Monday, June 25, 2012

What does savasana mean to you?

Savasana or "corpse pose" is a final relaxation pose that is the typical end pose in a yoga class. The name savasana translates to "corpse pose" which is a metaphor for death as the poses within our yoga practice take us through the cycle of life. Personally, it is one of my favorite poses. It can also be referred to as "final relaxation pose" or "do-nothing pose" (a name more commonly used in kids' yoga classes).

So, why is savasana so important in a yoga practice?

Savasana gives the body time to digest the information just taught and practiced in the yoga class. Taking time out of your day for your body to digest information may seem dauntingly slow-paced. All of us have the next thing to get to and our own stresses in life: kids, jobs, who the bachelorette will choose this season (perhaps scratch that last one unless you're an avid fan).  In reality, taking the time for physical and mental self-reflection is sadly overlooked in western culture, which is just one of many reasons that yoga is so important and potent for westerners.
It appears that savasana or "corpse pose" should be easier than a pose like sirsasana or "headstand"

Yet through my yoga classes and teacher trainings, I have come to find that savasana is an extremely difficult pose for many people. The stress of staying still and focusing on one's own thoughts is too much and leaves people anxious to get to the next thing-to-do during the day. Perhaps these anxieties arise more commonly for my students as a yoga teacher in New York City? The Eagles did write a song about the rapid fire of a New York Minute. But I'm not convinced that it's just new yorkers who are anxious savasana-participators. 

Perhaps these anxieties stem from a need for perfection? A yearning to be the best at meditating during savasana? Perhaps they stem from inability to stay present in the moment? 

Whatever the reason may be, it's time for all of us (and I include myself in this) to surrender. Surrender to our thoughts, our judgements, our physical body, to poses we love, to poses we hate, and to attempting to control everything. Yes, we have choices in life, but we're also along for the ride. So, let's try to stay true and present in our experiences.  

Whether you love savasana or hate it, I ask that you attempt the pose at some point today upon reading this blog. It takes 5-10 minutes to do, but, in my experience, the effects of the pose last all day. Savasana is NOT the same as sleeping. One should attempt to be present and aware in the body and mind during the final relaxation. 

Steps for savasana: 
1. Come to lie comfortably on your back with eyes closed.
2. Separate the feet (more than hip distance) and arms (wider than shoulders). Allow feet to splay open naturally and palms to face upward in a receptive position.
3. Allow breath to come naturally while staying present and aware in body and mind.

To get out of the pose:
1. Deepen your breath, wiggle your toes and fingers bringing the mind back to the physical body. 
2. Stretch arms above head and roll to the right side in a fetal position. Lay on side for a few breaths. 
3. Using your hands roll yourself up to a seated position allowing your head to be the last thing to come up. 
4. With hands in a prayer position in front of your heart (anjali mudra), bow your chin to your chest to thank yourself for your practice. 
Keep this presence of mind and body with you throughout your day :) 

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