The Art of Śavāsana
Updated: Jun 24, 2021
Full disclosure: I am writing this post in a mad dash before getting ready to teach, so consider this a preliminary exploration.
Śavāsana, (pronounced Shavasana) or Corpse Pose, is often said to be the most important pose of the yoga class, and yet we often run out of time and cut it short. Today, I am dedicating my classes to Śavāsana.
Śavāsana is a powerful pose. It gives us what might be the only opportunity we have all day to help regulate our nervous system. We generate calm without numbing out. Being still replenishes our energy. Stillness allows us time and space to actually hear our own thoughts, and potentially have important insights. Other times, allowing the mind to simply journey has calming benefits.
For some of us, when we try to quiet the mind, we find the mind is racing. Or there might be an anxiety monster fretting away inside us. Soothing music, imagery or affirmations can help us in those cases. Tonight's classes will have it all. Of course, we will still flow and breathe, and work the kinks out of our bodies. And then we will rest.
What is your experience? Is Śavāsana difficult for you? Soothing? Does it make you feel fidgety? Does it make you feel peaceful?
Inspiration for finding stillness came to me today from reading this blog post on Psych Central
The Power in Being Still & How to Practice Stillness. The interviewee lists a selection of tips on creating stillness for ourselves. Of course, scheduling our yoga class is one way we do that.
One of the tips this blog post lists is practicing affirmations when the mind is having difficulty in stillness. I myself have practiced affirmations and it was really hard at first. It felt inauthentic and corny. But in my experience, saying the affirmations worked right away. I didn't manifest millions of dollars or anything like that. But I was able to use affirmations to stabilize my mind and connect to my inner healing.
As a trauma survivor (and who isn't a trauma survivor?) I still need to practice daily to heal my heart. These are the affirmations I am sharing from my practice today.
I am worthy of being loved just as I am.
I am capable of receiving love.
Love is flowing to me and through me at all times.
I am cherished and valued.
I receive love into my heart.
I am connected to a greater field of love and belonging.
I am whole.
Due to the fact that so many people are carrying different life experiences with them into public yoga classes, I often don't talk about how Savasana means "corpse." I don't want to re-traumatize anyone, or bring up their grief. And yet, if we don't talk about it, we are kind of white-washing the yoga and its roots in India. True Yogis--not just yoga enthusiasts, but people who are renouncing the world to devote themselves to full-time spiritual practice--meditate on "being a corpse" to practice letting go of bodily clinging to life. The goal is to let go of attachment so much that the spirit leaves the body and joins the energy of the universe forever. As lay practitioners, we can apply this meditation as more of a metaphor. I don't want to keep doing the same mistakes over and over, so I have to let go of my attachments that lead me into such traps. (Like fighting with my partner because I'm feeling triggered. If I can realize I am triggered, pause and redirect, I can relieve both of our suffering. There is a letting go there.). We can imagine the corpse pose is the death of our attachments.
Meditating on Savasana can be a way of normalizing death. Getting used to it so it will be less scary when the time comes. Savasana can give us an opportunity to be with our grief and heal.
Savasana reminds us to be kind. One of my favorite quotes from the Dhammapada: "The world does not know that we must all come to an end here. But those who know it--their quarrels cease at once." We are all subject to illness, old age and suffering. By seeing the suffering in others, and recognizing our own, perhaps we can empathize and transform our anger into care.
On that note, I am off to the races. I love talking about this stuff. You can find me on social media if you want to share your thoughts.
May this practice serve for the awakening of all. ️️
PS--Here is a terrific article by Embodied Philosophy going a little deeper into Savasana
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