Tag Archives: yoga practice

Finding Ease in Savasana: Prop It Up!

At the end of every yoga class, we lie down in Savasana- yoga’s “corpse pose.” In this final pose, we practice letting go and letting be.  Trusting that we’ve done enough, we release any sense of effort and give ourselves over to rest. Neurologically, this is a chance for our nervous system to absorb and digest all of the new information we received throughout the practice.

Ideally, if the class is sequenced well, your body and mind are primed for rest, and this is a nurturing and relaxing experience. Many students really, really love this pose (we used to sell shirts at YogaFish that read, “I’m Just Here for the Savasana!”). Others (often, especially, newer students) find it challenging and would rather get up and leave than partake in mandatory adult nap time.

In order for the mind to really be able to rest, it’s helpful to make the body as comfortable as possible. If lying on the floor on a rubber mat isn’t your idea of a luxurious getaway, I’ve got some simple Savasana alternatives for you to explore that might help your body to feel more at ease. Most of these are pretty simple and will just require you grabbing an extra prop or two before practice.

Stonehenge SavasanaStonehenge is a favorite with several of my students. By placing a bolster on top of two blocks, you’re allowing your lower back to nestle into the floor more cozily. I find that sitting closer to the blocks (creating deeper hip flexion; that is, bringing knees closer to the face) feels better on my low back, but you are welcome to explore. Adding a blanket over the feet or the whole body can create a sense of comfort as well. 

 

 

Double Bolster SavasanaDouble Bolster Savasana is for the yogi that likes a bolster under the knees and wants to really snuggle in! Here the legs aren’t as high as in Stonehenge, but the second bolster under the calves and ankles provides a deep sense of fundamental support, signaling the primal brain that it’s okay to relax. A blanket or pillow under the head or neck is always great if you find that your head is tipped back; you want to feel that your forehead is the same distance from the ground as your chin.

A nice addition to this pose would be a folded blanket or sandbag over the hips. Adding a pleasant amount of weight here can feel good physically and creates a psychological sense of security.

 

Legs up the wall SavasanaLegs Up the Wall Savasana can be a real breath of fresh air if you want to take some weight off your legs. Here, Carol Dee has added a sandbag over the feet (your teacher can place this here for you).

If you’re adding a bolster or folded blanket under the hips here, try placing it about 6 inches away from the wall (setting a block between the bolster and the wall will keep it from moving and help you space it). This creates a mild inversion, which some folks really appreciate.

 

La-Z-Boy SavasanaLa-Z-Boy Recliner Savasana takes a little set-up, but may be well worth the effort! This is a favorite with prenatal students. It’s a great option for students who have difficulty lying flat on the ground. The chest is mildly elevated, but the spine remains fairly neutral.

The basic pose is simply two blocks (one on the high setting, furthest from the head; one on the medium setting, closer to the base of the spine) under a bolster. Here, Carol Dee has wound a rolled blanket around her ankles to gently hold them in place. I would love to add a folded blanket under each arm so that her elbows can relax more comfortably; an eye pillow would be the icing on the cake!

These are just a few options– why not have a little fun with it? Try out a different variation the next time you unroll your mat (psst–if you’re practicing at home, bed or couch pillows make great bolsters)!  In all of these variations, the common denominator is really giving the body as much support and comfort as possible. As you lie down, ask yourself “Is there anything I can do to make my body feel a little bit more supported?” If there’s an ache or a twinge you can’t quite figure out, please ask! Your teacher may be able to offer a suggestion that can allow you to rest more easily. Notice whether or not adding support to your body with a bolster, block, or even just a blanket over the body lends a little more serenity to your mind in Savasana.

Finally, please remember that Savasana, like any other yoga asana, is really an expression of your body and mind’s needs in that given moment. If for any reason you are unable to feel comfortable lying down or even closing your eyes, it is completely reasonable for you to sit quietly on your mat (perhaps in meditation) or to prop yourself against a wall.

In our next blog, I’ll include some techniques to encourage the mind to relax in Savasana. In the meantime, let’s hear from you! What are your favorite Savasana strategies? Are you a minimalist or do you bring your own eye pillows and lavender mist?

 

 

 

 

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Beyond the Mat: How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything

Sure, it’s great to twist yourself into a pretzel and stand on your head, but once the novelty wears off (let’s face it- your friends don’t really care if you can do this pose or not), there are deeper benefits to enjoy.

Greater self-awareness is one of best unexpected “perks” of the physical yoga practice. It begins in a deceptively simple way- “Bring your attention to your breath,” the instructor might say, and then, gradually, as you are reminded, again and again, you learn to bring your attention back to the breath. Then, to the physical sensations you experience. Finally, over time, you become more aware of your emotions, and the inner dialogue that narrates your practice. “OMG I touched my nose to my knee! I am awesome. Crap, I always fall out of this pose, I will never be any good at it. That woman is thinner/stronger/better/more flexible/drinks more green smoothies than I do. I should be better at this. What is wrong with me?!”…  

Time for the True Confessions portion of the blog: When I began my practice, if I fell out of a balancing pose like Vrksasana, or Tree Pose– I was intensely critical of myself. I often make a joke of this in my classes- reminding students that their worth as a human being does not depend on their ability to balance on one foot- because to me, at that time, I really felt like it did. Yeah, I hear how crazy this sounds.  But I never recognized this negativity and self-hate was there until I began to tune in.

Tuning in to the inner experience, and listening to that silent dialogue, is the beginning of self-inquiry that serves you beyond your yoga mat. I recognized this with sparkling clarity several years ago while listening to a Baron Baptiste audio podcast. “How you do anything,” he said, “is you you do everything.” In other words, your behavior on your yoga mat is just a microcosmic example of your behavior in the rest of your life.

So painfully true! Once I heard my inner critic on my mat, I began to hear her hypercritical and unforgiving voice everywhere.  Work. Home. Commuting. She didn’t even like the way I washed my hair! Rude.

So the practice on your mat can be an amazing laboratory for self-inquiry. The trick is not to get caught in a cycle of judgment over the whole thing. There’s no need to be critical about the criticism. Another true example: Why are you always so hard on yourself? You should know better).

For this reason, I recommend that you don’t set out to change or quiet your own inter critic. Set yourself a manageable goal- just tune in. The initial work is just to notice your reactions. Over time, as you bring your awareness to the voice again and again, you may find that your reactions shift. I’d love to say that I am now completely cured of my self-criticism, but I have a long way to go. Still, to paraphrase a famous recovery program, recognition is the first step.

If how you do anything is how you do everything- what has your practice taught you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!