At the end of each practice, it is important to spend some time in savasana. When you practice on your own, it’s easy to rush this pose, or skip it altogether, because its benefits do not seem so obvious. With many yoga postures we feel our muscles getting stronger, our balance being challenged, our breath working hard, our minds being sharply focused. These effects come through loud and clear!
Savasana isn’t about trying or doing or achieving. It’s not a time for machismo. Rather, savasana is an opportunity to develop our skills of being. It is a practice of relaxation and release in which we learn to surrender resistance and isolation. In day to day life, and even during our yoga practice, we develop ideas about ourselves: I am good at this, I can’t do that, I am like this, I am not like that… These ideas shape our sense of self and also encourage us to see ourselves as unique and separate from the world around us. The word yoga means “union,” and ideally the yoga practice is one that decreases our sense of separation from the world and increases our sense of connection.
This is the experience of savasana. It is an opportunity to release holding in the muscles, to let go of thoughts in the mind, to relax the breath… and to gradually create a sense of dissipating into the atmosphere around you. Perceived boundaries soften and dissolve. It is not any action that you undertake, as much as it is a stopping of actions in which you are habitually engaged.
At first, you are likely to either fall asleep or feel restless. These responses are not so different as they might seem. Very few of us spend much time sitting silently with ourselves; no music, no TV, no radio, no reading. Even the few quiet times we do find are usually also filled with some sort of activity: running, gardening, commuting, eating. So, finding ourselves perfectly alone with our thoughts and selves can be a bit surprising and uncomfortable. Sleepiness can be an unconscious escape into a more familiar state of mind. Sleepiness is often also a result of the body having such a long history of associating lying down with sleeping. Of course, sometimes you are just plain exhausted! A restless mind is usually the mind’s method of avoiding deeper quietude. Sometimes you might be experiencing an especially busy or stressful period in your life. In either case, sleepiness or restlessness, focusing on something specific - the breath or the sensations in the body - can help focus the mind.
Ultimately, as your skill and familiarity with savasana increases, you will be able to let go of specific points of focus and merely drop into the experience of the posture. Savasana is a time to soak up the effects and lessons of your practice. This time of stillness allows the cells to resonate and reverberate with the vibrations of your efforts… giving the learning time to sink in – and sink all the way in!
As the body is increasingly skilled at using the various muscles in the body, it will also become increasingly skilled at consciously relaxing such muscles. Naturally, this is a two-way street. Learning to release the activity of the muscles allows the body to settle down and let go of excessive energy. This, in turn, helps the mind to slow down and stop relentlessly guiding your every moment. We surrender our past accomplishments and our plans for the future. Savasana is a time of observation without expectation. It is a practice of observing the sensations in and around the body without analysis, judgment, or verbal thought. It is a practice of being present in the experience of this moment.
Rest in the infinite ocean of the eternal Present.*
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