Activity and Repose

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During most Bikram and Hatha classes there is a sequence of poses about two thirds of the way through that alternates between lying in complete stillness in dead man’s pose and activating by taking a deep breath, letting it out in two strong, short exhales and springing your upper body forward at your waste in order to clasp your hands around the soles of your feet. This is followed by various other poses, and finally by going back to lying in stillness, after which you spring forward again. The pattern repeats itself for a while.

This is a valuable experience for all of us in the West because it teaches us to see and experience the concrete interconnectedness of letting go completely and purposefully springing into action. Actually one cannot exist without the other. Our culture is geared towards never giving our brains or bodies a rest. We almost feel guilty when we’re not doing something. There are so many diversions to avoid taking a real break. After work, most people go right to watching television, socializing, surfing the web, or any other activity that helps them avoid being unmoving and alone. This state often causes anxiety.

We can all benefit greatly from mindfully choosing to stop all activity and sit in unmoving silence because this is the rhythm of life. You breathe in, filling your body with oxygen, and then you breathe out, resting before your next inhalation.

When you consciously decide to take a break in your life your actions will take on new significance because you will see and understand them much more clearly. Sometimes we are not even really aware of our actions or their ramifications because we spend our entire day buzzing around like bees trying to pollinate as many flowers as possible, busy with projects and people, and it all becomes a wash. Only by experiencing the night can you recognize the day.

When you give yourself a chance to rest your actions will become more purposeful and take on greater significance for you. While going through this sequence in yoga, work on making the decision to let go completely while you are lying in dead man. Try not to move, think, or worry about anything. Just concentrate on your breathing. Let yourself surrender to doing nothing. Inaction is still a decision. It is the decision of no-action. When it’s time to spring forward, do this mindfully and purposefully as well.