Give it a rest – Savasana

Savasana, corpse/final resting pose, is a reminder that our practice, all the “work” we bring onto the mat, is rounded out with rest. Savasana is all about surrender – letting your body become, well, corpse-like, melting into and fully supported by the earth beneath you. And while it is also a time to surrender thoughts and activity in our mind, rather than checking out, it’s an invitation to check in. Savasana is not a pose that comes after our practice, it is an essential part of our practice – more than just a time to rest and restore, it’s a time where we fully absorb and integrate everything that came before it – in the asana (posture) practice we often use the phrase “muscle memory” – savasana is where those memories become deeply embedded, where things “sink in”. With winter on the way, you can think of our practice as making a hearty soup– we start with water or broth and uncooked vegetables (step onto our mat, sit and center), apply heat to bring things to a boil and then let things simmer and continue to soften (the entirety of our asanas with ujjayi breath) – when everything has sufficiently softened we remove the pot from heat and let it sit covered for a period of time. This has the dual effect of letting things cool down and for flavors to more fully develop – which is exactly what we welcome with the practice of Savasana.

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die. And the next morning, when I wake up, I am reborn.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

While Savasana isn’t an invitation to go to sleep – though if that does happen it may just be telling you that you are in need of more sleep – in the spirit of it being “corpse pose” it is an invitation to “die” – to let go of everything that came before it, for closure – and in the same way, we emerge from Savasana “reborn” – refreshed, open, ready to experience and explore the world. Savasana is a constant reminder to balance out everything we do, our get up and go, with some lie down and let go – who would think we could get so much something from doing nothing? Namaste.

The pose:

Start by lying on your back. If you are in the second or third trimester of pregnancy lie on your left side to avoid putting pressure on the vena cava vein.

Take the time to set yourself for surrender – note any discomfort and make adjustments – for example, take the pose with bent knees or use a bolster or blocks under your legs for lower back pain, a blanket under your head, widen your arms away from your body so the backs of your hands can lay flat. Discomfort can also take the form of being cold – a second layer or blanket may be something you consider if this proves a distraction.

Even after you are comfortable, it’s always helpful to take a scan of the body from feet to top crown of head to see where you may have physical resistance or aren’t letting go.

In a similar vein, if you find yourself restless at the start you can let your head roll from side to side, decreasing the amount of roll until it eventually finds center. If you find yourself distracted and wandering, you can bring yourself back to the moment by focusing on your now “natural” inhales and exhales or even a mantra. You can do that same to bring yourself back if you are nodding off.

Give yourself all the time you need in Savasana – it’s recommended you give yourself at least 5 minutes and feel free to take 5, 10 or more based on how long you practiced prior and what you need.

To come out of Savasana, you can start by letting your breath become more full, wiggle your fingers and toes to reawaken your body, bend your knees and bring your feet flat onto the earth, extend your arms overhead and roll off to your right side, making a pillow out of your right biceps. You can find several explanations for rolling to the right, it’s often said that it has a calming effect, which is desired if you plan to sit in meditation, or that the heart sits on the left side and therefore lying on the right keeps it free of pressure.

Once you have adjusted on your right side, bring yourself up to sit. You can press your left hand into the earth to do this, letting your head be the last thing to come up.

Find a comfortable cross legged seat in whatever variation you please. Whether you choose to continue with meditation or are bringing your practice to a close, give yourself a few breaths to take in the moment and seal in your practice.