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Shabbat and Shavasana

On returning from our summer travels I recommitted myself to a deeper exploration of two practices — Sabbath-keeping and yoga.  I believe so strongly in the power of Sabbath, as a witness to a different way of being in the world, as an act of humility that says the world will get by if I lay down my work for a while, as a time to remember who we were created to be.

Moving more deeply into a yoga practice is really a reclaiming for me of something that once played a more significant role in my life.  There are many reasons it had become less central for me, but now the invitation is to enter into the heart of yoga again.  I discovered a yoga center in Seattle that truly lives out yoga philosophy and serves the community in important ways.  The classes really are about yoga, not exercise.  It is a place where I feel truly at home.

Each class we explore principles like satya (truth) or ahimsa (nonviolence) as it applies to our practice. We cultivate our inner witness to observe our internal responses to what is happening in our bodies and on the mat.  The inner witness is the part of ourselves that watches the flow of our emotional landscape with presence, wisdom, and compassion. We are encouraged to listen to our bodies’ needs in a given moment and see if we can respond with love and kindness rather than push through.

But perhaps most important to any yoga practice are those last few minutes when we lay in shavasana or corpse pose.  I have often heard it said that this is the most important pose of all, because this is the place where all that has come before is integrated.  In this place of rest we can bring all of our striving and work to a place of wholeness.

It struck me last week while lying on my mat in those few still moments that Sabbath serves much the same function.  During Sabbath we enter into rest and stillness, releasing our doing, and offer ourselves a time to integrate the blessings and challenges of the week into our psyches.  Just as the other poses don’t hold meaning without that final pose of rest, so our work becomes an exercise in endless futility if we never offer ourselves those times to integrate, to bring in all of our experience and doing and allow ourselves to be for a while.  We become like the strong vine, firmly rooted in the soil and bearing much fruit.

Shabbat Shalom my friends.  May the peace of Sabbath and Shavasana be yours.

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

(photo taken in Latvia this summer)

PS – I will draw the name for the winner of the Poetry Party drawing later this afternoon, so you still have time to enter.  26 marvelous poems and counting!

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4 Responses

  1. Christine, have you read “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives” by Wayne Muller? He thoughtfully draws from many traditions and has a page of “practices” at the end of each short chapter–quite wonderful. It is a beautiful book that my book club savored.

  2. Thanks lucy and Tess. Tess, I understand how having more time off can make everything blend together, I was having that problem for a while when I realized I wasn’t ever getting a real day of rest since most time was spent working on various projects.

  3. I needed to hear this, thank you. Since going part-time my Sabbath has blended with my other days off until it’s become un-special.
    You describe the (proper) practice of yoga and the connection with Sabbath space beautifully.