I planned for months that week of sun and sand, swimsuits and sundresses, rest and relaxation. Maybe it doesn’t sound relaxing to take a family vacation to Puerto Vallarta with four teenagers, but it was my dream. I wanted to dig my toes in the hot sand, paddle board in the ocean, and quench my thirst with pina coladas.
The process to unwind would take a few days. I knew this going into the vacation. And, I knew that I needed rest. So I was willing and prepared to go through the process of unwinding. Much like I teach my students in Savasana.
Ah yes, Savasana. It’s often misunderstood and commonly avoided. While most of us look forward to lying down and resting our bodies after an asana practice, few people are ever interested in actually practicing the pose. We pretend to let go, maybe we sleep or dance between the dreams and waking. Rarely do we practice Savasana. Much like we rarely ever take a vacation. A real vacation. A vacation from schedules, checking in, problem-solving, doing, trying, winning, losing, feeling, thinking, being anything other than what is in front of us at that moment.
That was my intention for this vacation. Go somewhere and let go. Just do nothing. People gave us suggestions for where to go, what to do, what to see, where to eat. I never intended to do anything other than wake up, sit in the sand, and see what happens. Truly, I was looking for Savasana. And let me tell you. Savasana is hard to do.
On the first day we arrived, we checked into the condo and slipped into swimsuits. The rooftop pool was already bustling with happy hour guests. They swam, chatted, and admired the setting sun. My husband found a chair, tipped his hat over his eyes and quickly fell asleep. The kids dove into the pool and began their endless game of Marco Polo. And me? I tried it all. First I sat, then I swam, then I laid on the warm tiles surrounding the pool. I listened to the birds, the surf, and the chatterings of the social hour. I closed my eyes. I opened my eyes. I began reading my book. I closed my book. The spiral of anxiety over what not to do was mounting.
This is just like Savasana, I thought. Great. This is going to be more difficult than I thought.
I’ve always thought it was cute when yoga teachers describe and teach Savasana. Admittedly, I’m no better at teaching the enigmatic posture. But, when I hear descriptions like, “Savasana is a time to let go. It’s a time to absorb the benefits of your practice. Savasana asks us to surrender completely our ego. Savasana is about letting go and being present. Let go of tension, thoughts, distractions, and memories…” Well, I have to chuckle a little. Is anyone actually doing it? Or rather, is anyone really not doing?
But there I was on Day 1 of a 7 day vacation in Mexico with my family. I had to figure it out.
In the words of BKS Iyengar, “By remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you learn to relax. This conscious relaxation invigorates and refreshes both body and mind. But it is much harder to keep the mind than the body still. Therefore, this apparently easy posture is one of the most difficult to master.”
The next morning, I woke at 5AM in a panic. My jaw ached from clenching all night. My heart was racing. The sticky sea air was still cool. So, I began to practice. I breathed in and out. I softened my eyes, throat, and belly. I let go of the grip at the base of my skull. I relaxed my jaw. Or at least I tried to relax my jaw. I pulled in and let go of the thoughts that scattered in my mind. The kids. The bills. The coffee. Did we have any? The sand. Could I keep the condo clean? Let go. Let go. Let go. Just breathe. Breathe.
And I thought of my favorite Samuel Beckett quote:
“Try again. Fail again. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
The practice of relaxing, vacationing, being in Savasana went on for a few days. Okay, let’s be honest. I practiced vacationing the entire span of my trip. Some days I looked to the ocean to help me relax. Some days, the pina coladas did the trick. Mostly, I tried again and failed again and then failed better. I can’t say that I ever really vacationed in the ideal sense. I tried.
On the last morning, I pulled out my journal and reflected on the week. What happened, what did I learn, did I experience any marked transformation of any kind, etc. I couldn’t think of anything remarkable that had happened or any epiphanies that I experienced. I only had the sense that this was something that I needed to practice more often. I needed to vacation more. I needed to practice Savasana.
Over breakfast with my husband on that last day, I asked if he was ready to be home. He said, “Yes. It’s too hard for me to relax. I don’t think I’m cut out for this vacation thing.”
“Yes, I know. Vacations are hard to do.”
Maybe we’ll try again next year.