Savasana, pronounced sha-VAH-suh-nuh, is one of the most, many would say the most important poses in yoga. It is the traditional final pose to any yoga class and it’s also often misunderstood. Like seeing only a room full of people ‘doing nothing but standing’ when you see a class practice Mountain Pose, people often joke that yoga classes end with ‘nap time.’ But it doesn’t take many yoga classes before most people begin to revise their understanding as they learn Savasana can be quite challenging and, at the same time, their favorite pose.
For those who are new to yoga, here are a few bits of information about it as a pose. Through the rest of the week, we’ll continue to explore its benefits and purposes and the analogs for leadership that are so critical to our practice. And right now in this time of challenge and uncertainty, the practice of Savasana and its leadership complements have never been more important.
First and foremost, the goal of Savasana is to “relax the body so completely that the body becomes irrelevant, as if it were deceased. With the body ‘gone’, the mind is set free to blossom.”. This quote from The Idiot’s Complete Guide to Yoga points us toward the translation of Savasana – Corpse Pose.
This idea of complete relaxation is one that is often difficult to achieve and is one of the reasons this pose can be so challenging. “When you first start practicing Savasana, it can be a struggle to relax in the pose; you may lie there feeling tense and staring at the ceiling. Or like some students, you might fall asleep the moment you lie down. The essence of Savasana is to relax with attention, that is, to remain conscious and alert while still being at ease. Remaining aware while relaxing can help you begin to notice and release long-held tensions in your body and mind.” https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/corpse-pose
And of course, like so much of a yoga practice – well, any practice really – just because we reach a point where we feel comfortable in the pose, doesn’t mean it won’t be challenging tomorrow. Yoga is a practice thoroughly grounded in the moment and in what we bring to our practice each day. Some days we relax immediately into the pose and others, we struggle not to squirm and fidget. Even when we are in the same spot in the same room at the same time. Some days we are able to let our mind calm and others we learn all over again what it means to have a monkey mind – unsettled, restless, chasing after every thought that appears.
“Perhaps the most compelling reason for us Westerners to practice shavasana (alternate spelling) is that it simply brings more peace into our lives. Imagine yourself calmer and more clear-headed, able to take any situation in stride, handle any emergency with unruffled confidence. The regular practice of shavasana can give you this gift.” (Idiot’s Guide)
It’s one of the wonderful paradoxes of yoga – lying relaxed on the floor, ‘doing nothing’ is an active way to bring more peace and calm into our lives. It is a gift we give ourselves. This week, we’ll explore this idea and practice it a bit during our meditations.
Budilovsky, J. & Adamson E. (1998), The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Yoga, New York: Alpha Books.