What Heals You – A Seasonal Column by Ann Grace MacMullan published in The Swarthmorean, October 27th, 2023
“To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”Ecclesiastes, 3:1
The autumn leaves fall like embers, floating earthward with a fizzle. I imagine the tenuous connection between leaf stem and branch, growing more fragile – over days? Hours? Until that sweet moment of release, and the leaf is sprung free to its delightful descent. It’s the time of beautiful decay; a month in which to witness the beginning of the end. Winter is coming. How many autumns have you seen in your lifetime? How many times have you observed this elegant process of letting go?
Despite witnessing this perpetual change, this relentless turning of the seasons, we somehow think of our own lives as immutable, permanent. We hold on so tightly, to our health, homes, or families; and we can’t fathom letting “it” go. And so, when goodbye comes, we have never practiced it, and it’s unfathomable.
In yoga there is one posture, saved for the end of every session, which helps us practice this surrender to the divine. It’s called Savasana, or Corpse Pose. When I first started with yoga, this was actually my least favorite pose – I couldn’t lie there doing nothing! Alone in silence with my thoughts racing! But after years of yoga, it’s one of my favorite poses; and through its valuable teaching, I recognize it could be the most important one.
Try this powerful pose for yourself. Lie on the ground or your bed or couch and make yourself comfortable: pillows under the head and knees, a blanket for comfort, maybe even a lavender eye pillow over your eyes. Breathe in; then follow your exhalation all the way out. Feel the imprint of your body on the ground, and little by little, try to soften into the support below.
Take a breath in, and on the breath out, let go of one body part at a time, moving from head to toe. Imagine the earth receiving you, holding you. Stay for anywhere from five to ten minutes.
It’s clear to me when I practice this pose of letting go, I’m more than just a body. I can imagine myself dancing joyfully or flying like an eagle. My “me” becomes lighter. Some believe that this essence, soul, or true self, is in fact eternal and will live on beyond the loss of the shell we borrow for this lifetime. So while Corpse Pose helps us recognize that we have to let go of certain aspects of our human experience, lying on the ground doing nothing may also connect us with the bliss of the infinite.
Ann Grace MacMullan is a certified yoga therapist and teaches Chair Yoga and Gentle Yoga classes at the Park Ave Community Center in downtown Swarthmore. She loves to wax poetic on all things wellness related.