I lay very still on the towel covering my yoga mat. It was drenched with my perspiration. I could feel the sweat streaming down my arms. The instructor, Kevin, a man slight in build but seeming to emanate boundless rays of positive energy, had suggested at the start of the class, “Just take it easy and listen to your body.”
I’ve done Hatha and Vinyasa yoga on and off for years, but this was only my second day of doing Bikram yoga –— in its 105-degree heat! I had experienced my first the previous day. And so, less than a quarter-way through the class I listened as my body seemed to say, “Lay down and rest.” I lay flat on the sopping towel, very still in Savasana (corpse pose) feeling a heightened peace and relaxation. It was so very hot in the room, and yet I felt so very good.
“The past is past,” I heard Kevin’s voice resound from across the room. “Let go,” he said. “Today is the first day of your future.”
I inhaled and exhaled deeply — bodily. The lights were dim, the room rather dark, and lying on my back, I felt, inexplicably, that I saw the “light.” I wondered if I were delirious, but knew that I wasn’t. I felt grounded and fully present in this uncanny stillness and heat. I looked at the spot on the ceiling where my gaze naturally focused and “felt,” without seeing, the other students (“yogis,” as Kevin termed us) in the room. I felt their energy, their vital life force, moving all around me and in complete synchronization.
Though my eyes were focused on the wall, and seldom blinked, I felt very alert, my awareness heightened. I could feel my body in its stillness and grew more aware of how languid and relaxed it was. Had somebody lifted my arm then and released it, it might have simply flopped down to my side. Had somebody lifted my body then, they would have felt no muscle tension — at all — so wonderfully relaxed was I.
I felt as I imagined an alligator lizard might (I had glimpsed one earlier in the week while on a Sierra Club hike), perched on a rock in the sun, crescent eyes. It seemed to be resting, but as I stood observing it, I noticed that it moved at my slightest movement. If I shifted my feet, it moved its head. If I moved my finger, it moved its webbed feet. The lizard only seemed to be resting, but it was hyperaware of itself and of its surroundings. It was not sleeping!
Lying on my yoga mat in the intense heat, like the lizard, I felt that I was acutely aware, not only of myself but of the others in the class to whom I felt wonderfully connected. I’ve had some cosmic, out-of-this-world experiences in my life, but I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced so-called “bliss.” I do know, however, that I experienced something very sacred in that yoga class.
They call it Savasana, “corpse pose,” and finally, within the walls of Bikram Yoga Santa Barbara, I think I’ve come to understand why. They call it “corpse pose” because it is the closest, perhaps, that I’ll come to being in heaven, while still being very much on earth — and feeling hot, but not like hell!
Thea St.Omer, a New York resident, grew up in Santa Barbara, where her family still resides, and visits regularly. She has just started a Santa Barbara Kickstarter campaign to design and distribute a series of inspirational yoga bumper stickers entitled Pranayama Blows.