Honouring śavāsana

One day last week in my daily practice, I settled into the breath and movement without time restriction. I felt in the groove. Moving through a more active series of postures, I knew my body was up for a little sweat. In more recent months, I have been focused poses that offer an antidote to an escalated nervous system, seeking decompression rather than physical challenge. But that day I felt the time and space around me as I challenged myself *gently* to exert more energy.

Each day, as with any discipline, you don’t always feel that flow –and that’s ok. But this post isn’t really about doing more active yoga, its about the dance between activity and stillness.

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Enter śavāsana, the sanskrit word meaning “corpse pose.” Normally a closing posture at in a yoga class, this can be one of the most challenging spaces to maintain awareness and focus because well we are just laying there. The body is presumably relaxed, supported by the ground and working on the inside to integrate the movements from the last hour of practice.

As far as I know, yoga is the only physical practice (though its part of a larger philosophical system of balancing the mind) that has a codified relaxation period built into its structure. But in this stillness, the the mind is challenged to not problem-solve or fall asleep. Often a teacher may cue the breath to help us stay anchored to the body in an alert way or suggest a visualization when thoughts or feelings arise (which they will), to acknowledge and let it pass.

So back to this experience of having time and space to practice, because this was the day I realized I’d been cheating myself of a proper śavāsana for at least a few months. It was a slow process, that started with shortening the time. My mind justified this in a whole lot of ways: I’m busy, I’m bored, I already meditated today. Sound familiar to anyone? In further reflecting on this, I came to understand the loss of savasana correlated with my experience of time as a 1000 tonne beast sitting on my shoulders. And I saw that clearly during this particular practice because I allowed myself to be a proper corpse at the end, stayed in awareness and non-doing, mind chatter on low. Not that it always feels so seamless.

We all have full lives of which time for practice can feel scarce. And I’m certainly of the mind that some corpse is better than no corpse. But particularly with self-directed practice, it can be easy for an important element of yoga like savasana to slide. Because its so passive (but not easy!), it may get cut in favour of the more active asana. Definitely for me, during times that feel hectic in life, that “dont just do something, sit there” is an apt sign post along the path of the contemplative practices.

So the next step, now that I have an awareness that I’d unconsciously relegated savasana to a second class pose, is to reintegrate it, bring it back to its rightful place.

I spend a lot of time alone doing yoga alone, in a daily home practice. For those of you who also practice solo, have you faced anything similar? What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of home/solo yoga practice?

Like reading about bodies and how to be nicer to them? You might like this post, too:

We Are (not) The Robots

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