Walking into a class recently, one of the other Flowgis said to me that she comes mainly for the first few minutes before class starts when she gets on her mat and settles into child’s pose. She sounded grateful for that small amount of time in the midst of her busy day, her busy week, her busy life. It reminded me of how I feel at the end of class, after savasana, when we roll onto our side and rest there for a moment before sitting up; some teachers say that moment is to seal in the practice. And it does feel like a sort of sealing; the body humming from work and also from rest. The gratitude for me, at that point of the practice, is actually in my body and makes me think of the writer Sylvia Plath’s fairly famous quote: “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am. I am. I am.”
I took new notice of this quote—it’s one I’ve long loved—when I found some discrepancies as to whether Plath meant “brag” or “bray.” As far as I could tell, ‘bray’ (a loud, harsh cry) was born of the internet and ‘brag’ was the word used in nearly all print copies of the sentence, which comes at the end of her famous work, “The Bell Jar.” It could be said that this sentence presents in the book as a sort of epiphany of her body’s insistence of her own life, almost in spite of herself. Think of standing in mountain pose between flows, breathing to steady yourself, your heart hammering away. Either bray or brag would work in this context, though the meaning would change.
There are times during a yoga class when braying is exactly what my heart seems to be doing. But sometimes, especially at the small rests and resets after and in between the harder work, I hear my heart bragging. A heart can brag about the body’s own work, speaking back to us in its own assertion of aliveness.
And isn’t that what we feel after a great yoga class? Alive, and aware, and, perhaps because of the awareness yoga offers us, grateful to be so?
I often have small moments of gratitude throughout practice: the ready warmth of the yoga room when I arrive; the quick gladness that I’ve made it to class; the beginning breath work; and, later, the forward release from chair pose (Utkatasana) or the return from something difficult or unfamiliar to a pose that is known such as down dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), or mountain pose (Tadasana). That reset of the body. That reset of breath. Sometimes I’m grateful for a block, or a strap. Other days I’ve been gratified to find I didn’t need the block or strap—those moments when suddenly I’m reaching my back foot, or holding half moon (Ardha Chandrasana) without wobbling. The delicious feeling of restoration that comes with a reclined twist at the end of a strong class. And those moments when the teacher reads the room and offers child pose to everyone, or, more simply, the directive: rest your cheek on the mat. Grateful, hearts thumping, we take the rest.
With the season of holidays bearing down upon us, it’s going to be fairly easy to not have time for yoga class. When you do get to class, maybe savasana could be a struggle to stay through—your mind might start running through lists of all the things. But that time of rest is as necessary as the work. That stretch of savasana bliss doesn’t just happen, it arrives after we’ve showed up to our mats to work and taken time to listen to the body’s own song—the bray and the brag. It is so easy to forget. It is easy to get too busy to remember to hold that space for yourself, within yourself, and get to a class. But when you do get to class, the body’s gratitude, for both the work and the rest, is obvious and tangible and full of deep breaths.
— Rebecca Brock