Labor is a craft, but perfect rest is an art. It is the result of an accord of body, mind, and imagination. To attain a degree of excellence in art, one must adjure slothfulness. – Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath
Do you know what “adjure” means? I assumed it meant abhor, avoid, do not do it. Wrong! Here is the definition from Merriam Webster: 1: to command solemnly under or as if under oath or penalty of a curse, 2: to urge or advise earnestly
WhaaaaaT???? We are commanded to slothfulness as if under oath or penalty of a curse?!?! The above quote is from a book about the practice and commandment of the sabbath. The day of rest. The day of stopping all work. The day of not doing. The day of accomplishing nothing. That’s it. No running errands. No amazing multi-tasking of making 5 weeks of freezer meals while doing 8 loads of laundry. No self satisfied ticking off of the to-do list. Sabbath is a big post-it note in front of your face that says Stop. Enough. No more. Done. Now.
The meditation mantra of the month is Isvarapranidhana, which means surrender all things to God. I find this a hard thing to wrap my head around. What does that mean, in practice? On the yoga mat, I practice surrender after I find my center of gravity and sense of direction and I can just BE in the pose. I stop fidgeting, soften my jaw, my spine. I let gravity do the subtle (but oh so powerful) work of releasing, softening, and lengthening my muscles. I figure out how to get out of the way of my own effort and let gravity do it’s job.
Then there is that final pose called savasana, when you lie there and release all your muscles. You show up, do the best you can to relax, then get out of the way to let gravity do it’s job. And guess what — the whole class is a build up to this one pose. You work hard and then the biggest pose of all is when you lie down (or sit down if you are in my Chairish class) and stop trying. Enough already. Stop. Done. No more. Rest. Now.
You don’t make this pose happen through your effort, no matter how strong or flexible you are. The pose happens when you step back, stop trying so hard, and release all your effort. This does not translate well to a typical exercise class. It doesn’t make sense in our goal based, always striving, highly productive minds. But, this is the practice of Isvarapranidhana. A day of rest (sabbath) and a pose of rest (savasana). Why is this so challenging? Why do we disregard the commandment to practice the sabbath? Why do so many people leave a yoga class just before savasana? Do we even know what a total release of all effort for a whole day would be like, without the forced rest of being sick? How would it feel to practice sabbath for a day? Maybe an hour? Or how about practicing savasana for 15 minutes? Or maybe 5? How can you practice isvarapranidhana and how might it give shape to your days?
During the practice of savasana in my classes, I talk through a body scan; releasing all effort from your toes to the top of your head. When I get to the hands I say “practice loosening your grip on all that is beyond your control — letting go of the work that is not yours to do — so that you can be about the work that is yours to do”. There it is again. Isvarapranidhana.
Involve yourself through action and leave the rest to God. – T.K.V. Deiskachar, The Heart of Yoga
It’s a practice to be sure. And as you may have heard me say before; practice doesn’t make perfect – practice is perfect. So, let’s practice it together, eh?
Peace on your head, you.
P.S. There’s a lot going on & coming up with Daily Bread Yoga…
MLK Day Yoga Love Raiser is Monday, January 15th at the 9a.m. (floor based) and 10:45a.m. (Chairish) classes at Good Shepherd Lutheran (Prospect & Devsonshire). These are donations only classes. Bring feminine hygiene products (tampons, pads, Monistat) or cash and we will buy some FHP’s to give to Wesley Food Pantries, Philo Presbyterian Church (annual trip to Nicaragua) and Champaign-Urbana high schools.
Yoga & Chronic Pain,; a 4 week series starting Monday, January 15th, 7-8:15p.m. at Wesley United Methodist Church — click on the “Weekly Schedule” tab above to learn more about it!
Saturday Morning Yoga retreat – January 27th, 9a.m.-noon at Philo Presbyterian Church