“If you want to wake up to the connection between your body and mind, you must check in with both on a regular basis. What I mean by ‘checking in with your body’ is just that: actually spending quiet time listening to what it is trying to tell you by paying attention to the way it feels.” ~ Cameron Diaz
I started going to regular yoga classes in my twenties. At the time, I saw exercise as a way to stay thin. The endorphins from my daily 10k runs felt wonderful and the purported health benefits were an added bonus, but if exercise hadn’t helped me to squeeze into my skinny jeans, I don’t think I’d have been as disciplined. Unfortunately, I carried this attitude with me into the yoga studio, only taking classes that promised a burn—like Ashtanga, Bikram and Core Power—and rating them on how much of a workout I got.
Savasana—the final part of the class, where you lie on your back and allow your body and mind to completely relax—was not for me. I saw it as the cool-down that I could quite as easily do whilst I got showered and changed. 9 times out of 10, I quietly rolled up my mat and tiptoed out of the studio, and if I did stay, I’d put that time to good use, mentally planning out the rest of my day.
I’ve missed out on countless moments of bliss and insight this way.
There’s a well-known Zen proverb: “If you don’t have time to meditate for an hour everyday, you should meditate for two.” In my experience, this applies equally to savasana. If you dislike the pose—finding it boring or a struggle to keep your mind from wandering off—the good news is that you stand the most to gain from it. It’s been truly life-changing for me. In just a year of resisting the urge to bolt, I’ve noticed a reduction in my anxiety, clearer thinking, increased kindness to myself and a boost in my creativity.
Cracking the Savasana Code
We don’t yet understand all the multifarious mechanisms at play in savasana and this is actually one of the aspects of yoga that I appreciate the most. Science doesn’t have all the answers so we can defer to own authority in the search for clues. In this article, I’ll focus on four key threads that stand out to me: integration, restoration, appreciation and interoception.
One of the reasons many teachers say that savasana is the most important pose in the practice is because this is the part of the class where you allow all the benefits to assimilate. If you’ve paid particular attention to your alignment in Warrior 2 or lifted your feet a little higher in Crow pose, you’ll want all your hard work to stick and not be wasted. So before you race onto the next thing, give your mind and body a few minutes to process this new information so that you can keep on progressing and moving forward.
Savasana is one of the most effective techniques for letting go of tension in tight muscles. During exercise and in the course of everyday life, we contract our muscles in order to move and act in all the ways that we want. Unfortunately, when we’re not looking after ourselves properly, we find out that we’re holding onto tension all the time—especially in the neck, shoulders and lower back. As you lie in savasana following your breath, try to soften and let go on every exhalation.
If you bulldoze from one moment to the next, never enjoying the one that you’re in, you crowd out space for appreciation. And appreciation is what leads to creativity. We lose something beautiful and precious in the pursuit of urgency, efficiency, productivity, busyness. This relentless momentum leaves no space for reflection and gratitude for the small things. Savasana teaches us that not all the best things happen when we’re moving forward and taking action.
One of the key benefits of savasana is that it gives you a rare opportunity to re-connect your body and mind. Most of us have experienced what it feels like to be disconnected, disembodied, cut off from our intuition. We eat because it’s lunchtime, not because we are hungry. We take painkillers to numb the warning signals from our bodies telling us that we are causing ourselves harm. We stop trusting in our spidey sense and find ourselves making seriously poor decisions.
In savasana, we re-establish the flow of connectivity between our bodies and minds in a technique called the body scan. This process of interoception—deep listening to physical sensations—increases your body awareness, enhances neuromuscular connectivity and can help you to tune you back into your internal compass.
Give it a whirl
For those of you reluctant savasanites, I hope that I have persuaded you to at least give it a try. With so many profound benefits available, I promise that it is worth 15 minutes of your valuable time. Try this video (below) when you wake up, during the day if you’re starting to feel a little frayed or at night before bed. I hope, like me, you’ll experience great transformation from just this simple act.
Little hinges swing big doors.
Photo credit: @siclarkphoto
ABI CARVER designs 15-minute yoga routines to improve flexibility, strength and balance, de-stress and ease aches and pains. Follow Abi on Instagram @yoga15abi for more yoga tips, tricks and inspiration.