Savasana is being without was, being without will be. It is being without anyone who is.
~ B.K.S. Iyengar
There are some things in life that are universal. Some are helpful and some are not. Stress is something that we face more and more in modern day life, and most of us have experienced the weight of it on our bodies, mind and spirit.
One of the best things about yoga is the element of stress relief, and for me, one of the best asanas to practice is Savasana!
Now I know most of you are thinking – ok big deal. We all know Savasana is a good release after an active practice. What is the new news about that?
So my question to you is this – have you ever thought to do this asana on its own? Can you imagine a world where everyone took 15 mins of Savasana a day? Would the world shift? I think it might!
Now remember Savasana is not a nap. Some countries and communities have a strong understanding of napping. Think Siesta, or long leisurely meals like Thanksgiving when a lot of us fall into napland after turkey or tofurky.
Savasana is the digestion of a practice, the silence that allows you to absorb the sensations, feelings and sacred state of Being, that helps to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit. It is an experience of letting go completely, and provides deep rest and healing for the body and soul.
So take a deep breath and exhale, and lets chat about Savasanaaaah 😉
How To Recognise Stress
One of the biggest issues about stress, and its’ detrimental effect on our lives, is the difficulty in recognising symptoms. Stress symptoms can affect our physical body, emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. If we can begin to recognise that we are stressed, we can begin to manage it. Many of us are in a stressed out ball of anxiety, and cannot recognise it.
People handle stress differently, so symptoms of stress can vary. Some symptoms are unclear, and may look like other medical conditions, and in many cases stress can contribute to health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes. Stress can also worsen conditions like insomnia, anxiety and depression. What creates stress in one person may not be a big deal to a different person, and some people are better able to handle stress. And in some situations, like an ER Doctor or triage and emergency responder, their skills at handling stress is what creates expertise in their job.
In fact, not all stress is bad. Stress can act as a motivator to help you accomplish tasks or prevent you from danger. For example, stress is what is needed if we were to ever have to run from a sabre tooth tiger, or hit the brakes on an icy highway! So we need a bit of stress to help us react appropriately to danger and situations that are potentially harmful.
Stress is the body’s reaction to harmful situations, real or perceived. When you feel threatened, a chemical reaction occurs that helps you prevent injury and danger. This reaction is the “fight-or-flight” stress response. During this stress response, the heartbeat increases, breathing quickens, muscles tighten, and blood pressure rises. These are all needed to react to the danger at hand.
Unfortunately, the body doesnt recognise the stress created when you are stuck in a traffic jam trying to get to the airport for the last flight home is different than that sabre tooth tiger chasing you. So, whether it is a snake or coiled rope, the body will hit the “fight or flight” response in the same reactionary way.
Our bodies are designed to handle small bits of stress, but,continuing chronic stress can cause or exacerbate health issues, affect our decision making and good judgement, reduce enjoyment of life and affect relationships, work and ability to interact with others. Click here for WebMeds list of Stress Symptoms, and you might be surprised!
In an active yoga practice, we put the body through physical exertions and movements, and we end practice with Savasana to give the body-mind an opportunity to assimilate what has happened. It can act as a reset button to bring us back into the world. This reset button is a much needed tool in modern day. And this reset button stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which creates the “Rest and Diget” reaction in our bodies. This is needed for physical and mental “digestion” and assimilation.
After a yoga practice, the body has stretched, contracted, twisted and inverted, working into the deepest layers of muscles groups to release and change habitual patterns. We learn to use our muscles to develop a fine attunement into how our body moves, and how we breathe in these movements.
An intelligent and balanced practice provides the automatic nervous system with new information, which can act as an antidote to the effects of stress symptoms. Savasana acts on the nervous system, and allows time for the body to integrate these messages into the neuromuscular system.
It is the “Sacred Pause” on the mat, before we return to the usual stresses of daily living. We need this assimilation to ignite the “rest and digest” feedback to our body cells. In some cases, the movement of intense or extreme asana practice could stimulate the “fight or flight” response even in yoga class! So it is imperative we give time and space to “reset and digest” at the end of class.
In asana, we become aware of the actions of the body, and as the practice matures, our awareness can turn inwards to a deeper understanding of how our body works, and what we do when we are moving throughout the day.
In Savasana, we allow time to integrate and assimilate what was done on the mat. Some yoga systems have set times to spend in Savasana, and I was given a guideline of 8 minutes minimum for a 1.5 hour class. In Restorative Yoga, we need a minimum of 15 minutes to “get” into the pose. The 15 minute guideline is set by physiological information that it takes a Minimum of 15 minutes for the body systems to relax and stop working.
One a Day, Every Day
Some of you may be saying 15 minutes! What? How can you give up 15 minutes in a 90 minute yoga class? Well, how can you not?
If stress is one of the leading causes to ill health in our modern society, what else is as easy as intentionally and strategically doing nothing?
Most yoga practice have a rhythm, like music, beginning with an opening period when we come to the mat and begin to bring attention inwards, to set intention and space for the practice. This is like the word Crescendo in music, which means to”gradually get louder”. Then we practice the asanas, and to end there is integration where the effects can be digested and assimilated. Savasana is the beginning of this assimilation, and the Decrescendo, which means to “gradually get softer”, of this piece of music. I like this idea of “gradually getting softer” before returning to the outside world. 😉
Savasana has been called the most difficult asana, because it is the place to let go completely. For many of us, this is not an easy place to go, and we do not have a lot of practice being and staying there. True deep relaxation is essential for our health, and will affect the inner and outer parts of our body, mind and spirit. A relaxed mind has calm and clarity to make wise choices.
I know I dont make the the best choices when Im overly tired, or stressed. Do you?
My partner is a very easy to get along with type of person, and one day I was super stressed out after travelling too much to too many countries, and I said to him “how come you dont ever seem stressed?”. His answer surprised me, and gave me a great wake up call to how much I was in the “fight or flight” stress mode –
“No Darling, I get very stressed. We all get stressed. But I dont inflict my stress on others.”
How often do we inflict our stress on others? And how often is it those whom we love the most?
So, now I ask again. How can we not give ourselves 15 minutes to release, relax, restore and rejuvenate? Andy Warhol told us we would each have 15 mins of fame. Can we offer ourselves the gift of15 minutes of deep relaxation?
What would your world look like if everyone around you were stress-less? How would the entire world look if we were all stress-less.
If I could change the world, I would begin with Savasana. Every person, everywhere, every day. Go and lie down and do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Lie down and rest. Its good for you.Just 15 minutes of your day. Every Day.
And it may very well change your life.
Look for next weeks post on How to Set Up a Luxurious Savasana