At the end (and sometimes the beginning) of each yoga class, comes the dreaded/much anticipated (insert preference here)…savasana.
Depending on the type of person you are, you will either love or hate savasana.
The latter person embraces the movement, dynamics and active nature in the challenge of yoga. Often they like to push themselves, work hard and are always on the go. Their minds are multi-tasking constantly and they thrive on minor levels of stress.
Sound familiar? Read on…
Savasana Yoga and Your Mindset
Those who look forward to a nice long savasana are those who love rest. They like time alone and enjoy their own company. They appreciate the need to consolidate and secure their practice, thoughts and achievements.
Whether you love or hate savasana, you need it.
We all do.
Whether it is your favourite part of a yoga practice, or the part you’re itching to get out of, it is probably the most important part.
And here’s why…
Benefits of Savasana
It is not just a nap with a fancy name, there is no sleeping in savasana (though many people do fall asleep, and that’s fine if your body is telling you that’s what it needs.) After a practice of yoga, our bodies need to relax. This pose helps us to physiologically relax each muscle, thus helping us to mentally and physically digest our practice.
It also helps to relieve stress, bring ourselves away from our day and onto our mat.
Now, everyone who has ever been in a yoga class lying in savasana listening to the teacher telling us to “remove yourself from your day” has immediately planned what they’re having for lunch, tomorrow’s to-do list and worked out how much change is in their purse.
If this happens, which is inevitable, don’t panic.
This is how our minds work, and that’s okay. In order to consolidate our practice and have a hard-earned rest, we don’t necessarily need a blank mind floating towards enlightenment. If you need this time to think, then think. It’s your time, your thoughts and your practice, and your savasana can be whatever you want it to be.
The Goal of Savasana
One main aim of savasana is to invigorate and refresh the mind and body through conscious relaxation.
This is not easy!
In fact, many say it is the most challenging of all the poses. Of course you are not using your upper arm strength to hold you in a balance, and no you are not opening your hips to encourage a deeper stretch, but stilling your body and mind whilst remaining conscious does indeed require strength, balance and openness.
It is very easy to assume savasana is unnecessary at the end of practice and avoid it altogether, but the benefits are endless.
Savasana relaxes the central nervous system, helping both body and mind to be calm. It also decreases muscle tension, encouraging the benefits from all the poses you have just done in your practice. Taking a brief pause from life in this pose is used as a way to invigorate and increase energy levels, so that after your practice you feel refreshed and more focused.
It encourages a decrease in fatigue and yet an increase in deeper, higher-quality sleep.
During savasana our awareness is turned inwards and there is a sensory distraction, a mild form of natural (not contrived) pratyahara is experienced here, leading us to a slightly meditative state. This, once again, helps to remove ourselves from the outside world and makes it easier to be aware of the breath and state of mind, again encouraging a stillness of the thoughts.
Savasana is practiced in a reclining position which is not usually the best for proper meditation, but this is not the aim of savasana. However, it can be a start to calmness and tranquility and is certainly the best position for physical relaxation and tension release.
Opening Savasana vs. Closing Savasana
An opening savasana is one which is practiced at the beginning of a class, and holds a very different purpose to a closing savasana.
An opening one has the aim of turning our focus inwards bringing ourselves away from our day in order to prepare our bodies and minds for the practice ahead.
A common practice for an opening savasana is some breath techniques: deepening the awareness of the breath, or using the yogic 3-part-breath as a method to create a vigorous, energizing feeling to set ourselves up for the class. It wants to rejuvenate our bodies and minds by bringing our awareness to our breath.
A closing savasana aims to relax, calm and soothe.
Breathing techniques would not be used here — the breath is encouraged to fall into its natural rhythm, so as to not create a distraction from relaxation.
There are several techniques that can be used in a closing savasana, one of my favorite is a tension release sequence.
This is done by bringing the awareness to each part of the body, one at a time (working from the toes up), focusing on each muscle/body part, tensing it gently, and then releasing it. This helps us to release any caught-up energy, tension or tightness to be removed from the body, and also aids an awareness of how much tension was there before.
Eventually, every muscle from head to toe will be fully relaxed, and we can spend a few moments lying and appreciating this feeling of relaxation, and of genuine rest.
Doesn’t that sound great? I kind of want to lie down right now…
So give it a try.
Savasana is always a wonderful thing — it benefits us all mentally, physically and spiritually. Yes you may fidget, and count the minutes until you can get out of it….but stick at it, because you might just learn to love it.