Letting Go…

by Ken Malloy

The pose is called Sivasana.

It’s the final position of the Asana practice,  the physical movement part of Yoga.

It’s the most simple and the most important. Quite simply, you lay flat on your back with your eyes shut. Place your heels together and let your feet fall open. Hands are at your sides, palms up. Then, you just let everything go, including and especially your mind.

It is the final relaxation where all of the stretching, binding and balancing from all of the other poses integrates. It’s where the bringing together of the mind, body and spirit happens. Yoga translates to “sacred union” and doing this, I suppose, is what they are talking about. For me, as for most, it is a deeply relaxing experience and I consider it part of the reward for all of my efforts with the other poses.

When class is difficult, as it was this past Saturday morning, I am especially relieved when it is finally time to relax and as I laid back slowly, I felt the familiar great relief of letting go of all my muscles. The sensation of a gentle energy flowed about my body, and random thoughts and images gently bumped about in my mind with no particular consequence.

There were even fleeting moments of no thought. This is the ultimate goal. Consciousness without thinking sounds like a relief and with the glimpses that I have had, I can tell you that it is indeed.

All was well, until…

Suddenly, I noticed the beginning of sensations not normally associated with Sivasana. First, my hands felt heavy, then my feet, then my arms and legs. Soon, my entire body felt like I was buried in cold sand. A slow spin began in the center of my forehead as a flutter of nausea tickled deep within my gut. Questions darted about my mind:

“What the hell is going on? This is supposed to feel good? Is this an anxiety attack? What did I do to deserve this? No, no, no, no, please no! This is so unpleasant! I want this to go away RIGHT NOW!”

“O.K. try to stay calm. Breath. Remember, Yoga is about staying with the breath. Just observe this for what it is. Remember the diagnosis. Anxiety is a TMS equivalent. This means my brain is using these unpleasant sensations to distract my conscious mind from unconscious negative feelings that are coming to the surface. Don’t fight it. It’s not going to hurt you. What’s under the anxiety? Sadness and rage. Just let go.

What can I tell my brain that will help to release some of these unconscious feelings? It’s O.K. to feel rage. It’s O.K. to feel sadness. It’s O.K. to feel rage. It’s O.K. to feel sadness…

As I breathed deeply and repeated my new mantra, the center of my chest began to ache. My lips came together as the corners of my mouth turned down. I imagined my face painted as a sad clown. Tears flooded my eyes as sadness welled up into my chest and gently burst up into my throat and out of my mouth in rhythmic sobs.

“Stay with this. Don’t encourage or resist. You’re doing the work that needs to be done!”.

Yoga class is a safe space to experience and express whatever comes up. People who are serious about Yoga understand this and so I gave myself full permission to let go.

It didn’t take long.

Within a minute, the sobs slowed down and gently stopped. The sadness drifted away like clouds that seemed to melt as a cool, cloudy afternoon suddenly transforms into a bright and warm sunny day.

With a deep yawn that seems to stretch every muscle in my body, I went back into the deep relaxation; the pose called Sivasana.