On Halloween, lots of kids and some grown-ups get pretty excited to dress up in costume. For the kids, the impetus is not only the sugar fix but the thrill of pretending to be a princess, a superhero, a creature. For adults, donning a costume may have many layers of meaning. Beyond pretending to be someone else, we might create a metaphorical costume, a funny joke or a play on words. Or we may subtly face deep-seated fears and grapple with concepts of pain or death through more frightening costumes like monsters, ghosts, mummies, vampires and zombies.
Yoga can also be approached as a way of role-playing or embodying other creatures, objects and ideas, and especially of facing fears through the use of our bodies, minds and breath. Some of the best yoga teachers use vivid imagery to lead a class, and may invite practitioners to wag their tail like a dog, root their foot like a tree, or curl up in their shell like a turtle. There are a few creepy crawly yoga poses you could play with this Halloween week: Cobra, Lizard, Scorpion and Frog pose come to mind.
Most of us can agree that a great yoga class must always end in death – that is, with Savasana or Corpse Pose. Is it possible that just as Savasana helps us integrate and intuitively understand a yoga class in our bodies, breath work and self awareness will help us integrate and understand the more painful aspects of life? Practice Savasana with that thought in mind. Lay comfortably on your back. Let your arms and legs lie wherever they happen to land. Separate your teeth. Release your jaw. Let your eyes feel heavy in your eye sockets. Relax your forehead. Focus on your slow, deep breath. If pain or fear arise, return to the consistency of your breath, the rise and fall of your belly.
Costumes are just play. But life is real. Use your breath to be present for it, and use yoga to help train for the scary parts of it. When spooky thoughts invade the mind, the practice of yoga can help calm it. Happy Halloween!