I have a huge love-hate relationship with Savasana (“corpse pose” for the unfamiliar). Obviously, I love the lying down part, but something about actually relaxing is incredibly difficult for me. I’m not sure if other people feel this way, or maybe they just don’t realize they do, but I know that as soon as it’s time for Savasana, my mind enters hyper drive. And damn, it’s frustrating.
I had one teacher a few years ago that described Savasana as the most challenging yoga pose she knew. Instantly, I understood what she was talking about.
The average person goes through life with a constant need to be alert to some degree or another. To be considered “successful” between the ages of 5 and 22, we partake in school, judging our mind’s capabilities to contemplate, analyze, compute, and compare. Basically, we are training our minds to be permanently busy.
Yoga, in a sense, is an effort to un-learn these habits to try to quiet our over-active minds. Hatha yoga, the physical yoga, is just one method we can use to achieve this quiet mind state. By physically challenging our bodies, we give the mind a feeling, a specific sensation happening in our bodies, to focus on. In Vrksasana, “tree pose,” you’re probably not thinking about your taxes or what you’re going to make for dinner. You are thinking about your standing leg – that wobbly, increasingly burning, shaky leg that you are hell-bent on keeping rooted into the ground. Or maybe, if you’re like me, you’re wondering why everyone is taking this pose so seriously. I mean, come on, you’re a bunch of adults standing on one leg, pretending to be trees. It’s ok to laugh a little.
But, in Savasana, there are no distractions left. This is your “reward,” my teachers always tell me, “let it feel good.” But, how can I let it feel good when I know that my mind is not doing what it’s supposed to be doing. I’ve been doing yoga long enough that I know the drill…
“Relax. Start at your toes and move your awareness up your body, covering every inch, and notice where you’re holding tension. Let it go. Release. Empty your mind. Bring your awareness to your natural rhythm of breath.”
I hear all of these instructions, and I understand them completely. Heck, I’ve even taught them, but it still never ceases to amaze me when I find myself lying on my back in Savasana at the end of perfectly enjoyable class, and I start THINKING. Always thinking. I’m pretty sure I even came up with the idea for this blog post during Savasana. With each thought that flourishes in my stubborn and over-anaytical mind, I try to let it go. I try to focus on relaxing the muscles in my lower back and my jaw, knowing that they deserve it more than my worries about what I’m going to wear that night, but it is hard. And to anyone who says, without any uncertainties, that Savasana is their favorite pose, I say, you’re not trying hard enough. Or maybe, you can share some of your tricks with me.
It’s this kind of difficulty, however, that makes Savasana the most important pose in any class. I guarantee you – it is the only posture that you will find in every single yoga class you ever take. Savasana is your body’s time to absorb all of those yummy poses you just did. It’s kind of like a reset button so your body doesn’t go into complete shock after all that physical goodness you just bestowed upon it. After all, Trikonasana, “triangle pose,” is quite a different experience than couch-asana, and you deserve a little time to soak up its benefits.
Plus, if you’re not super neurotic like yours truly, Savasana can feel ridiculously good as well. Like too-good-to-be-legal good, like 70-IN-MARCH good – so good that you secretly curse your yoga teacher when she announces that it’s time to roll over. But, it’s exactly that deliciously awesome feeling that adds to the difficulty of it all. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t fallen asleep in Savasana at least once. I am a chronic insomniac, and I fall asleep in Savasana every now and then. It’s because it feels that good, and your body/mind responds, “THANK YOU. I’m turning off now.”
So, the trick of Savasana is finding that balance, that space between unconsciousness and consciousness. You have to be aware but not thinking, and relaxed but not asleep. It’s not so easy when you think about it…or don’t think about it…