The Living Corpse

January 20, 2012

“You’re just dead people that didn’t die yet.” -Louis C.K.

When was the last time you asked the question, “Are we not all titans and giants, imprisoned in hell”? If it’s been a while, or maybe never, after reading this entry you may want to ask it every day upon waking. Before I get into discussing more physically demanding musculoskeletal postures that are sure to invigorate your neurofascia, I’d like to take a moment to work backwards from what is the most important part of why you got into this whole yoga business, Corpse Pose. In terms of classification and level, it is all about perspective. As a matter of fact, your perspective will either take you on an amazing journey in Corpse Pose, or it will not move you at all, maybe even have you taking a short nap. In other words, it is you, your perspective, your personal involvement, the things that are internal and in the realm of nonshareability among others that will make or break this experience, leaving you fully responsible for what you get out of it. If it doesn’t work for you, it’s not the yoga that didn’t work, but it was you who didn’t show up to the party; depending on your perspective, therefore, lying there like a corpse after your self-imposed intense physical and mental stresses can be very easy if you understand that you are now uniting your mind, heart, and body in a scared trinity that project spirituality as they are overlaid, or it can be very advanced and difficult as you struggle with wondering, questioning, being lost, missing a connection to yourself, and only being able to view it externally as you lie there on your back and breathe. Perspective is what we have as our secret weapon to change absolutely nothing in the physical world around us, the external, yet by changing the internal, suddenly everything changes and the entire existence of all things from our earliest memories to the most now moment is different, in an instant.

Photo courtesy of BonesBob

What is working on your body in lying there as if you are dead, as you can imagine, is gravity. Ah, the ever mysterious gravity, that scientists still cannot grasp fully as a concept in context of our world from the very large down to the infinitesimally small. But you can lay there and ponder it with your mental focus, because, alas, you are not dead, yet. To reiterate the driving force that is your vehicle through your liberating perspective, whatever “gymnastic” demands your immediately prior asanas make on your body in terms of strength, flexibility, and balance, your new challenge here is to release all of the tension from every part of your body AND your mind; if you get this one wrong, you may fool others from a distance, but you’ll know if you are trying to fool yourself or you have been successful in letting go and thereby coming into the full embrace of not just this or that, but all that is. Atheists beware, this may be the most dangerous pose for you, unless of course you are interested in transformation and change. From my personal experience and perspective, the religion in which I was brought up had its own form of Corpse Pose, except you were expected to do it on your knees with your back unsupported, and with your hands folded in prayer in front of your heart. I don’t know about you, but I found that a lot more difficult.

So, what challenges do you face, with your little mind that is definitely going to be flitting about like a little moth in an almost empty closet, looking for that one forgotten wool scarf on a shelf in a corner way in the back, in the dark? You may have a problem with fully relaxing because you think too much about your body. The first thing you will struggle with is that what looks like you lying there symmetrically with your legs and arms straight, palms up, feet falling outward, may not feel symmetrical as your curvy parts of the backside of your body make contact with the floor. Just surrender to the fact that what you may be feeling proprioceptively (the information being relayed to your central nervous system about your environment) may not initially line up with the fact that your body is indeed positioned just right. This way you are now ready to achieve a deep state of emotional and physical relaxation. If you have body issues, meaning you have difficulty or inability to accept your body as it is, this will be the primary reason stopping your progress. You need to accept your body as it is, and not how you wish it to be.

Savasana

You will be breathing, concentrating on your breath, meditating on your back as you release and forget about your body once each and every part of it has been accounted for and systematically relaxed. You’ll know you are there when you get to that last area of your body and relax it; your mind will search for any remaining areas of the body connected to it that still require relaxation, and in finding none, you will feel both weightless and free, while still being in full participation with gravity as you feel your heavy body sinking into the floor as if it is ever more becoming softer, more accepting of your weight, wanting to get closer to you, one with your body. This deep state of conscious relaxation is different from sleep, so don’t sleep! If you can imagine how you breathe when you sleep, in other words breathing without controlling your breathing, that is your goal. Be fully aware of your breathing while not controlling it. The reason for this is your breath has a natural rhythm, and you have to let it run wild in that rhythm. When you are too aware and control your breathing, you cage it, altering its natural rhythm. Set the breath free and let it run wild, and you yourself will step out of your cage and run wild.

How long should this go on for? I like to generalize it to ten minutes, but I obviously don’t set a timer or look at a clock. You know what ten minutes feels like, so prepare for that. Just like all other asanas, when you know you’ve had enough, you just know. Good indicators that you are ready are experiences of having been fully released from conscious, mundane, egocentric reality for a time frame that naturally makes you want to jump back into life as if you have just been reborn into your body to start new. Your mind will start to nudge you to want to come back into being and have new levels of optimism and enthusiasm for the possibilities offered to you in this life. When the physical relaxation feels complete and complimentary to your physical demands that have come before this time, and the mental and emotional release have peaked and come back to a resting state, all three of these aspects will come to a synergy like three key aspects of yourself resting at the bottom of a deep bowl. Your eyes will naturally want to open; the smile on your face is optional.

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4 Responses to “The Living Corpse”

  1. Tamsin said

    Thank you for the intelligent commentary! I have a PhD in cognitive psychology and currently teach yoga. I am pondering starting a science of yoga blog and am really enjoying perusing yours. Keep up the great work!

  2. metalyoga said

    I look forward to reading what you have to say from your perspectives of cognitive psychology and teaching yoga, should you choose to blog about it! Experiences born of the practice of yoga are infiltrating the health sciences with a multitude of measurable benefits and results far surpassing expected outcomes, and I’m sure you will be able to document from “in the field”.

  3. Nice One! i really like the way you expressed your thoughts about the function human body. I have learned a lot and i am really impressed.

  4. GIna said

    “Our body is just a vehicle to experience this reality”

    Rich, congrats on this cool blog!

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