You know the nighttime, darling (night and day) is the right time (night and day) to be (night and day) with the one you love, now (night and day) … ~ (Nighttime Is) The Right Time, Ray Charles
Lay down. Take Savasana.
The practice had been hot and strenuous, and at its end the instructor turned off the lights and with these words put us in Savasana, the final resting pose.
I should know by now not to be surprised at the end. I’m aware by now what happens as we draw to a close, how we move from abdominal work to backbends, from folds to twists and, finally, to Savasana.
But on this night, as on so many others, I’m as surprised as ever. Before I know it, it’s over, and I’m startled to hear the instructions to take rest.
But I listen and lie back. I pull the bobby pins from my hair and dismantle my ponytail. I lay out my arms and my legs. I open my hands, palms up on the mat, and I splay out my feet.
You don’t have to do anything now, he said. Nothing else is happening. Nighttime is starting.
It’s only recently that I stopped dreading the night. I would assume most people start sleeping well once they begin practicing yoga, if only from sheer exhaustion. But my practice seems to wake me up, which is great if it’s morning, but not so great if it’s evening.
All the thoughts I thought I never had have seemingly appeared, and I think it’s my practice that’s brought them forth. On the one hand, yoga has made me calmer; but, on the other, I haven’t really been able to sleep. At night when I get into bed, it’s as if I need to hear again the instructor say that nothing’s happening and there’s nothing more to do.
And so I started to take something to help me sleep, just a half of a half of what was prescribed. And that helped me get some shut-eye, even if my sleep was not so deep and was often without dreams. Even so, it helped to know there’d be some help when the nighttime arrived.
Especially helpful were my evening hot yoga practices. It would be late, and I’d watch the nighttime cover the windows as the practice closed. The heat would melt me into a puddle, flat on my mat. And I’d straggle out as the studio closed, too, picking up my bobby pins and packing up my mat while wondering how it was that everyone could change and leave so quickly.
I’d arrive home, grab something to eat and draw a bath with water as hot as the practice. I’d lay back and dunk my head in my own version of Savasana, doing my best to rest.
I’d do all this just to get to the morning, just to get past the point when nighttime was starting.
But, really, I don’t think the point of the night is only to get to the next morning. I think we’re supposed to live the night as much as we do the day, to fall asleep as easily as we awaken.
In fact, research shows that sleep is vital to our well-being. Sleep mimics the yoga practice. When we practice, the poses clear our bodies’ energy channels to wash away any toxic karma, and when we sleep, fluid flushes our brains’ microscopic channels to wash away any toxic buildup from the day.
Sleep is how we refresh. It’s when we recover, so the nighttime really shouldn’t be anything to dread.
It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally started to fall asleep without any extra help, and I’m trying to figure out what’s made that happen. It’s springtime now, but I think I turned the corner last fall.
What was it that finally made it okay to take rest? Could it be that I updated our television sets, which prompted a clean-up in the house? I finally cleared out some furniture and made some space. Or maybe it was the fact that I wound the clocks again? I even moved one into the kitchen where I could see it every day. I hear the tick tock as I write, and the soothing chimes tuck me in as they echo up the stairwell. Or was it my wintertime cleanse? I think I cleared out my body in much the same way as I cleared out my house.
Maybe it’s that all of these efforts balanced the space around me and then balanced me, too. Maybe that’s how I’m finally able to sleep.
Or maybe, just maybe, it has something to do with the yoga. Perhaps the practice not only awakened my thoughts but also made it okay to have them.
Maybe that was okay, so I was okay, and so I could sleep again.
We had a substitute the other night at yoga. He teaches a style called Jivamukti and asked us to chant at the opening. He played the harmonium and sang out some words, but we stumbled and mumbled along.
Really? He stopped playing and looked around, disappointed with our meek response. And then he explained the purpose of chanting. We chant to remember who we are, he said.
He further explained that we chant to remember who we were before we learned to define who we’d otherwise be.
Throughout the practice, he assisted us in our poses, while speaking of this remembering.
The class was twisted into Reverse Side Angle, and he helped a yogi twist some more. And he spoke more about our thoughts, and how when we meditate we’re supposed to just watch those thoughts go by.
I don’t really meditate, for the very reason of my busy thoughts, but this much I knew.
Well, who is it that does the watching? he asked.
This I didn’t know! He says it’s our soul. He says we’re trying to reveal our soul when we practice.
That’s why we do yoga, he said. We do the poses to release the karma so we can remember who we are.
It was a lot to think about.
After, I decided to do some reading about this remembering. I visited the Jivamukti website and, interestingly enough, the first paragraph referenced our sleep.
I read that when we sleep deeply, we can access our original natures, what the instructor was calling our souls. We can remember who we are in our sleep! So I have to remember to sleep, because I have to sleep to remember!
And now I think that’s the real reason why I’m sleeping again. It’s not so much the furniture or the clocks or the cleanse, although I think all of that did help.
Instead, I think it’s just me trying. I’m trying to remember who I am, and in my search, I sleep.