Oh, Savasana…I like to refer to certain yoga classes as “the onion type.” While some yoga classes leave me bursting with energy, and others leave me draped in a tranquil blanket of serenity, there are also the ones that blend heat-generating asanas with meditative, introspective philosophy. Throw in the soothing, gentle voice of a really stellar instructor, and I don’t care if it’s my birthday or if I’m leaving for Disneyland after class, I’ll discover salty tears creeping out of my eyes as we lie our bodies down for the final resting pose: Savasana.
What is it about Savasana that excavates such powerful emotion? My personal view is that “the onion type” of yoga class is one that figuratively peels back your layers one by one. The sequencing of asanas scattered with reflection and blended with the careful placement of restorative poses, plus an instructor who just seem to be speaking directly to me (it's like a horoscope…how do they KNOW what I'm going through?!) leave the heart gaping wide open and pulsating with raw emotion. “Inhale, and exhale. On the exhale, sigh ‘let…gooo…”
It was my experience just last night that a particularly tender and serene woman was substituting what happened to be my very first Jivamukti yoga class at Indigo Pilates and Yoga in Pleasant Hill, CA. She had the soothing voice of an angel and was brimming with inspirational knowledge on Sanskrit and philosophy. She went from student to student adjusting gently and even massaging lower back, neck, shoulders. There was even an aromatherapy rub placed strategically on pressure points that ignited the senses and, consequently, the urge to sob gently with my sticky face buried into a bolster. I’m about to cry again just writing about it.
Point being, “the onion yoga class” is one that allows us to strip away our layers. While the triggers are all there within the class, we are the ones who do the peeling, who do the inner work that leads to the state of overwhelming emotional connectedness. We step out of the world’s chaos and into a cool, dimly lit studio after a long day of being who the world expects us to be. I even experience the onion class here at home, in the morning, on my bedroom floor with Ashley Turner’s yoga DVDs. The deep and profound appreciation for one’s own body within a yoga class is something no other form of physical exertion can really induce on this level, in my own personal experience. The simple phrase “let go” calls out passionately to everyone in a different way. Whether you are still in love with someone with whom a relationship simply isn’t working, or you’re in a job that is leading you astray, or you’re holding onto a belief or action that is no longer serving you…”let go,” means something different to everybody. Just as every single yogi’s practice is intensely their own, “the onion type” of class will trigger us all in different ways. Last night I asked myself, “What am I sad about?” My brain dutifully began to dart from idea to idea. Could it be “a, b, or c?” it asked me concernedly? Life was okay last night, everything felt pretty even-keel, so what on earth were the tears for?
My answer is this: sadness, fear and joy are all emotions that produce an urge to cry. But how fiercely beautiful is it that a physical practice that calls forth one’s body, soul and mind at once can generate such powerful results even when life feels great? No single emotion caused my tears, just the practice, and there was no specific sentiment attached to them. Just as twists and forward bends and asanas stimulate positive physical reactions within the body, so does the practice to the mind and soul. I consider these tears, whether they are attached so some emotion or not, to be cleansing. The body is literally purging itself of toxins, flushing out the emotions you carried into class and welcoming the fresh, new emotions you will absorb as you leave your mat.
The next time you find yourself experiencing an “onion yoga class,” perhaps instead of questioning the tears or trying to analyze them, just thank your body. Thank your soul. Thank your mind. Thank them for being receptive to emotions, insights and to the practice of yoga. Thank them for allowing you to peel back the layers intimately and peer deeply into your own soul. Nobody can do that but you. That ability to emotionally connect with yourself is something that not every being is capable of; embrace it, embrace your heart’s openness and beckon into it all the beauty, light and love that your practice and your life has to offer.