Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yoga's Answer to Excessive Achievement Drive and Wanting

I recently took a yoga class with Yves Oberlin, an Austin-based Iyengar teacher who was subbing for my teacher Louie Ettling. He gave us a relatively generous eight-minute savasana, first instructing to find the pose in our bodies, tucking our shoulders under and so forth. Then he said, “After a while, don’t move. Don’t keep adjusting and re-adjusting. Just accept that this is the way things are.” (Something to that effect.)

Who knows about my classmates’ reactions, but that struck me as a profound statement. Sure, he was referring to an asana, but I projected it to life itself.

Don’t we all eventually (and sooner rather than later) need to accept the realities and live with them? To stop questioning, seeking, trying to change what might very well be “it”: who we are and the lives we’ve created for ourselves.

This is from a blog called the Yoga Spy, a blog I've followed for a long time, but haven't mentioned here before. I had to snicker when I saw the comment about the "generous eight minute savasana, given that my teacher often devotes 10-15 minutes at the end of each class to it. Which I think really helps one embody a sense of not fussing about, not trying to improve anything.

I'm definitely someone who has a lot of achievement drive. I want to keep growing, feeling that just doing the same things and thinking the same old ideas is being a dead person. At the same time, I have been seeing how this drive, when allowed to take over, makes everything right now feel unsatisfying. I can imagine some of you out there can relate with all this.

It makes me think about how privileged I am. That I have the necessities covered, and am not in survival mode. That I'm educated and socially intelligent enough to make headway in my community. That having the time others use just to hang on can be a hell of a lot of trouble if you don't pay close attention to what you're motivated to do with it and why.

Maybe this is why people who are really wealthy still struggle a lot to be joyful and engaged in life. And maybe it's partly why there is so much stress, depression, addiction, and other issues in wealthy nations like the United States.

It's funny; I rarely have issues doing savasana. Somehow, even though I can struggle with wanting to "be more, achieve more" in my life, I most often can settle down into savasana at the end of a yoga session and just be. Maybe this is slowly creeping into my life and I just don't see it all the time.

Whatever the case is, I do think this is a great teaching, "After awhile, don't move."

p.s. photo is not of the author


Magpie said...

Savasana is my favorite part of yoga class. Perhaps it's because my yoga teacher is constantly pushing me to my edge and the moment I can stop, my entire body is so completely exhausted that my mind finally shuts off. I don't do it nearly enough in my home practice, I find myself wandering off to my cushion, but seated meditation post yoga just does not have that same "ahhhh" as savasana.

Robyn said...

In Leslie Kaminoff's book, The Anatomy of Yoga, he calls savasana both the easiest and most difficult pose. I thought that was a perfect description!

Nathan said...


That's sounds pretty true to me!