Sweat dripping down my eyes, back on the mat, eyes looking at the clouds, arms and legs outstretched. I had just finished a fun and intense Onnit 6 Steal Mace yoga workout in my backyard and was lying down in the position known as shavasana, the final resting position. Huh, I thought to myself this is like Shabbat… Oh my G-d, they even sound alike! Shabbat… Shavasana… Shabbasana!
I was on to something new… Or so I thought. I found an interesting article that addresses just that: a the similarity between shabbat and shavasana. Funny enough, the author even had the same epiphany while lying on her mat. After six days of work (italics because work is defined differently than what’s commonly known as work), “and on the the seventh day He ceased from work and rested” (Exodus 31:16-17). Similarly, many yoga sessions conclude with shavasana, a position which allows rest after all the hard work. The real growth and repair from all the work performed occur both during Shabbat and during shavasana.
Where might the connection come from?
In Taming the Raging Mind, Gutman Locks (who I met in Jerusalem), shares a story from the Zohar about Rabbi Abba, a great Talmudic sage, who visited a city of the People of the East. He observed that their mystical books and techniques were very similar to the mystical teachings of the Torah. It turns out, “the truth that is found within [the books of the People of the East were] handed down to them by the sons of Avraham who were sent to the land of the East thousands of years ago” (p.84). In fact many of the names of the sons are predominant in India today. Some of the sons were named Sheva, Ashshurim, and Aveda. You might already see the connections. Shiva is one of the three main gods in India, a guru camp is called an Ashram, and Indian scriptures are called the Vedas. Additionally, Gutman Locks shares, the religion of Hindus is Brahminism named after Abraham. Whereas Locks goes on to explain the thread of truth within these practices as a caution, I am referencing them to demonstrate the similarities.
During Shabbat we embrace the stillness of being and non doing. Through the efforts from the week and the observances on Shabbat, we realize Shabbat is within us as well. When a yogi lies down into shavasana she is in a restful state and all the work is integrated. Additionally, the word Shabbat shares root with the word shuv which means ‘to return’. In the position of shavasana and during the day of Shabbat, we “return to a state of stillness, silence, and calmness of spirit” (The Mystery Of Shabbos, Rav DovBer Pinson - link to my podcast with him). Without the rests within our days, restful positions like shavasana, or the Shabbat, the day of rest, all of the work
performed would be futile. We need (and want!) these moments and days to relax, consolidate our experiences, and connect with our center, ultimately returning to who we really are.
Wishing you bite-sized rests like shavasana and full-sized rests like Shabbat!