find a way to prayer in the words of the angel to the frightened shepherds, the same words the risen Lord spoke to his disciples: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Don’t be afraid of him who wants to enter the space where you live, or to let him see what you are clinging to so anxiously… Don’t be afraid to offer your hate, bitterness, disappointment to him who reveals himself as love.”

Today as I finished my yoga practice and lay in savasana (corpse pose) I heard the gentle whisper, “don’t be afraid, let go, just let go and be with me.” And as I lay in that open posture, spread out before God with nowhere to hide, I felt my heart and my body surrender and relax and if only for a moment I let go of my grasping for control. I think that God had been trying to take me to this place for a while now but it wasn’t until I took my body to a place of open relaxation that my heart and soul could follow.

Lord, I need that. Lord Jesus, I know I need moments when I fight to become the person you want me to be and when I fervently and actively pray for the things you have placed on my heart, but I also need moments when I just rest in you. When I let go of trying to become and let go of the hidden places in my life I try to keep hidden, and let go of the desires and control I try to seek after in my life. I need times when I am just with you, Jesus. When I open myself to you and surrender completely to you. Lord, I am yours. And I have no life apart from you.

Rejoicing in the journey –
Bethany

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Lessons from Yoga

So, I learned something while doing yoga yesterday… Sometimes the best way to get somewhere you want to get to is to go somewhere completely different.

The last few days I have been feeling pretty stressed and it’s really affected my yoga practice. Over the last few days I’ve known that what I really needed and the place I really needed to get to in my yoga practice was relaxation. I needed to relax, and come to a calm and peaceful mindset so that I could pray and meditate and fully surrender to God. So, because I knew I needed that and wanted that I tried to tailor my yoga routines the last few days to create rest and relaxation. I did a lot of seated postures and tried to pray and meditate a lot, but each time I tried I ended up frustrated because no matter how hard I tried to clear my mind and allow myself to just be fully with God in the moment and work through poses that would calm and focus my mind I couldn’t – I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t pray, I kept getting distracted, I kept feeling anxious and stressed instead of relaxed. I tried all different relaxing poses. I tried using form prayers since my own prayers were so scattered. But, nothing really seemed to be getting me to that place where I could calm down and just let God take over all my worries.

Then yesterday something happened. I was frustrated with trying to relax and I found that I unexpectedly had a bit of extra time for doing yoga that morning so I decided to just try out this balancing routine that I had read about on line the night before. I knew that the routine was a bit more strenuous then what I normally have been doing and I knew that it wasn’t a routine that would help me relax – these were poses that would get my heart rate up (not really something I thought I needed any help with right then), but I thought I’d try it.

As I moved from one pose to another, usually only capable of holding each for a few seconds before falling out of it and having to try again, something amazing happened – My mind stopped stressing and thinking and worrying. The poses were just hard enough to challenge me enough that I HAD to focus on my body and when I was focusing on my body I couldn’t focus on all the other stuff. In the end I was able to reach a place of relaxation and calm and was able to approach God’s throne with a posture of surrender not through meditation and quieting my mind and relaxing my body like I had originally thought but through challenging my body and focusing my mind on something very tangible. It was definitely a learning experience. I love the things that God has been showing me about my physicality and how that can relate to my spirituality. I’m definitely still a long way from really seeing myself as a holistic, connected, integrated being, but I’m getting there. J

“The storm is coming but I don’t mind.
People are dying, I close my blinds.
All that I know is I’m breathing now.
I want to change the world…instead I sleep.
I want to believe in more than you and me.
But all that I know is I’m breathing.
All I can do is keep breathing.
All we can do is keep breathing now.”

 – Ingrid Michaelson, Keep Breathing

 

Rejoicing in the journey –
Beth Stedman

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