By Michael G. Fry
“Savasana is being without was, being without will be. It is being without anyone who is.” B.K.S. Iyengar
Savasana, also spelled Shavasana or Shivasana, is often seen as a ‘nap’ after class and while the pose does serve this delightful and sometimes needed purpose, savasana is so much more. It is a chance to let go, ‘die’ and be reborn.
Happy New Year! What are your New Year’s Resolutions? Stop. Shhhhh. No need to answer that…again. This is the time of the year when we, in the west, tend to get caught up in making an extra effort to honor our ‘resolutions’. We have made written lists and verbal promises to ourselves, our loved ones and in some cases social media, to do better, act better and be better this year than we were last year.
We want to lose ten pounds, eat less red meat and go to the gym. We begin our ‘new’ year from an old perspective, that we are somehow deficient, need to change and so we begin our year with modern day karmic debt and a fiery intention to pay it back in 12 month installments. Hey, not all debts are bad, right, especially if they allow us to pay over-time to get what we want. Goals are great and resolutions can be used for good!
But, prior to assigning ourselves goals for next year, have we taken the time to relax and rejuvenate? To take a deep cleansing breath? To feel good about ourselves and our last year’s accomplishments? Savasana, occurring after a rigorous practice, reminds us to take that pause and to rest between efforts.
Savasana literally means–corpse pose. It is called corpse pose not only because of the position of the body: lying on the back, arms and legs spread at 45 degrees, palms up with eyes shut and allowing the breathe to be smooth, long and deep, but also in its ability to prepare you for the ultimate relaxation: ‘death’.
Lol. Don’t worry, while in the yogic tradition death is the most important moment of life and reincarnation is a seen as a karmic rebirth, one needn’t embrace these spiritual traditions to benefit from savasana. One only need to be willing and able to let go, relax and release.
Savasana decreases heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and general levels of anxiety. It increases energy levels, boosts memory and stimulates the ability to concentrate. It gives you a more easy sleep and brings a general sense of well-being. And everyone can do it, making it the great common denominator of yoga practice. Savasana also gives instructors the chance add a personal touch to the practice as they guide students in relaxation, self-blessing, prayer, affirmation, gong, essential oils and even crystal bowls.
After over a decade of yoga practice, I still enjoy occasionally falling asleep during savasana but more often I enjoy the benefits of my practice by allowing essential silence, stillness, pranayama and a deep sense of well-being to replace all thought. After savasana, we roll over to the left into a fetal position in preparation to be reborn. Savasana can be a portal to peace and a reminder to pause and rest before moving onto the next goal.