I used to hate Savasana / Corpse pose when I first started attending yoga classes back in 2001. I didn’t see the point at all. And it would make me not just cry but sob. So everyone else in the class seemed to be having a great old time relaxing at the end and I felt even worse about potentially disturbing them as tears refused to stop.
Had it not been for the pain relief benefits of the physical practice, I’d have run a million miles (if I were a runner) in the opposite direction from yoga. Still, pain relief helped me persevere and as I got to know more about this psycho-spiritual practice, I figured that whatever I was releasing was ready to go.
With hindsight, I could have made it much easier on myself but I was new to yoga.
If you struggle in Savasana, maybe knowing the physiological benefits (and it’s capacity to retrain the ANS so we’re better able to calm ourselves down off the yoga mat as well as during our practice) will encourage you to persevere.
And if, like many, you already love it, I hope you’ll be able to love it even more knowing just how good it is for us.
We spend so much time rushing about, on the go, pushing ourselves to accomplish more and more. Our nervous systems rarely need any help in being lifted. 2016’s 24/7 society does that for us. An email (or even thought about an email – or anything else) can trigger the same stress response that our ancient ancestors reserved for genuine threats to our lives like saber-toothed tigers.
To practice (don’t be fooled – it may look simple but it is a practice – some days will feel easier than others), lie on your mat and let your head, neck and spine be nicely aligned in a straight line. Allow the feet and legs to roll out and release the arms away from the body with the palms facing up.
If there’s any discomfort, a bolster, cushion or rolled up blankets under your knees can ease that. And tune into your own body’s wisdom to see if there’s anything else you need in this moment (a blanket, socks, whatever might make you more comfortable as you allow the benefits of your yoga practice (or run, or any other type of exertion) sink in.
While it may be easy for you to simply let go and relax, it may be helpful for you to use your breath as an anchor (click here for reminders) to stop the kind of rumination / stressful thoughts / flashbacks that made me think I hated this pose all those years ago.
You’ll probably notice that it’s much easier to practice after a more dynamic session than simply going from being quite inactive to Savasana. This is because that movement will have helped to burn off lots of the stress hormones allowing the system to release that anxiety and stress and simply be present to noticing heart rate, breath, the feel of the ground supporting you and so on.
If you’re still feeling a bit antsy, you might want to co-ordinate the tightening and releasing of the thighs with each breath (inhale tighten, exhale release). As well as offering a focus for your mind, this honours the body’s natural fight/flight impulse (relaxation can trigger that when it hasn’t felt safe to relax) while, again, using the larger muscles in the thighs to burn off more of those stress hormones.
You might also want to use the time to allow the earth to take anything (habits, behaviours, beliefs, aches, pains, tensions, stresses, worries – ANYTHING) you’re ready to release into the earth, knowing it can be recycled for the benefit of the planet. You may consciously think, ‘Yup, defo ready to release _____!’ or it may be a more general, trusting, letting go of whatever’s ready to be let go of without even consciously remembering it.
As with everything, you know yourself best and what’s best for you during any given practice.
What helps you relax into Savasana?
What gets in the way?
What have you learned from your most memorable ones (relaxing or even stressful)?
Feel free to comment below.
And you can find out more about my classes here and my work with individuals here.