You know that blissful feeling in savasana? That feeling of complete surrender, detachment, and unawareness of the daily stresses and worries that you had when you first walked into the yoga studio. Perhaps that feeling of floating, as a simple observer; or, perhaps a feeling of space and light. I remember my first experience of this – it was in Duane’s Friday 5pm yoga class at the YMCA when I was a second year medical student. I didn’t know what this feeling was, why it occurred, or even how to describe it, but I knew that it felt good. It felt so good, in fact, that Friday happy hour with friends quickly got replaced by Friday blissful savasana with Duane. I was hooked, and it was all about the savasana!
Since then, life has propelled me on this journey into the study and practice of yoga, and I now have greater understanding of the mystery and magic of savasana. In yoga philosophy, the witness or observer state occurs when we tap into Purusha. Purusha is unmanifest energy; it is the changeless in a world full of change; it is pure potential and ultimate truth. It is the part of us that remains unaffected by the waves in the ocean of life. When we enter a deep state of savasana or meditation, we allow ourselves the opportunity to slip into this space of Purusha. It may not happen every time and we certainly can’t rush it or force it to occur, but we may get the occasional glimpse of it. If and when we tap into our most natural state of Purusha, then we are unaffected by Prakriti. Prakriti is the manifest state of nature; it is everything that we see, touch, taste, and feel. It is our physical world. So, what happens in savasana is that we allow our mind to loosen its tight grip around Prakriti and we let our consciousness simply flow into its most natural state of Purusha; we open ourselves up to the energy of love, light, peace, and joy that is innately within and around us. Pretty incredible, isn’t it?
So, is there a way that we can experience Purusha more often? Is there a way that we can always be open to the energy of our innate love, light, peace, and joy? Well, we need to work with the tangible tools that Prakriti provides us with in order to experience the intangible, but ever present and ever powerful, Purusha. Let’s explore this idea a little further. Yoga philosophy describes that everything within Prakriti, within the material world, has certain qualities called gunas. These qualities are sattva, rajas, and tamas. Sattva has characteristics such as purity, unconditional love, and deep-rooted peace; so, essentially qualities that very closely resemble Purusha. Rajas has characteristics such as activity, restlessness, power, and prestige; these are characteristics that are ruled by the ego. Tamas has characteristics of dullness, sloth, greed, lust, heaviness, and accumulation. Most of us are continually flowing between these three gunas. For example, we may feel very tamasic on a cold, winter day choosing to simply sit on the couch, watch tv, and eat chocolate. On another day, we may feel very rajasic, where we set out of our house with our to-do list in hand and, come hell or high water, we are going to get through every single item on that checklist! And, then, we have our sattvic days when we just know that whatever is meant to get done, will get done. There’s no checklist, no lounging in front of the telly with a box of chocolates; but, quite simply, walking through the day with peace and ease, taking care of whatever shows up that day.
These three qualities show up in everything – our environment, possessions, food, mood, and actions. It is through the transformation of tamas to rajas, and then rajas to sattva, that we begin to move about our day with that savasana-like state of bliss and clarity. This transformation is a process; it is a journey just as all of yoga and life is. This transformation takes time, patience, and consistency in daily practices; and, it all begins with awareness. An awareness of the three gunas; awareness that there is a witness within us that is changeless and always at peace; an awareness that we have all the tools to move forward on this journey.
And so, with that being said, it’s totally okay to go to yoga class just for the savasana! ;-)
In Service and Gratitude,