by Matthew Coles
My first time at Yoga was more strenuous than I anticipated in many ways. Though I never broke a sweat, my muscles were challenged and stretched. They were so stretched that I had to modify several of the moves to keep them from snapping right off the tendons. My tight hamstrings were yelping and I felt their protests for a couple days to come. Despite my constant efforts to keep my frame together, it also felt good, if perhaps in a masochistic way.
My reaching and bending and grunting was rewarded unexpectedly when my instructor’s voice mellowed perceptively and everyone started lying flat on their backs. This obviously wasn’t another unnatural pose. “It’s time for sha-ne-ne-neva,” she said calmly. At least, that’s what I heard. I Googled it later and found it is really Savasana.
Whatever it was called, it was a revelation. Some in the class, most of whom were over 45, grabbed blankets and cozied up. Wow, I haven’t had sanctioned naptime since kindergarten more than 35 years ago. I didn’t settle under a blanket but I laid flat on my back, which isn’t really flat because of my degenerative spine. It was slightly uncomfortable at first because I rarely lay on my back and my muscles were still a bit tense from all the stretching I’d done.
Soon, as the instructor said things like “settle the muscles of the back side of your body into the mat and then settle against the floor.” I sensed my body giving up some tension. Soon I arrived at a blissful place between sleep and full consciousness. At night, I usually freefall directly into sleep or my mind revs up and I lie awake thinking of my ever-growing to-do list. But, this was different. This was good. I wasn't doing anything. I just was.
Suddenly, my yoga Nirvana was interrupted. My neighbor had fallen fast asleep and had turned her head toward me. She was snoring in my ear! “Back to life, back to reality” were the ’80s-era music lyrics I heard in my mind. Nirvana had been replaced with Soul II Soul. Class over.