It might just be the pose with the greatest capacity to move us. Savasana (or shavasana) is very frequently found at the end of a yoga practice, but is often interspersed in between, and in the Sivananda tradition for example, it is placed after every asana.
When the Sanskrit words Shava (शव, Śava) meaning “corpse”, and Asana (आसन, Āsana) “posture” or “seat” (also known as “pentacle”), appear on the lips of the teacher in class, they can incite a whole range of reactions ranging from an inner sigh of relief: “thank goodness I can lie down”, the genuine surprise: “wow, is it really time to lie down?”, frustration of an agitated body or mind: “I need more! I don’t want to lie down!” and a whole long list of etc.
Wonderful, excruciating, restful or painful, it certainly depends on the day, and rarely fails to move us.
When we start asana practice it may be easily confused as “sleep time”, the moment to drop down into a relieved slumber after a rigorous sequence of postures, yet it gradually reveals itself as something much more complex, subtle and challenging.
Following asana practice, savasana is the time for physical stillness, allowing the practice to sink in, a chance to regroup and reset, recharge and rest the body after moving the muscles, bones, organs and tissues after stretching, compressing and twisting them in and out of asana.
Like every other asana it is an opportunity to observe how the state of our body and mind fluctuate from one day to the next, and how we might appreciate one approach or another to our relaxation time will also vary.
A perfect finish for us might be the slow guided relaxation, with a gentle reminder from the teacher to let go of each body part successively: a “rotation of consciousness”, as is traditional in yoga nidra to enter a deeper state of relaxation.
At other times a correctly chosen piece of music can very literally strike a chord with our emotional state, tapping deeply into the moment we may be experiencing. It has on many occasions provided some of the most powerful savasana journeys for me personally, but admittedly it has also meant some of the most uncomfortable – music is incredibly personal and an absolutely subjective experience.
On the contrary it is very often the absence of sound itself, no outside noise, music or voices other than our own breath, joining with others’ which can transport us into the deep “corpse-like” state.
Always different, always personal, no two are ever the same.
Whether we welcome savasana or attempt to run from it (literally or mentally!), it is again a chance to sit and watch what our mind throws up from one moment to the next, and it is one of the most revealing parts of the yoga practice.
To still the mind and consciously relax each and every body part is no easy task, as the mind ducks and dives and shoots off in every which way it can, trying to keep us far away from the present moment. Yet even if it is for just a few minutes, when the body comes to lie still the very deepest muscles of the body have the opportunity to let go and shed their regular habits, providing far-reaching and numerous physiological benefits including a decrease in heart rate and blood pressure, released muscle tension, increase in energy levels, better concentration and memory and general productivity….
With such a huge variety of yoga and an amazing array of teachers to practice with at the Barcelona Yoga Conference, there will obviously also be a fabulous collection of savasana moments to experience. Participants in yoga conferences very often practice two or more classes a day and so there is even more of a reason to allow the body a welcome moment of inner and outer calm.
What’s for sure is Savasana most definitely shouldn’t be skipped. I have been tried guilty in the past of jumping up after practice to rush back to work or onto other tasks at hand, and have learnt (often the hard way!) that this is a huge error.
Just as fertile land needs to lie fallow to rejuvenate, trees need to lose their leaves, animals to hibernate, when we move and are active we also need to let ourselves rest: leaving our minds like a deep, still lake without a ripple.
Savasana is a chance to dive down into the still waters, deep inside ourselves and to experience our true nature.