Over the past couple of months, I have been focusing a lot of my awareness in my yoga practice during savasana. For those of you new to yoga, savasana (pronounced shah-VAHS-anna)–or corpse pose–occurs at the end of practice, and is also known as “final relaxation.” After flowing breath to movement through sun salutations, balancing postures, rinsing postures, the class closes in rest–ready to soak up all of the benefits of our hard work during class.
Savasana is spoken of as the most difficult posture to master–most especially because the pose focuses on completely and utterly “letting go.” Now I don’t know very many people who have mastered this art of surrendering control–but savasana is a start. Learning to quiet your body and quiet your mind is not one in which people practice so often. However, there are two particular aspects of the pose I have noticed are the most difficult–resting (which I believe most find challenging) and awakening.
There have been a number of instances in class in which yogis bounce out of the studio just prior to savasana, ready to head out and continue on with their day or night, completely disregarding the benefits of rest. Why? Just as with any other asana, savasana deserves our dedication and attention, if not more. However, in today’s world, it really does not surprise me that this happens. So often we learn to work hard constantly, our minds never far from our to-do lists and responsibilities. “I don’t have time to rest.” “I’ll rest later.”
I know because I speak from experience; I used to be one of those people who thought that if I was not working all of the time, I was not working hard enough. I prided myself on my lack of sleep, thinking that I was just that much of a hard worker because of my 2 AM bedtimes and 7:30 AM wake up calls.
But, oh, how the times have changed. Over the past couple of years, I have learned the importance of rest. The importance of slowing down. The importance of il dolce far niente (“the sweetness of doing nothing”). So for me, I relish my time in savasana. Rest is my favorite part of class!
What has been challenging for me now is learning to awaken. After corpse pose, the instructor prompts us to deepen our breath, wiggle our fingers and toes, stretch our arms up over overhead–full body stretch–and roll over into fetal position. We die in corpse pose, and then we are reborn with fetal pose. It is a beautiful cycle–though not an easy one.
I have learned to rest so much so that it is difficult for me to get back up again. I have definitely recognized the transitions and experiences in my life that have brought me to this mindset of remembering to rise. Over the past year, there were moments that if I awoke in the morning and stepped out of bed, I considered the day a success. But what yoga has taught me is that it is important to move slowly. Breathe, and take one step at a time. We don’t just move from savasana to fetal pose–we start to slowly move our body. As beautiful as rest is, that’s not all there is; we do not live to rest. Similarly, when I have found it challenging to get out of bed in the morning, I start slowly. I awaken my mind, attempting to start my day with with a single word–breathe. Use breath and that energy to move on to the next step, whatever it is. Just as we have to learn how to rest, we have to learn how to get back up–and begin again.