Many of you know that yoga class always ends in savasana. Laying down on your mat, on your back, this is the opportunity to truly let go. In savasana, we surrender our tension, our worries, and even our fidgeting to the still silence of rest. The muscles completely relax as the body melts into the mat. The mind settles. Awareness is brought to the feeling of the body breathing, the quiet and stillness in which we arrive. It’s as if everything around us dissolves.
Savasana in Sanskrit means “corpse pose.” Perhaps we mostly call it by its Sanskrit name because it’s less uncomfortable. Thinking about death is not something many of us are prepared to do, or something necessarily encouraged in Western culture. However, this particular season always brings to us a reminder of death. Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, All Souls’ Day, and Samhain are all holidays that invite us to contemplate death. Whatever your background or spiritual tradition, this is one of the most important contemplations we can engage in as human beings. This is the one inescapable truth: we will die. Leaning into this reality (everything dies) is a big part of Yoga. If we practice the yamas and niyamas, they all point to this. Satya is truthfulness. We cannot deceive ourselves into thinking we can avoid death. Aparigraha is non-attachment. What greater attachment do we have than our alive human bodies? Santosa is acceptance of things as they are. Svadhyaya is self-study, or understanding our human situation. And if we practice these things, we eventually get to Isvarapranidhana, or beginning to transcend duality altogether, recognizing that life and death are just part of the same whole. But whether you follow the Eight Limbs of Yoga or not, getting familiar with death is an important practice not just for adults, but also for children and families.
Yoga teaches us about impermanence in so many ways. How our bodies feel different every time we get on the mat. How our bodies change and grow. How thoughts and emotions fluctuate. The more we tune in, the more we understand that everything is changing all the time. Death is one of those things- maybe the biggest of those things. We will die. It’s inevitable. So thinking about it, even practicing for it can bring so much peace to our lives. We appreciate what we have more. We have more coping skills for dealing with the deaths of our loved ones. We are prepared. Corpse pose can help us in this way to face our reality. To appreciate our living healthy human bodies. To know that things will change, and that will be okay.
Children are especially curious about death and dying, trying to piece together the way of the natural world. Some adults I’ve encountered are very hesitant to have these conversations with children for fear of scaring them. But I’ve found that these conversations are very welcome and very helpful for children. They do appreciate practicing corpse pose. In fact, you can practice this pose together as a family, contemplating change. Practice every day for 5 or 10 minutes together. Talk about what you experienced during the pose.
You can also open up further discussion with your children. Here are five ways to get the conversation started:
*Can you think of anything that doesn’t change?
*Talk about a person or animal you know who has died. Draw pictures. Create a memorial.
*Be curious- the next time you see a dead squirrel on the side of the road, actually look at it. Say a prayer or a blessing that it need not suffer.
*Learn about the human body- what happens on the inside? And what happens to our bodies when we die?
*Go to a Dia de los Muertos or All Souls’ Day celebration.