Savasana… Say What?

Why We End Yoga Class in Savasana

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).

Body Scan

  • 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.

Conscious Release

  • 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,

~Tatiana

 

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Savasana Views at YogaOasis, Tucson, Ariz. 2016

Halfway to Nirvana

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Sunset in Quechee, VT

I officially  began my “experiment” three months ago (though my yoga journey began long before that). In May I began really trying to incorporate ancient yogic principles to my modern, millennial lifestyle.

I’ll tell you—it’s been one wild, eye-opening journey.

It’s funny how much happens in three months. It may seem like a short amount of time (and the time sure does fly by), but in retrospect it’s easy to see how many changes take place.

I have been gifted such a life. A beautiful life. And I think that’s the main takeaway from my experiment thus far:

Living a yogic life means living a mindful life. Living a mindful life means living a rich, full, and conscious life.

I’ve also come to realize that putting a time limit on how long it will take me to reach “enlightenment” is a serious rookie mistake. There is no time stipulation, no one way track to what I’m seeking. In fact, it isn’t about the end-goal at all. It’s about the journey. And this journey? It’s been one of beauty, and of love, of learning, and sadness—it’s had it’s highs, and (of course) it’s lows.

In the last three months I have:

  • Taught over 250 hundred yoga classes
  • Attended more classes than that
  • Played foster mom to a big, goofy puppy
  • Traveled to both coasts of the country (Oregon, Vermont)
  • Learned and wrote about incredible innovations in science, while working at the BIO5 Institute
  • Became more involved in the community and in the local food movement by taking up a weekend position at FoodInRoot (providers of some of Tucson’s most frequented farmer’s markets)
  • Morphed into a mermaid and danced in the rain
  • Fell in love with a new style of yoga and picked back up Acro-yoga
  • Embraced a more natural life (free of excessive cosmetics, preservatives, pesticides, and processed goods)
  • Kept a pretty consistent yogic-ish daily routine 
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Tyron Creek, Portland, OR

I began the summer, in late May, by spending three weeks in Oregon. I was told by multiple people that I had come to the Pacific Northwest at the most gorgeous part of the year (weather-wise), and I couldn’t agree more. Being surrounded by oxygenating, lush, green trees, mountains, and water was rejuvenating (to say the least!) for this desert reptile. I spent three weeks engaging in deep self-study (endless journaling), studying spiritual texts, practicing with great yoga teachers (go to The Bhatkishop Yoga Center in Portland), reconnecting with the environment, all while being surrounded by love and like-minded thinkers. It was a heavenly reprieve from the desert heat. A needed pause that seemed to reset my reality, allowing me to step back into my life in Tucson with a renewed enthusiasm.

Well, as much enthusiasm as I could have when returning to a place that was 118 degrees upon my arrival. Really, 118 degrees, no exaggerating.

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Cactus flower, Tucson, AZ

Being mindful in that kind of weather is a real task. 118 degrees feels like concrete cracking and perpetual thirst. The heat layers everything, like a thick blanket, slowly suffocating all who spend too long under it.

In the unreasonably hot weather, I continued my yoga practice. Hot yoga + desert heat = extreme tapas (sanskrit definition). My practice and understanding of yoga seemed to deepen at an accelerated rate.

In July I traveled to Vermont, the last truly pure place in America, where I spent one week with 10 other members of my family. I taught them yoga, we ate delicious local, organic food and drank maple syrup. We hiked into a beautiful gorge, and attended a fairy farmer’s market in the middle of the forest. I swam in lakes, I meditated, I wrote. I reconnected to my roots.

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Quechee Gorge in Vermont

After blinking, I was back in Tucson. I took a job working for FoodInRoot, the guys that put on Tucson’s greatest local farmer’s markets. Eating food handed to me straight from the farmer who grows it has always been a joy for me. Working to elevate and promote those farmers (who also are amazing people) through my new position gives me even more joy.

“Right work” or “right livelihood” is an important part of Buddhist philosophy, another mode of thought that I’ve studied extensively. In yoga, I think it falls under the yama- satya, or committing to truth. When you make your living doing something that you feel aligns with your personal truths, all feels right. It’s one of the main reasons why I initially began teaching yoga after I was trained. It is why I choose to work in public relations for the BIO5 Institute. I am not good at faking it, and if I don’t love what I’m doing or who I’m working for—it shows through. I’m learning though, that even those jobs we don’t want to do should be done mindfully and with love. (I’m working on that one.)

Oh, you wanted to know about my morphing into a mermaid? After the extreme heat of the summer, monsoons come booming through. Monsoons mean Tucson’s annual Mermaid procession, so I tapped into my most mythical inner goddess (along with a few other goddesses) and danced in the rain.

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Mermaid Parade, Tucson, AZ

***

“Just show up”, one of my first yoga teachers and the man I was trained under, Darren Rhodes, always told us.

I didn’t realize how true his words were at the time. Living a yogic life, a mindful life, means being present. Making the best effort that you’re able to make, in any given moment.

Simply by just showing up on my mat, nearly every single day over the last months and practicing asana, meditation, or pranayama— I see physical changes, have been gifted numerous insights, and seem to simply understand more about the nature of this reality.

Solid Truths I’ve come to through the Practice of Yoga:

  • There is innate wisdom within us all: it only takes quieting the mind to gain access to it.
  • Intuition knows all. Trust it, surrender to it.
  • Fear and stress is an illusion. There is a divine energy that protects and guides you as long as your intention is that of love and peace.

In the next three months to deepen this yogic practice I hope to:

  • Reconnect with my original teachers
  • Continue purifying through diet, media cleanse, etc.
  • Practice every day, especially on days that I teach
  • Read the Vedas
  • Spend time in an Ashram

Beyond anything else the one thing I know for CERTAIN is this: the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. Albert Einstein said it first, and, boy, was he right.

If you have suggestions on how I can continue incorporating yogic teachings into everyday life— I am beyond open to hearing your thoughts. Are you on a similar journey? Reach out. Let’s connect.

Love & Light. 

Tatiana