It is one of those years when Passover and Easter coincide. Together these holidays represent breaking free from our bonds of slavery and being reborn into something better. For many people, they represent far more than that, but I am going up the abstraction ladder on purpose and mean no disrespect to anyone who believes in the reality of these stories.
Going up the abstraction ladder, Passover is about breaking free from the bonds of slavery in our lives, whether in Egypt or the ones we create for ourselves. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder, when Jews come together to tell the story of the Exodus. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, finding new life. Taken together, the idea is that when we choose to break free of our bonds of slavery, we may lose our old selves, but we are reborn as free people.
This is not a blog dedicated to religion, so where is this going? Lawyers and yoga are perfect examples of how to integrate these ideas. Lawyers, as a whole, exemplify the slavery of modern life. Yoga, through savasana, reminds us how to let go of those bonds and find new life.
There is no question that slavery in the traditional sense still exists in the world, but most people able to read a blog about yoga and lawyers probably do not encounter it on a daily basis (though we might take a moment to reflect on that fact and ask ourselves what we can do to counteract slavery around the world). So, what is modern slavery in the “free” world?
Individuals have many different aspects of their lives that enslave them: Family members who excel at guilt trips, relationships that spiral out of control, and beliefs entrenched since childhood that you are not good enough tend to dominate the list. On a macro level, however, there is another type of slavery, and one that keeps so many people miserably waking and going to jobs they hate. Student loans and families and wanting the BMW and iphone convince people that the only way to survive is to work at any job that pays them enough to have it all. Check out the comments on any post written by The People's Therapist, a BigLaw lawyer turned psychologist. We become slaves to blackberries and deadlines, forgetting the real reason we went into our profession – whatever that reason is. Our personal enslavements of fear and living up to expectations dominate our decisions in life. This is modern slavery in a world where we consider ourselves to be free.
Just like Passover and Easter, Yoga reminds us that there is a way out of this. Savasana means corpse pose in English. It is that moment at the end of yoga classes when the only instruction is “lie down and relax.” And yes, it is the hardest pose for many, many people. (For some people, it is physically difficult because of particular body types or injuries, but here I mean difficult in an emotional and psychological sense.) Savasana is literally where we lie down allowing our bodies and thoughts to “die,” and at the end of it, we are reborn full of the knowledge we gained throughout class and hopefully a little more relaxed.
Physically, savasana is where our bodies integrate the physical aspects of a yoga class or session. While we go through postures, we are teaching our muscles to work in new ways, and we are learning to stretch and grow. During savasana, the body integrates that information, so the next time you “do” yoga, you have the muscle memory to do it.
Psychologically, savasana is where we let go of our enslavements. For the 5-10 minutes we are in savasana, we need not worry about Outlook or the boss. We need not worry about dinner or the weather. We need not worry about whether we are doing the pose “right.” We get to just be. We get to let go of everything that enslaves us and breathe.
Thus, through savasana, those parts of us that hold us back and enslave us can die. Then we can begin to wiggle our fingers and toes (one of my favorite things to say as a yoga teacher) and awaken without all that baggage. Of course, it does not go away immediately, and we must come back to savasana each time we practice. But if we could learn these lessons immediately, we would not celebrate Passover and Easter every year either.
What holds you back? What do you do to enslave yourself? What do you do to break free? I hope this time of rebirth, in whatever form you choose to celebrate, help bring you peace.
© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved