I'll tell you the truth, my first experiences with Savasana (resting pose) were not relaxing; they were not blissful, floaty or illuminating. Instead, savasana for me was a time to go over the long list of things I had to do before returning home to my children and the ensuing chaos. I only had so much time to get things done. So there I am pretending to relax but with the following thoughts, "go to the cafe downstairs, gee I hope the line isn't long, then stop at the seamstress, get some of those pastries while I'm in town and then……" and on it went. In savasana, I would rub my brow, furrow my brow, itch, move, sigh and maybe even grunt at my long list of to-do's.
Anybody else ever do this? Or is it just me? Finally, a teacher who I love and respect and who knew I was a busy mom at the time said, "you seem to have a lot going on in those last 10 minutes of class". I admitted to her that I use that time to get things sorted in my mind. She said, "but that's your last 10 minutes to rest. And it's all yours. By allowing yourself to go into what you have to do next, you've given those valuable minutes away."
It never occurred to me to think of savasana like this. Wait a minute, if this was my savasana experience, did I ever find effortless effort in my asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama (breathing) practice? Did I surrender even once in that 50 minutes?
The meaning of savasana is to be in the position of a sava (corpse), not to move, not even the mind. We should become the watcher and not the doer. No gravity involved. Head and heart are on one level. Afterall, savasana is the posture of receiving. But wait there's more
Our Sadhana (yoga practice), is meant to raise Kundalini (energy) towards our higher-conscious. Prana (energy) rises from the Muladhara chakra (energy vortex), located at the base of the spine. The base chakra is where called Shakti energy originates. When aroused, Shakti heads toward Shiva, pure consciousness, at the top of the head, located in the Sahasrara chakra. Everybody can raise energy in their asana practice if they are fully present and practicing to their full potential.
This process of lifting the energy is called the ascent of the Kundalini, serpent-power or prana. The idea lies at the core of Tantra and Hatha yoga. As the awakened serpent-power or Shakti, rises upwards during our asana and pranayama practice, it actually withdraws vital force from the body. The serpent-power gathers up the pranic energy from the chakras, depleting these psycho-energetic structures one by one as it proceeds in its upward path. Only a small amount of energy remains in the body ensuring it's wellness, both emotional and physical. We become depleted from the bottom up. Most of the energy is now dwelling at the top of the head, which may result in a state of bliss. That's why when we finally melt into savasana; we feel profound oneness with the world; an all is mellow in the universe kind of feeling, you know?
Again, that's if we have permitted ourselves the benefit of really being in the present moment during our yoga practice, before savasana.
There are some techniques for a good savasana: We lie on our back, the legs are comfortably apart with feet relaxed. The lower back stretched long. The arms are 6-8 inches from the side of the body. The head is in neutral or may be turned to one side. The head should be at the same elevation as the heart. The back and shoulders remain in touch with the floor. Close the eyes. The head can be lifted for a moment to bring the chin toward the throat and elongate the neck as it lowers back down to the ground vertebrae by vertebrae. All the muscles of the body are then relaxed. One should not sleep.
I offer many different types of savasana experiences for my students, from leading them through guided meditation, yoga nidra, or giving savasana massage or just putting on some floaty etheric music and offering a bit of guided body relaxation and then leaving them to relax. We should think of something joyful and happy when entering savasana. I like to picture that I'm floating above my body these days, and just watching the peace in my body and on my face.
If our savasana is good, then we float, and if our savasana is not so great, then we tend to go into our to-do list or feel just plain uncomfortable. The bliss we feel in our savasana is in direct correlation to our Sadhana. Good practice, good savasana.
But, it's not always the teacher's fault that we don't have a good practice and savasana. The teacher can only plant the seed in the student. Whether or not it takes root and rises, that's usually up to the student in the class. Did we as students allow ourselves to have a contemplative practice? Did we feel at one with the universe, or did our ego get in the way? Did we worry or perhaps separate ourselves in some way?
So a bad savasana is one thing, but then there is no savasana – and that's worse!
If we leave our yoga class without savasana, we've left depleted. Our metabolic rate is racing, our adrenaline is pulsating and our mind, if not monkey-like yet, soon will be. We will be raw and vulnerable if we leave now, so don't do it. Stay for savasana. We have to bring down the prana and replenish the energy vortexes along the bodily axis. I tell my students that if they leave before savasana, they may experience bad karma by saying and doing things that aren't in their true nature. When we don't allow the Serpent-energy to come down, it's like we can't be accountable for our actions – we could surprise even ourselves. There are many cases of elevated Kundalini that didn't come down for days or even months or years.
OK so, raised Kundalini emergencies may arise from experiences that are heavier than missing just one savasana, but just to be sure, stay.
We can't let the people we care about miss their savasana.
We must spread the word.
When we stay for savasana, we gift ourselves some valuable time just for us. The phone isn't ringing (hopefully), there is no email, Instagram or tweeting to do. If we stay just for those extra little minutes, we will be a better parent, partner, friend, sibling and human being as we allow the life force to trickle down again toward the base chakra. As the prana comes down, it replenishes the chakras, filling the reservoirs of emotional energy.
We all need to stay in savasana to create a better world.
"Oh Yogi, please don't go!" Anna Laurita