Savasana Armor

by Michele Vinbury

Every week in savasana, I ask students to allow me the privilege of helping them find comfort and to trust me, and the space we’ve created, as they close their eyes and begin to release tension in their bodies.  I stand watch, holding space, as they beautifully surrender to gravity and soften their physical armor.

I, on the other hand, am that student every restorative teacher knows, who would rather remain excruciatingly still while a blanket corner digs into my ribs than raise my hand to ask for help. This raised hand, a seemingly simple gesture, signals to me a vulnerability I needn’t expose. I admit that it is irrational – seen in my mind’s eye not as a form of self-care, but instead as a white flag of surrender, a signal of defeat. I need something because I can’t do it myself. I have no such judgments about my students though.  I often think the opposite, that it is the student with the more advanced practice that can accept and allow for comfort and ease.

You might not be able to tell, but I have been working on this self-acceptance thing for a while. About 5 years ago I chose to stop listening to negative self-talk in my head. At about the same time I began two practices that radically changed my self-perception. One was writing Love & Appreciate lists about myself (talk about awkward!) And for a summer, I made it a practice to notice something beautiful about every woman I saw at my gym and pool.  These changes in habit began a shift in my judgmental ways.

Then, about 3 years ago, on my mat in a Mysore class, I began to forgive myself for not being perfect, and acknowledged that any attempts in that direction would be not only prideful, but absolutely futile. Amazingly, over time, the word “forgive” has even given way to “accept”.  As my friend Jasmine says, I am now, a recovering perfectionist.

The next big shifts happened when I began, in earnest, the quest to investigate whether I believed that vulnerability could actually be an attribute of “the strong”.  I remember sitting on a couch in a sunlit room when a dear friend asked me to consider that being soft could be a strength. I thought she’d flipped her lid – inconceivable!

Since that conversation, I have made headway. But old defenses die hard, and a strong, visceral resistance still keeps a watchful eye on my comings and goings.  Barking loudly, a guard dog left over from an era when it made sense to leave a Pitbull at the door.  These days, truth be told, I believe a Golden a better fit for my needs.  However, my watchdog, with his menacing snarl and hard muscled body serves the best way he knows how.

I have learned in my yoga practice and through the kindness and counsel of my mentors, the power of working through resistance; facing fears, letting go and welcoming deep self-inquiry.  In that spirit, I ask myself now, why the resistance around asking for help in a class where people make it their job, and their joy, to do just that?

As I feel into this question, a few things arise.  My first inclination is that the answer lies in not wanting to put the teacher out. Instantly, my B.S. meter hits high. I know this is not the case. In my experience, these teachers love to prop and re-prop and fuss and adjust to get the pose feeling just right. Such sweet and kind gestures are hard to accept though, if you feel undeserving. I sense more deeply that my hesitation is in not wanting to call attention to something I perceive as a weakness in myself (needing help)… and on some deeper level still, I think it is not feeling comfortable with the intimacy of letting someone take care of me. Sometimes it is scary, I-need-a-guard-dog-scary, to let people get close. Close enough to see me without my armor on.

Thinking about this, I wonder if it is why they put the “Namaste” at the end of class…after savasana.  As I go around the room holding weighted heads in my hands, happily offering neck adjustments and feeling muscles soften under my fingertips…I feel too, in these bodies, some defenses slip away as they softly let go.  And when we sit together for those closing communal breaths, it is perhaps then, that our divine light shines brightest, released and unobstructed by the dull and heavy armor we may shoulder throughout the rest of the day.

For now, I accept myself as a work in progress, grateful to have found a a place on my mat with room enough for barking dogs and rusted armor and all manner of vinyasa flows.

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4 Responses to Savasana Armor
  1. pam drake

    I love you. I love the courage in you that allowed you to share this.

  2. pam drake

    Love you…and admire the courage in this piece. Well done my friend.

  3. pam drake

    Courage!!! That took courage! Love you for sharing so boldly.

  4. pam drake

    ooops. Didn’t think it was taking the post! Well, now you know THREE times that I love you!