I used to leave before savasana.
Seriously, I would roll up my yoga mat and leave while everyone was getting comfy for that last, wonderfully therapeutic pose of class.
I was under the belief that savasana was a waste of time and that I needed to skip it in order to complete higher priority items on my to-do list.
How wrong I was.
At this time in my life I was a high-strung journalism student at the University of Arizona who found solace in the rigorous postures that yoga provided, but still hadn’t mastered my distracted, monkey mind. Especially when my body was in stillness.
Not surprisingly, it was during this time that I suffered my first earth-shattering anxiety attack. Not long after that came a full-on breakdown that led me to drop out of college.
I’m writing this now, a few years later, as an Alumna of the University of Arizona Journalism School, and a yoga teacher. Needless to say much has changed between then and now, especially my priorities. Now I wouldn’t dream of walking out before savasana. Here’s why:
What is Savasana?
Sava: corpse ; asana: pose
Savasana literally translates to “corpse pose”, and is traditionally done at the end of the yoga practice to promote conscious relaxation in order to refresh the body and mind.
B.K.S. Iyengar says, “By remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you learn to relax… Therefore, this apparently easy posture is one of the most difficult to master.”
Savasana is a place to integrate the balancing and reviving effects of the previous yoga postures, or asanas. Iyengar advises 15 to 20 minutes spent in stillness to reap full benefits. It can also be used as a place to begin meditative work.
How To Relax In Savasana
Iyengar wasn’t lying—final stillness can truly be one of the most difficult parts of the practice to master. Luckily, there are a few time tested ways to focus attention and fall into conscious observation of the body.
Mantra: “a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation.”
- The effects of mantra are much like those that come from counting sleep before we fall asleep. It’s an active technique to calm the mind. When you notice your mind wander away from the mantra, simply bring the attention back and begin again. Simple as that.
- Many mantras are taught in sanskrit, but a mantra doesn’t have to be in sanskrit to work. My own mantra is in English and personalized to me. I often change the mantra that I come to depending on the day, how I’m feeling, and what I’m seeking to bring to fruition in my life. (More on Mantra to come).
- Taking note of how the body feels—good or bad, sensation or numbness—from the tips of the toes, working up the legs, hips, stomach, to the fingertips, arms, shoulders, face, tongue, past the forehead and all the way up to the top of your head.
- This can be done in conjunction with the body scan, it is simply making the conscious effort to relax and release each muscle in the body.
Breath Work /Pranayama
- Keep your focused attention on the breath. Notice the place above your upper lip where you can feel your exhales. Acknowledge your chest as it rises and falls. Take these few moments to really feel the subtle effects that every new breath brings to the body.
Physical Effects Of Savasana
- Decreases heart rate
- Decreases blood pressure
- Decreases respiration
- Decreases muscle tension
- Decreases general anxiety
- Decreases fatigue
- Increases energy levels
- Increases focus, concentration
Savasana And The Brain
When you first settle yourself onto the floor in savasana, your mind may whirl and run for a few minutes until changes begin to take place in your brain. Brain waves change from Beta Waves—or brain waves that are produced when you are conscious and thinking— to Theta and Delta waves—or those that are associated with dreaming, sleep, creativity, and the subconscious.
Savasana And The Nervous System
In savasana the nervous system stands to reap real benefits. While reclined and relaxed in savasana, your nervous system shifts to the parasympathetic state. This is the state in which your body can relax fully, opposite of the sympathetic state— in which anxiety levels are high and the body is alert.
During the practice your brain will be sent a host of new neuromuscular information, we take savasana as a reset, to help the brain integrate this new information to the nervous system.
A Final Test
One way to view savasana is as a final test to check if the asana practice has done its job.
Is your mind calm, quiet, and at rest?
… If not, that’s okay. It’s called yoga practice for a reason. 😉
(As always, if you have questions on savasana or on any part of this wonderful yoga practice (or anything else) feel free to message me or comment here.)
Love & Light,