Why We’re Declaring 2022 the Year of Savasana

This article originally appeared on Yoga Journal

“Raise your hand if 2022 went the way you expected.”

That was the sigh-inducing opening line of an email newsletter I received this week 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. Although we've navigated these years with as much humor and ease and grace as we could muster, it hasn’t been easy.

During the early weeks and the ennui of lockdown, memes of exhausted individuals collapsing into Child's Pose and staying there indefinitely were 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 pretty much 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’re tired. And it’s showing. 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 incessantly blares, you have to pee, someone knocks over their water bottle, and existential angst or dread about that work deadline loops incessantly in your thoughts.

Why we needed Savasana in 2022

In 2022, research continued to tell us, again and again, that we need less stress, more rest, and better sleep. Articles extolling the virtues of rest 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 that “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 “basic” and “essentials.” Many of these fabrics and palettes seemed to be barely there. Fashion, it seems, imitates life. There’s been a barely there-ness about how many of us show up to our days.

Savasana affords us a small measure of the experience of rest that we so desperately need. Perhaps as a sign of the times, it's also the pose that students are most likely to skip and teachers are most likely to skimp on when time is running short.

Yoga challenges us to contort not just our bodies but but our understanding of what it means to be human. It asks us to step back from our 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. This is precisely why we refer to yoga as a "practice." And it is why, at the end of each practice, we succumb to the stillness of Savasana and surrender to a profoundly restorative force known by ancient traditions knew and, more recently, supported by contemporary research.

Why we struggle with Savasana

Toward the end of a recent vinyasa class--75 minutes 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 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 force of being still. Savasana is, at once, 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 realize 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 several moments of stillness will remind us how desperately we need it and how lovely life can be when you come from a place of being rested. 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 challenging oneself and finding precise alignment. Her understanding of yoga changed when she began studying with teachers who believe the practice to be 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.

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