Bringing Sacred Back; Please Stay For Savasana
Masaaki Okamura

Little over 15 years ago…

“Now go sit in front of the door and don’t let anyone leave,” whispered my teacher, as everyone settled in savasana.

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Back then it was how everyone was trained. I was trained not let people in during the opening prayer and not to let anyone leave once savasana has started. It seemed very natural, just how things were done, this was honoring tradition.

Today, I find myself caught in the vast changes of what yoga was just a mere 15 years ago to what it has turned into today. Many things have changed in such a short time. 

"...isn’t yoga just that, the ability accept impermanence; to relax into the unknown and the inevitable ignorance?"

Yoga has stood the test of time partly because it is time-tested and also partly for its ability to be adaptable. There is an inherent need to continue to adapt to the changes that occur around us; after all isn’t Yoga just that, the ability accept impermanence; to relax into the unknown and the inevitable ignorance? However, how much change is acceptable, how much is too much that it is no longer what it is? A model of wellness, wisdom, and spirituality.

These days, Sacred seems to be fading into the background more and more. Not only observable in the behavior of students; coming in during open prayer and throwing their mat down creating a disruption, rolling their mats up during ending meditation or closing prayers; not to forget, getting up and leaving in the middle of savasana. It is also fading into the background with an unhealthy adaptation of fitness, focused far too much on how physically difficult the practice is; showing up not only in reckless sequencing but also with speed and heat (if it's a heated practice).

What happened? The source or timeline of these changes are not clear but rather an accumulation of many things changing. Most did not foresee any of the technological changes or the impact of social media would have on how we live today or its impact on Yoga; like anything, some good and some, not so much. Is it a bad thing to want to monitor your health with technology or be at the ready for a sick child? Of course not. Is it wrong to share ideas, progress, and even accomplishments on social media? Not at all. However, when students can’t leave their digital devices alone when they are on the mat or have the need to have it on them, constantly checking time, message, or whatever it may be, Sacred is being hurt each time.  

Is a bad thing to want to be physically well, healthy, and strong? Of course not. Wellness can include fitness, however, fitness does not always include wellness. When a teacher throws in poses and actions just to make the practice more physically difficult, fast additional push-ups during every chaturanga, not only is it aggression, but again, Sacred is being hurt each time.

Do we need to sometimes leave early or show up late? Of course we do. However, if you leave when you don’t really need to or can’t organize yourself to be on time when nothing is stopping you, then again, Sacred is being hurt.

Who’s accountable? Should the students know better? Should the teacher know better? I believe that there is need to work together.  There is a responsibility that comes when you pay to be a student, and there is a responsibility that comes when you are paid to be a teacher. Students should not be rewarded for bad behavior, nor should teachers be excused for letting bad behavior continue and make it the responsibility of other teachers to correct. The change will come more harmoniously if both the teachers and students can work towards a common goal. The goal to want to feel well, whole, and at peace in body, mind, heart, and spirit. Only then will there be any meaningful change, without creating conflict or feeling combative. 

Ten years from now, I would like to look back and reflect on how we as a Yoga community fought to bring Sacred back and the mention of spirituality, soul, or god is not an unusual occurrence, to act respectfully during practice is again just how things are done, and wellness is not a theory but rather truly practiced. Is there a one solution plan or a quick fix? Of course not, but it can start by committing to finish practice from beginning to end and treat the space with respect. So whenever you can, please stay for savasana.