The Journey of Savasana
Diving Into the Mystery, Remembering How to Let Go
“Remember fear for what it is, resistance to the unknown.” -Terry Tempest Williams
Pause, take a deep breath. Invite the possibility to read this article with a soft face and receptive eyes.
Intrigued by the experiences of letting go, deep rest and the healing which unfolds on this journey, this article dives into the questions and uncertainties which are at the essence of savasana.
First, consider when and where you take savasana?
What position do you come to rest in? And, are you really, lovingly, giving yourself an opportunity to let go?
Put on a few layers to be sure you are warm enough. A thick blanket over your body is a nice way to encourage the body’s surrender to gravity…like a gravity blanket resting over your skin layer. And, an eye pillow or a scarf over the eyes can really help to allow the eyes and brain cavity to relax into earth. Take adequate time to adjust and if you have aches and pains in your body, consider using props and bolsters to support yourself. Some options I like are a bolster behind the upper thigh bones, thin blocks under the backs of the palms (allows forearms and hands to soften), or a rolled up blanket in the hollow space behind the neck.
How much time to you give yourself? Or, how much time do you give your class, if you are a teacher? In this busy world of time, it seems that this universally beneficial posture often gets squeezed in, or used simply as a way to recover from a sweaty yoga class.
“It is to relinquish who you are and to let go of life’s concerns into the merest of being alive. Such letting go into the smooth presence of simple being is not the kind of visible, salable skill a businessman or a violinist might develop. But, it is not at all trivial. To really let go, to not try, not even a little, is its’ own kind of mastery.” -Robert Forman
Second, consider how you drop in and how you retreat from the posture?
Once you are set, settle and breathe. Feel the parts of your body that touch earth. Feel the parts of the body that touch sky. You are the space between earth and sky. Receive the breathe through the layers of your being. Explore flickering the eyes , open and closed, almost unconsciously, as you drop into savasana. This is almost a mimicry of the dying process, slowly, slowly, letting go.
Can you have an intention to let go and simultaneously receive the unfolding as it manifests inside of you?
When the time comes to retreat from the womb of savasana; pause.
Feel the parts of your body that touch earth. Feel the parts of your body that touch sky. You are the space between earth and sky. Let the mystery unfold in the space between the inner landscape of your body and the outer landscape of this world. Absorb the residue which lingers, right now. However you are inspired to, move slowly towards seated.
Lastly, consider the broader questions/ideas below. Look inwards for the edges of relaxation and see what you find. For me, it’s smooth edges, endless space and deep mystery. It’s sometimes scary, sometimes sleepy, and always a journey of truth, which asks me to peel back the layers and really show up for the truth of my life.
- Does your yoga practice prepare you for savasana?
What is the transition like, for you, between movement and stillness?
When the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated throughout the yoga practice, it is much more natural for our whole being to move towards a state of letting go. Even in a dynamic movement flow, if the tone of the movement remains soft and fluid, we are much more in tune with the basic primal rhythms of life (primary respiration, heart-beat, breath, etc) and as a result we can more deeply merge with the earth energies as we relax into savasana.
- Why is it often referred to as the most important pose?
Given that one of the only certainties in life is death, facing our own mortality seems something interesting to ponder and even, perhaps, practice. And, perhaps facing death allows us to really come into contact with intentions for how we want to live our lives, here and now.
- Notice and embrace the shifts in your practice?
Resist labeling your savasana practice as good or bad. Some days, weeks or years, we are going through life events and relaxation is inevitably not easy. Rather then avoiding it all together, create a safe space and be gentle and open with yourself.
If you have had trauma in your life, savasana can often be the place where it resurfaces. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing, just an opportunity to revisit and move through events, which are still residing in the tissues of our being.
“Once again there was a pervasive silence and once again I waited for the onset of fear to break it up. But this time the fear never came…within, all was still, silent and motionless. In the stillness, I was not aware of the moment when the fear and tension of waiting had left. Still I continued to wait for a movement not of myself and when no movement came, I simply remained in a great stillness…Once outside, I fully expected to return to my ordinary energies and thinking mind, but this day I had a difficult time because I was continually falling back into the great silence.” -Bernadette Roberts
Beginner Hatha Yoga Poses
Hatha Yoga is the path of Physical Yoga or Yoga of Postures is the most popular branch of Yoga. This style of yoga considers the body as the vehicle for the soul. It uses physical poses or asanas, breathing techniques or pranayama, and meditation in order to bring the body in perfect health and for the more subtle spiritual elements of the mind to emerge freely. The practice of Hatha Yoga will aim for the union of the body and the soul, to fill the body with life force. Swami Svatmarama believed that the regular practice of Hatha Yoga asanas could give “steadiness, health, and lightness of body.”
Virasana (Hero’s pose) stretches the ankles, gluteal muscles, and other smaller muscles in the hips. Also, therapeutic for high blood pressure and asthma
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika lists a number of specific benefits for Matsyendrasana (the Lord of the Fishes Pose). These benefits include increased appetite, the destruction of multiple diseases, and the awakening of kundalini energy.
Paschimottanasana (the Intense Back Stretch) is a deep stretch for the entire posterior chain of the body. The posture creates openness in the calves and hamstrings and can relieve tension in the back muscles as well.
Dhanurasana (the Bow Pose) stretches the hip flexors, abdominals, chest, and shoulders. The posture also strengthens the back muscles.