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“Raise your hand if 2022 went the way you expected.”
That was the sigh-inducing opening line of an email newsletter I recently received from yoga teacher Kimberlee Morrison. She’s not wrong. It’s been a heck of year.
Actually, it’s been a heck of a few years. And we’ve been navigating them with as much ease and humor and grace as we can muster. During the early weeks and the ennui of lockdown in 2020, memes of exhausted individuals collapsing into Child’s Pose—and staying there indefinitely—appeared everywhere from Instagram to the New Yorker. Who couldn’t relate to wanting more of the pose that gives us permission to fall into a heap and close ourselves off from any more sensory input? It was, unequivocally, the year of Child’s Pose.
We quietly tiptoed into 2021 with hushed expectations and cautious optimism. There seemed to be a collective holding of the breath, a we-dare-not-say-it-out-loud musing about how long things could remain intense. As it turned out, a long time. The year seemed to drag on and on and on, and each time we felt relief might be close, the world experienced otherwise. It felt like 365 days of Chair Pose.
Early 2022, had to be better, we thought. But instead of the contemporary equivalent of the roaring 20s that many pundits promised, we saw war. Continued racism. Appalling political actions and inactions. Insane work demands. More layoffs. More variants. Escalated gas prices. Escalated everything prices.
To be fair, the year also brought acts of random beauty, such as strollers left on train platforms for refugees, and moments of everyday silliness, like the stranger I witnessed dancing in the aisles of a grocery store to make others laugh on Christmas Eve. But the balance felt like it was slipping. We were tired. And it showed. It seemed like the world desperately needed a collective Savasana.
More specifically, we needed the kind of profoundly restorative Savasana from which you emerge, dazed and confused and yoga stoned, wondering what day it is or who you are or what planet you’re on. Instead, 2022 felt like the kind of fitful Savasana when the playlist reminds you of your ex, a car alarm blares incessantly, someone knocks over their water bottle, you have to pee, and existential angst or work dread loops incessantly through your thoughts.
Why we needed Savasana in 2022
In 2022, research continued to reveal that we need less stress, more rest, and better sleep. Articles extolling the virtues of slowing down started to show up even in finance and business publications.
It’s the year that the creators of the Calm app paid millions to acquire a health platform that would allow it to integrate more mental self-care to its arsenal of meditation, sleep, and relaxation audio.
It’s the year that we latched onto the term “quiet quitting” to describe our collective response to feeling constantly overwhelmed, undercompensated, and just blah about our ability to show up to yet another insane day at work.
It’s the year that activist and yoga teacher Octavia F. Raheem published Pause, Rest, Be: Stillness Practices for Courage in Times of Change and writer Tricia Hersey drew acclaim for her book Rest is Resistance: A Manifesto. Madeline Dore, who spent years interviewing successful individuals in an array of careers, published her book I Didn’t Do the Thing Today in which she reminds us “rest isn’t about making us more productive—it has an inherent value.”
It’s also the year that Vogue described much of what we shopped for this year as a return to “basics” and “essentials.” Many of these embraced bland palettes that seemed to be barely there. Fashion, it seems, imitates life given that there was an undeniable barely there-ness in how many of us showed up to our days.
Yoga challenges us to contort not just our bodies but our understanding of what it means to be human. It asks us to step back from our countless expectations and our attachment to how we want things to happen. It reminds us to bring our awareness back, again and again, to what’s happening in the moment and to be okay with that.
That’s not easy. And that’s precisely why we refer to yoga as a “practice.” And that’s why, at the end of each practice, we succumb to the stillness of Savasana and surrender to some profoundly restorative force that was known by the ancients and is supported by contemporary research.
Savasana affords us a small measure of the experience of rest that we so desperately need. Although it’s also the pose that students are most likely to skip and teachers frequently skimp on when time is running short.
Why we struggle with Savasana
Toward the end of a recent vinyasa class of challenging poses strung together with thoughtful cueing and brilliant sequencing, the teacher quipped, “There’s a longstanding joke that Savasana is the hardest yoga pose. It’s no joke.”
To sit still and do nothing? As much as we might say that’s what we want, the actuality of not doing anything can be, well, intense. It asks us to be with ourselves and our uncertainty about life in a way that we can’t escape.
So we are left with a choice. We can resist rest and continue on as we have been, exhausting ourselves and diminishing our experience of life. Or we can surrender to the profoundly restorative, if indefinable, force of being still. Savasana is a respite from cognition, a quiet rebellion, a seeming nothing that is actually everything. It is the yoga equivalent of understated elegance, something that you typically understand is lacking only when you can’t find it.
Maybe we’ll declare Savasana as our yoga pose for 2023 as well. Practice, after all, makes perfect. We can only hope that allowing ourselves moments of stillness will remind us how desperately we need it on a regular basis. And how lovely life can be when we come from a place of being our truest selves. In the words of NaJe`, “Go lay down.”
About our contributor
Renee Marie Schettler is a senior editor at Yoga Journal. She has been an editor at national newspapers and glossy magazines for the better part of the last two decades. She started studying yoga nearly 20 years ago with teachers in New York City who emphasized precise alignment. Her understanding of yoga changed when she met teachers who believe the practice is less about how we execute the asana and more about whether we can surrender into the stillness of it. She has been teaching yoga since 2017.