Yogis do some courageous things. We stand on our heads. We drop back into backbends. We contort our bodies into complex configurations and then challenge ourselves to breathe. But the scariest thing yogis do is doing nothing.
At the end of every practice, students lay quietly for a couple of minutes in a position named savasana. Without question, this is the hardest part of class. The teacher is no longer talking. The music is off. We are not distracted by movement or breathing and for a few minutes we are asked to be completely still, alone with ourself (gasp!). People sometimes think this is adult naptime, but savasana is far from a few extra winks.
The word “sava” literally translates to corpse. It is sometimes referred to as final rest. Although these explanations connote death, savasana is in no way macabre. Instead it is a necessary step in the process of transformation. Savasana represents the death of that particular practice or self-state. Following final rest, yogis roll to the side in a fetal position before rising to sit, our rebirth.
Corpse pose is a rare period in our busy day where we get to literally do nothing. You don’t have to be anywhere. You don’t have to be anyone. You get to just be. This is also what makes savasana challenging. We are so used to constantly “doing” that the act of “being” is unfamiliar and confronting. As with anything, savasana takes practice. It is helpful when first learning to do a body scan, sequentially relaxing parts of the body to help you settle into nothingness (no-thing-ness).
Final resting pose is not only important for the mind and nervous system, but it’s also physically healing. Usually we lay on our backs with the eyes closed and front body fully exposed, but this can make people feel vulnerable, especially if someone has suffered trauma. There are numerous ways to modify so one can feel safe while still replenishing the body. One option is to place a blanket on the abdomen. Another soothing version is doing the pose lying on one’s belly.
As scary and uncomfortable as it may be, savasana is necessary and should not be skipped. It is the most important part of the practice. One could say that all poses lead us to savasana.
We must be willing to get uncomfortable in order to transform, and we must die to be reborn.
Practice some other scary poses with me before savasana:
Sarah Ezrin, E-RYT-500, is an energetic and humorous yoga teacher, writer, and YogaWorks teacher trainer based in Los Angeles. With a profound love of travel, Sarah runs around the globe leading trainings, workshops and retreats. For Sarah, yoga is not about the tricks or the postures; it is about finding one’s center amidst the challenges and chaos of the world. She believes that life is short and that it should be spent laughing, with the people and animals we love, and doing the things we most enjoy, like yoga! Practice with her at several of our LA based studios, or online with myyogaworks.com. For more information on Sarah, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook.