DAMN. Life is better with yoga. Moving and breathing. Feeling and healing. But what many don’t expect is that I practice yoga specifically for Savasana — aka corpse pose. In fact, it is renowned as the most important pose.
I teach yoga to thoughtfully guide my students to this pose so they fully receive their practice. The inhales. The exhales. To rest in a haven of sacred stillness. The journey to Savasana is different everyday as well as the experience in it. It’s a process and a practice.
But if I am being honest, it wasn’t always this way for me.
I used to leave class before, that’s right, before Savasana. I strategically snuck out quietly as people were carefully setting up for their corpse pose. Traditionally the final pose of a yoga class. Can you believe it? I was baffled why people would lie around and do nothing, especially when I had to shower and hurry to the office.
This was 2001. When I lived in Half Moon Bay and commuted to San Francisco to work everyday, (in investment banking, but that’s another story). I worked out in the morning at a gym that offered spin and an assortment of exercise classes — including the mysterious yoga. This is where I lost my yoga virginity. It intrigued me — what was happening in that dark room? Where everyone exited looking super calm and refreshed. I had read about it. Seen Madonna’s ripped arms in magazines.
So yes, I was driven by fascination. I took a class. Why not? I could definitely add stretching to my regime anyway. Little did I know it would feel like a lifeline years later. And now I look back and I have no idea what I was doing before yoga. I can’t even remember what life was like before I met yoga. And that first class — I gotta say — was weird. Weird language. Weird shapes with your body. And everyone was breathing weird sounds. And then lion’s breath. Are you kidding me, what is that? Huh!? Also weird.
I felt good.
I felt muscles in my body the next day that I didn’t know existed. Yoga made an imprint. On a cellular level. Relief. Expansion. And more. It was beyond merely stretching. It was enchanting.
In the beginning it was physical. At some mystical point, possibly many years after my first class, I found the connection with the weird breath and my movement. That’s when, I believe, my practice veered to the spiritual.
It reminds me to breathe.
To experience life. It’s a safe place for me to be me. Freeing. Vulnerable. To be in your own narrative and to re-create a new dialogue with your body and with yourself. I feel honored to lead other yoga virgins on their path. I see the expression in their faces, holy sh*t, what have I gotten myself into? I wish for them, that whatever they experience and feel brings them back. Even if it is weird.
If you are going to do one yoga pose, do this one.
Here’s the spiel, about corpse pose:
- It brings you close to your true spirit
- Connects you with your essence
- Activates the relaxation response/parasympathetic system
- Increases cellular oxygen consumption
- Decreases high blood pressure
- Relieves headaches
- Improves sleeping patterns
- Reduces anxiety, tension, fatigue
- Helps calm your mind
- Improves mental health, focus and concentration
- Relieves stress
It’s fascinating to me how freaking good it feels to lie on the floor. Am I right? As a teacher I didn’t do that, you did. You created this experience, in your body, to lie quietly. Resting. Relaxing. Comfortably on the sturdy floor.
The set up is key for Savasana. It goes something like this:
- Lie on your back
- Arms out to the side, palms upwards and off the mat. So the angle of the armpit is open, a reflection of an open heart
- Relax each finger
- Bring your legs wide enough so your feet are off the edges of the mat
- Naturally rest
- Be in the BE-ing, the quiet, the stillness, the reverence of your mind listening to your body and your body listening to your mind
There are many cozy options with props but the most common is to place a bolster or rolled up blanket under your knees especially if you have any discomfort in your low back.
If you are congested or have upper respiratory issues, or are pregnant, lie on your left side.
After a minimum of five minutes, notice the sensations in your body. Bring attention to your breath. Gently invite movement into your body wiggling your fingers and toes. Reach your arms overhead and roll to your right side, in the fetal position. Rise up to a comfortable seat, taking your sweet time. Let your heart lead you. From a corpse, to beginning again. Re-born. A lifetime of practice in one session. Namaste.