You have probably seen T-shirts that say, "I am just here for śavāsana". However for many, śavāsana is their least favourite part of the yoga class. I have never seen it happen in a yoga studio but I have been told that in gym yoga classes people actually get up and leave, completely skipping śavāsana.
Those of you who would happily wear the T-shirt might be asking that question. After all, you just have to lie down, what could there be to possibly dislike about it?
Or you might be in the group who are quietly wondering what on earth there could be to like about it!
Even if you are in the first group, have you mastered the pose? Or are you quite content to let the mind drift, take a little snooze, use it as nap time? Guess what ... it isn't meant to be nap time!
For those who hate it, you might be finding it totally impossible to be still. You might be anxious lying on the ground, eyes closed, with nothing to keep you from the thoughts that crowd and swirl and taunt you. You might be coming to a yoga class to move, to stretch or hold poses to test muscle strength and endurance, because the loudness of the body drowns out the endless churn of the mind.
That's right. Lying on the floor, being very still and present, that might be the hardest thing of all that you will encounter in your yoga practice. And it is the most important.
Śavāsana is a time of rest but not a time of sleep. It is a time when we stay present in the felt sense of the body and the aim may be to become very still and quiet inside. It is also a really important time of consolidation for the brain and body to fix new neural pathways the practice of yoga have been laying down. this quiet time is when the body-mind really hits the reset button. If yoga is ever going to have a lasting effect on body mind and spirit, śavāsana is essential.
We typically do śavāsana at the end of our physical yoga session when we have exerted the body in a mindful way and the body at least may be ready for rest. However the biggest challenges are perhaps in the mind. Give it a little clear space and the thinking mind crowds in with all sorts of things. What do I have to do next? Why did I squabble with my partner this morning? Why doesn't my co-worker seem to like me? I mustn't forget to pick up the milk.
Traditionally śavāsana is practised lying flat on the floor, but for many this is not comfortable. And your śavāsana will not be less effective because you make yourself comfortable.
If your back gets a bit sore when lying flat, pop a bolster, pillow or rolled blanket under your knees. That will ease tension in the lower back. If your head tends to tilt back, opening the throat and lifting the chin towards the sky, do take a low pillow under the head. a folded blanket is great. do not make it too large (like a bolster) because that will be adverse in the opposite direction. If it is a bit cool, cover yourself with a blanket.
In class the teacher will hold you in the pose for a while, but if you are practising at home it is very easy to fall into the trap of not staying very long in śavāsana. Perhaps you could set an intention to linger for a specified length of time, maybe set a timer to let you know when it is over.
If you have a tendency to just nap in śavāsana then your intention might be to stay awake and alert.
Take your mind around your body. Be systematic. You can keep on scanning for the entire time if you like, but you should do it in the beginning at least. Perhaps start in the feet, or in the face, and systematically move attention throughout the body, seeing if you come across any unnecessary tension. Is it possible to breathe it away. Perhaps it just lets go when you notice it. You might notice all the points of contact with the floor and the feeling of weight. You might notice where body is not connected to a supporting surface, and feelings of space.
Counting the breath can be very effective to keep you present. Or you may just float on its ebbs and flows.
I hope that you can find these qualities sometimes in your śavāsana. This is when yoga really begins to work its magic.