As a new and nowhere close to nimble Yogi, I confess that I was more than a wee bit intimidated by the thought of the whole Yoga experience. More advanced Yogis who actually know what they are doing, me having no prior knowledge or experience with the names of the poses (asanas), and most importantly, getting my body to cooperate. In-tim-i-dat-ing! What didn’t seem intimidating was the final practice in class, Savasana or the Corpse Pose. I thought to myself, “I got this.” How hard can it be to lay on my mat and relax? The laying on the mat part was easy enough, but it turns out that there is a whole lot more to it than that, and Corpse Pose is known to be one of the most challenging asanas for even the most seasoned of Yogis.
Let’s take a look at why Savasana-Corpse Pose is so much more than just laying on your mat.
Physically, the Corpse Pose is a traditional relaxation position that completes all Hatha Yoga sessions. The Yogi lays supine (on the back) on their mat with the body in a comfortable and symmetrical alignment. There should be no stress on any of the joints or lower back and modifications and support can be used for comfort and safety for any area of the body. A towel can be rolled and used to support and extend the neck as needed or to support under the knees or lower back so there is no arching. The chin is in a neutral position and the throat area is relaxed and open. The eyes are closed and the shoulders are away from the earlobes. Arms are softly extended and if comfortable, palms are rolled upward which helps to open the chest. The legs are long but not tight and slightly apart with the feet rolling comfortably to the sides. Once in this position, a few easy breaths are taken to be sure that the position is comfortable, adjustments are made as necessary and the Yogi settles in for the remainder of Savasana, typically about ten minutes. This is where it gets interesting because, at this point, the Yogi must engage the mind and hold focus without trying too hard.
Often at this point, the body wants to check out and take a quick nap to celebrate the time and hard work accomplished on the mat, which may have happened to me the first few classes but we won’t talk about that, or the brain starts chattering and begins to think about tasks and items on the to-do list. Both instincts are predictably normal and are experienced by many Yogis, but that is not what this time is meant for.
While Savasana-Corpse Pose can be amazingly relaxing, it is an active part of the practice that requires awareness and observation.
For some, this aspect is more demanding than the physical aspect of Yoga. It is the time when the Yogi takes an inventory of how they are feeling; starting at the crown and slowly working down the body, observing the breath, and any areas of fatigue, tension, and assesses the quality of their energy. If the Yogi notices any of these discomforts present in the body, they invite them to leave the body with each exhalation. The goal is to further relax the body and to also observe the thoughts that may be entering the mind without engaging with them. It is “simply” being actively aware while observing the body relax.
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