Yoga teacher Emma Klein shares the importance of Savasana in yoga - often a love/hate part of a class - ahead of her restorative yoga workshop on Sunday 24th March.
Savasana the Corpse Pose
One of the hardest but the most important postures out of all of the yoga postures. It is a fully conscious, completely still meditation.
People who come to classes, generally fall into two categories
• Those who love savasana and wish half the class was a meditation; and
• Those who don't see the point and often leave before the end to avoid savasana
For both groups, it's important to understand why we do savasana.
For those of you who view yoga as purely a gym or aerobics class, having 5 minutes of lying on the mat doing nothing often seems like a waste of time and it can feel that in our crazy busy lives this time could be better spent. Maybe by getting to the showers faster so that you can get to work or home sooner.
Realistically, 5 minutes in the grand scheme of our lives is a very small investment into something that is the most important part of an entire yoga practice - Savasana.
Why is Savasana so hard?
A lot of people really struggle with lying still and allowing the mind to switch off. Either twitching and wriggling with the mind running wild and their thoughts going all over the place or in some cases falling asleep.
During an Asana class, if the mind has been concentrating hard on maintaining the breath, how the body feels in each posture and being fully aware of oneself, and the body has worked hard throughout then by the end both the body and mind should be tired. This helps to keep the mind clear of thoughts and the body still.
The mind can often still get in the way however, with thoughts still running rampant. Such as
• How much longer will this last?
• Am I breathing correctly?
• Did someone just snore?
• I really need to sneeze/cough/scratch an itch
• I'm hungry
• What am I going to make for dinner?
• What am I really doing with my life?
• Should I quit my job?
Having thoughts is not the issue, allowing those thoughts to expand and flow into a full conversation in your head that is where we fall off track. Being able to bring your thoughts back to your breath and stillness every time they wander is the hard part.
The Art of Savasana
In an ideal world, it would be easy to allow the body to rest and to calm the mind to have no thoughts for 5-10 minutes. However, this takes time and practice but is extremely rewarding once mastered.
A successful savasana takes practice, but here are some steps to help you find that calm space
• Find a comfortable position. Wriggle, stretch and move until you are comfortable, in a position you can maintain with stillness for 5 – 10 minutes. Traditionally, flat on the back with the feet flopping out and the palms facing up. Keeping the chin slightly in to help release your neck. The more comfortable you are the easier it will be to relax. The more relaxed you are the more benefits you will receive. If finding that comfortable space means putting on a jumper or covering your eyes, then do it. It is important to find what works for you. And if you need to roll onto your side or even sit-up then do it.
• Take a few deep cleansing breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth to release any tension. Sighing out loud if this works for you. This signals to the parasympathetic nervous system that is OK to relax.
• Slowly bring your focus onto your breath. Feeling the rise and fall of the chest and stomach as the whole body breathes. Observing as you breathe in and out any areas of remaining tension and consciously allow that tension to flow out of your body.
• When your mind wanders, because it will, bring it back to your breath. Allow yourself to observe without becoming attached to any one thought. Some days this will be easier than others, but that is part of the practice. Over time the moments of stillness and quiet will become longer. Don’t judge yourself when this happens, it is normal and takes time and practice.
There are lots of benefits to taking the time to practice savasana.
Stress Relief - Savasana calms the brain and helps to relieve stress and mild depression, reduces headaches, fatigue and insomnia as well as lowering blood pressure. The body holds mental, emotional and physical stress in the form of muscle contraction or tension. Stress is linked to many health problems and learning to release this tension is extremely beneficial to both short- and long-term health.
Healing - Giving the body time to rest, as well as relieving muscle stress allows the body time to heal. Draining any toxins that have been released during the practice and reoxygenating the body.
Self-Acceptance - During class we focus on our bodies and what they can do; today, in this class. In savasana we do not have the distraction of doing to keep us from being self-conscious. By allowing yourself to just be and surrendering to the moment takes practice. It is difficult to accept yourself just as you are in this moment.
Peace - Finding that moment of stillness, connecting with your breath, finding acceptance. Our lives are so busy that often the only peace we find is during sleep. Being able to find and appreciate peace during a conscious waking moment is extremely fulfilling.
Accepting Death - It is extremely common for people to fear death. To fear the unknown, pain and loss. Death however is universal and natural. Savasana is called the corpse pose as it is a living death. The peace we find while in savasana feels good. It is unintimidating. Savasana helps us to acknowledge and accept our own mortality.
When coming out of savasana, we often feel rejuvenated, energised and refreshed. It is so crucial to remember that all the postures we do have a purpose and that savasana is just as important if not more so than the rest of our practice.