Save Savasana! The final pose of yoga is the most important. Are you missing the boat? Or should I say relaxation?
I have had the honor of coming to the yoga mat for almost 20 years, and 17 of which I have been guiding others from their first pose to relaxation.
And it has most definitely happened on more than one occasion that students skip out on Savasana. Some are very clear that they need to leave to get their kid from school or to hit a deadline and I am happy that they at least made time.
But there have been a few occasions where the student could not handle such a pose and as a result left. But acted as though they were late for something, or continued to roll around and strike a pose at the back of the room while the rest of the yoga class soaked up some Zzzz yoga style.
Well, I should probably explain to my non-yoga readers that Savasana is a fancy Sanskrit word for relaxation or corpse pose. Which I would say is both the easiest pose of class, and at the same time the most difficult.
You will often here my encourage my students minutes prior to Savasana that this pose, relaxation is the final pose of yoga. It is what we prepare for the entire 60, 75 or 90 minutes for. Post that, is meditation.
Yoga itself is a bit of a challenge in that it confronts our insecurities, our weaknesses, our strengths, our anxieties. And if we are not attentive to it, we simply ignore them and find ways to work around such challenges in-order to say safe and say comfortable.
But yoga is “comfortably uncomfortable” as I like to say mid way through a pose that to my students appears to never end. And how we treat the yoga poses. How we act and react on the mat is a complete mirror for our every day life.
In my experience many of my type A students often gravitate initially to the faster paced yoga classes. The ones that on the surface, in the description appear more difficult.
While their counterparts often gravitate towards the slower styles, and classes were moving and grooving isn’t the in the glamorous description.
It could very well be a torture chamber to request my type A students initially attend a Yin style yoga or slow style yoga and a ten minute relaxation. By minute 60 there might not be anyone left in the room.
But here’s the thing. We all need to chill out. Not fake chill out. Not relax with our phone scrolling Facebook aimlessly. Not huffing and puffing trying to keep up with a flow that does not exactly scream soothing and calming, and then skipping out on the relaxation part because it seems “pointless”.
I was that person. Anxious, busy, rigid. And laying around made me frigidity beyond normal comparison.
But for some odd reason I stuck with yoga. I began to learn that my anxious state on the mat was a complete mirror for how I was behaving off the mat.
My restlessness, my need to keep moving and “not feel” was the same way I was approaching life. The need to push, stress, and basically kill myself in class to call it a success were the exact unrealistic standards I was holding myself to in my life.
And relaxation. Don’t even get me started. I had more anxiety about it than my students at times. And watching them lay quietly I was the one restless, anxious about weather or not they were anxious, bored, and disliking the moment they were in.
But I learned. I learned along with my students about the importance of this pose as well as a deeper insight to my yoga style choices per my current personality and life challenges.
Savasana should offer you, your body and your mind an opportunity to fully unwind. To experience a complete surrender of the physical body. See the class was meant to exhaust you. Not like too hard to keep up exhaust you. But challenge you in every way, shape and form.
Keep your mind focused. Challenged. Nurtured.
Keep your body working, opening, reaching, strengthening, trying both new and familiar things to help you step outside your comfort zone.
Long story short, for many they struggle with allowing their bodies and minds the opportunity to reset the central nervous system. That of which Savasana can and does play a huge part in.
I (tried) to run track in high school and one thing the coach always said was “do not forget to do your cool down, do not just stop after you cross the finish line, keep walking”.
Why? Because that abrupt stop is stressful and confusing for the body.
Leaving prior to Savasana. Or not allowing yourself to fully reap the benefits of it is like giving a kid a sucker and just before the tootsie center, taking it away. How rude!
So why Savasana your way to bliss after your yoga session?
- It removes fatigue
- Calms the central nervous system
- Brings clarity to the mind
- Brings emotional balance
- Promotes deep healing
- Cultivates an energetic connection
- Restores and resets the physical body post-movement
- Offers self reflection
- Lowers the heart rate
- Lowers the body temperature
- Replenishes vital energy in the body
- It is a mini-vacation or relaxation
- This is the pose that connects your entire practice together
The most precious thing in the world which is missing these days is relaxation Yogi Bhajan
Preparing for a Proper Savasana
Take advantage of having a captive audience for 45+ minutes prior to relaxation and prepare your students for what is going to eventually happen. Encourage them of the benefits. To work hard, or breathe now so they can fully benefit later.
I often equate relaxation to sleep. “Skip it too many times and you’re dying at work or dragging trying to keep up your normal groove. Why is it we skimp on the most important aspects of life? Of yoga?”
Spend 1-5 minutes of floor work preparing the body for relaxation. Sitting or supine poses, movements or even breathing exercises to help them wind down.
Offer them a focus or intention. Or even guide them through a short relaxation for the body to soften even more. But it will also aid the mind in wandering and causing frustration.
How Long Should Relaxation Be?
It is a vast debate as to how long relaxation should be. And depending on the style you are teaching or practicing. The teacher, even the location (gym VS yoga studio) the length of time will and can drastically vary. And it is in my experience that at least 10% of the class’s total time could be considered dedicated to relaxation.
- 60 minute yoga session = 6 minute Savasana
- 75 minute yoga session = 7-8 minute
- 90 minute yoga session = 9 minute
Now that might not work for your current demographic and in some cases it has been my experience that as the teacher you may need to work them up to such a time block.
Customize Your Savasana:
Hopefully you have already ensured there is enough room for each yoga mat, and the person attached to it in class.
And if it is a yoga class you are relaxing to, then chances are the mood and energy is already set up for such a pose. But if you are considering adding in a little Savasana to another style class or practice then here are a few tips to enhance the experience even more.
Tips to help everyone present relax a little more.
- Invite the class to stay for relaxation.
- Let them know exactly how long it will be.
- Ensure them this will not take away from what comes next in life, but enhance it.
- Dim the lights or turn them off.
- Cue students as to where their body parts should go.
- Decide the room set up: legs up the wall, students on belly, back, side, support, etc.
- Invite students to check in with their breath
- Reassure students that the mind wandering is normal and the power is in the practice of continuing to come back to the stillness on the mat.
- Speak in a language that students can understand. Meet them where they are and guide them by hand as to where you want them to go.
Yoga can be a perfect package. It is important to remember that it has to potential to lead the mind, restore the body, and open the soul. And in my experience I have learned that when you remove a piece of the pie for no other reason than it makes you uncomfortable. Or you don’t like it, the pie just won’t taste right. The benefits may not be at their fullest potential.
So I want to encourage you that if someone offers you time to just be, to relax and lay like a corpse. Do it.
And the clarity, rejuvenation, and sense of restoration you will receive thereafter is truly what you will bring home to your family and loved ones.