At the end of an asana practice, there is Savasana. You are invited to lie down, close your eyes, and do nothing. Literally nothing. You are supposed to stay awake, and be still, and not think of your to do list or your grumbling stomach. Five to TWENTY minutes of doing nothing.
And it is HARD.
Really really hard.
In a class with a built in savasana, the biggest challenge is to settle into it. In a home practice, the biggest challenge is to actually take savasana. And I will admit that I am guilty of this. At home, the dogs want my attention or the cat does, or my husband (though he’s so sorry to do so) needs to ask me a question. And those are just the external distractions. There’s usually a whole jumbled mess of monkey mind thoughts pushing themselves forward. So, occasionally, I skip it.
But here is the thing, Savasana is the most important pose in an asana practice.
We live in a society where we are constantly go, go, go and we measure our success in what we DO. I can attest to the hustle and bustle. I can easily get wrapped up in it. I’m not the only one, duh. I stamp “hustle” cuffs that have been ordered, all the time. We sell “chill” cuffs as well. We don’t sell nearly as many compared to “hustle”.
It is no wonder that Savasana is so hard for most of us. It is antithetical to how we live our lives and think about living our lives. It is a pause button, but we are the only ones pausing. (Um, FOMO.) And that is why it is so important. Learning to stop is just as much a skill as learning to go.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the pose:
Savasana- savameans corpse. Asanameans pose. It has also been called Mrtasana. Mrtameans death.
To take the pose you lie down on your back. Feet are at least hip width distance apart. Arms are along the sides, hands at minimum six inches away from the body. Palms are face up. There is a slight tuck of the chin in towards the chest. Eyes are closed. The body breathes naturally. The body releases all effort down into the earth. This is a moment of complete stillness and rest. Stay here for five to twenty minutes.
The goal is complete stillness and total relaxation, both physically and psychologically, but as mentioned before, while awake. This has been called “conscience surrender”. The struggle is in the resistant mind.
Symbolically, this is the death of your practice, before you are reborn into the word. Also the death of old ways of thinking that we may have confronted during our practice. This is also a time for the body, especially the nervous system, to absorb all of the benefits of the yoga practice by uniting mind, body and breath. If the practice was strenuous, savasana is the time for the breath to even out and the body to cool before going back out into the normal hustle and bustle.
Savasana does have measurable benefits though. Deep savasana has been shown to shift brainwaves from beta, the active state, to alpha and theta, relaxation and creativity. By taking the time to learn to stop, creativity and productivity is increased, meaning you’ll be better prepared to take on the day and problem solve. Memory is boosted, and it is easier to concentrate. It can increase energy, and create a sense of well-being. According to Yoga Journal, Savasana can relieve mild depression, high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue and insomnia.
Savasana is a mental challenge. And that’s a good thing. Some days it feels impossible, yet on others you start to feel it’s magic. Usually it starts in the brief moments between the stream of thoughts. Those are little glimpses into what is at the end of the savasana rainbow, true moments of simply being.
Practice the hard stuff. Especially savasana.