Remembering the early stages of practice. How I learned to release and appreciate the final posture.
I remember my early yoga classes as a student, I was able to focus and breathe with only a few postures, typically a balancing or inversion, leading me into story. That is until we approached the final posture –Shavasana. I enjoyed knowing we were getting ready to relax, as I was usually ready to finish and move forward, but didn’t quite understand why it was part of the practice. I remember my early on Shavasana experiences, laying down without props, although they were offered and available. I think I was so wired to move forward I didn’t register the suggestion to make myself comfortable to rest. So, I simply laid down on my mat, closed my eyes, and listened to the teachers’ voice. I still remember struggling with my thoughts… is the teacher looking at me… should I peek and check that I am doing it right… struggling just to keep my eyes closed the whole time. This went on for several classes until the time a teacher walked past and offered me an eye pillow, which fortunately I took. That simple prop over my eyes stopped me from struggling. My body settled and a sense of ease and softness took over. It felt like magic. That’s when I began to understand and appreciate the gift of relaxation.
As my practice grew and I started to explore edges, I learned to use movement to grow still. So much happens during asana practice, linking breath to movement, movement to inner awareness, inner awareness to letting go. It was a symphony of sensation and shifting, engaging and releasing until the words I loved hearing came. Time to rest, restore, integrate, find stillness. It took me quite some time and lots of practice to fully appreciate the significance of the process, to allow sensations to surface without reacting and going into the story. But that’s when I realized how much that simple phase of practice healed and nurtured me. A time to be as I was at that moment, no need to shift or change. Shavasana gave me space to rest after working my body, space to let my thoughts float out, space to feel the energy of the room, space to be grateful for my practice.
It also gave me the gift of noticing that I was not alone in this struggle. So when I taught I always had lots of props on my mat to encourage students to use as part of class, often using supported Shavasana to end the class. I always left plenty of time for this final posture as I watched how students truly needed this space. It was the only part of my class that I rarely shifted. I loved how after a time many students used props without prompting, creating the comfortable space they needed to find ease. I often joked with my students after class that the hardest part of being a teacher was bringing them back from relaxation, they looked so peaceful and still. But I love the connection that my practice brought to my teaching so I keep that healing awareness with me each time I step on my mat.
Marybeth brings with her more than 26 years as part of the federal prison system, a career that taught her that all people have value, sometimes you just have to look deeper and see differently. She came to yoga to adjust to her changing physical abilities and completed her 500-hour certification and yoga therapy training through the Pranakriya School of Yoga Healing Arts. She is an IAYT certified Yoga Therapist and thoroughly believes yoga is a path to healing.
Her current interests include golfing, reading, paper crafting and spending time with her husband Ward laughing and traveling to new places. She loves to cook and thinks tea goes well with everything. Marybeth believes that life brings many changes – some easy, some more difficult, but each piece part of your own unique journey. She believes yoga practice is a process without a right or a wrong way and sometimes the end result is very different than you originally envisioned … it doesn’t have to be perfect – just yours.