Last night when I was practicing yoga, I felt really sleepy after the first few asana (done through deep stretching). On close examination, I realized that I wasn’t exactly sleepy, but just very relaxed after stretching those muscles. How often do we mistake our feeling of deep relaxation for sleepiness or exhaustion or lethargy, plain and simple? Of course, our eyes can and often do become heavy when we are very relaxed, especially from deep inside the muscle. This relaxation tends to permeate the whole body and then the mind as well.
However, after a few stretches, and especially if you have already had a long day (those of you who practice after sunset will know what I am talking aboutJ), the feeling can be one of exhausted relaxation. Yes, it is very rejuvenating to stretch when tired. Yes, it is also very possible that you could fall asleep on your mat! It is best, however, to save that depth of relaxation for the last, that is, for shavasana, which is (or should be) done at the end of every practice. In the meantime, while inducing relaxation into the muscles during asana, keep your intention and awareness on the stretch, on feeling your body opening up and on getting the benefits of that practice beyond relaxation.
If you feel sleepy on the mat, keep your awareness on that feeling, notice how the body feels in general and work with that feeling. If you fall asleep anyway, when you lay down in shavasana, then so be it. Perhaps you desparately needed that rest anyway. Sleep after yoga is pretty profound too. It is deep and refreshing. I find that a deeply relaxing practice is itself a good and restful state for the body to be in. I feel rested after my practice. Like I went into deeper places in my body and freed some of those rigid spots. Freeing your muscles can itself be freeing – just simply freeing. The practice of asana must affect the mind in ways that we don’t even acknowledge on a regular basis. That is why, sleepy or not, I love my yoga everyday.
I love it more with each passing day. I have learnt to approach my body and my feelings with a respectful awareness, so that I don’t end up lashing myself about being lazy or tired. I know that simply being aware of what my body is going through every moment that I am on the mat can have far reaching effects for my body and soul. Awareness is key to unlocking so many hidden dimensions of the body and mind. Practicing with awareness, I find, takes me to a place of great contentment. I am happy to just be.
I must add, that this ability to stay with my body has grown with me and it can be a struggle as well at times. Usually though, once I overcome the struggle of actually getting onto my yoga mat and into my yoga space, I get into the groove of my practice and come out feeling a new person.
I will sign off now with an OM and return with more insights soon….