It’s Wednesday night and the Ethos yoga room is full. Yogis from far and wide line right up. Hot vinyasa with the lovely Kathryn. I can promise you that even though it’s September, ain’t gonna be a chilly body in the room. We breathe, we move, we come to our edge, we breathe some more and then finally at the end of an hour’s practice we REST. Savasana (also spelled Shavasana). It is so sweet: that blissful state at the end of a practice. Soaking up all the good vibes and just melting into the floor. But why? Why is this corpse pose so important? Why don’t we just end practice after our spinal twists and say, "Namaste" "Adios?" Well I'm glad you asked, allow me explain.
Firstly, it allows us to RELAX. You just completed a yoga practice and challenged yourself in so many ways now it’s time to play it cool. Savasana lets us push reset on our entire system and chill the flock out. Here is a wonderful list of the great benefits of settling down.
• a decrease in heart rate and the rate of respiration.
• a decrease in blood pressure.
• a decrease in muscle tension.
• a decrease in metabolic rate and the consumption of oxygen.
• a reduction in general anxiety.
• a reduction in the number and frequency of panic attacks.
• an increase in energy levels and in general productivity.
• an improvement in concentration and in memory.
• an increase in focus.
• a decrease in fatigue, coupled with deeper and sounder sleep.
• improved self-confidence.
Savasana also works to let our body and mind assimilate to everything that just occurred over our practice period. Kathryn's analogy is this...
When we come to class it's like opening our junk drawer. Everyone has some kind of junk drawer in their house. We sort through all the nonsense, getting rid of this and ditching that. Then when we're all through and done Savasana closes the drawer and turns the key. Like putting a cork on the top of a bottle. No junk getting back in there!
By taking Savasana we're helping to illuminate all that stress pollution in our daily lives. We are committing to mindfulness and stillness and turning inward to the breath. Savasana signals us that our practice is over. It's a form of closure, a beautiful sacred tradition, and a metaphorical death and reawakening.
Although Savasana is different for each person, teacher and class, Instructor David Swenson suggests this... "I have a general rule of thumb: Stay at least until the heart rate and breath rate return to a resting rhythm."
Don't overlook that oh so important asana at the end of your yoga practice. When you're yoga-ing alone it might seem easier to immediately jump right up and get back to the daily grind but I challenge you to be compassionate and to give yourself that vital time of rest. Marinate a little bit and if you ever come to a point where laying on your back just won't work for you, turn onto your side, lay on your belly or get into another posture that allows you to "do nothing." Savasana the pose isn't as neccesary as Savasana the state of being.
Rest, relax and then rest some more.