In the second sutra of his principal book, Patanjali defines yoga as “control of the modifications of the mind field”. It means that when we are on the mat, our goal is to stop the everlasting inner dialog, control the process of thinking and manage our own mind. This is what is most important; not being able to assume sophisticated postures. It is in Savasana when you start to understand that yoga is not just a set of stretching exercises, as it may seem at first. Making your body healthier and stronger, which is achieved through physical aspects of yoga (asanas), is only the tip of the iceberg. A preparation stage necessary for practicing at a higher level. Savasana is the first step leading to that level.
Savasana is not just relaxation after a practice. It is a real asana, but here one works mostly with their mind, not the body. Savasana is conscious relaxation of the body and stilling of the mind. Consciousness means full presence here and now. Relaxation of the body is achieved through mental action and inactivity while stilling of the mind is ‘switching off’ the process of thinking. The benefits of the asana are recuperation after the practice and an extremely positive effect on the nervous system. And a higher level result is liberation of the mind. It should be noted that this is one of the most wonderful forms of freedom because you free yourself.
Savasana is mandatory for everyone who practices yoga, so do not begrudge the time for it. Five minutes is definitely not enough, it will be sufficient only to take a comfortable position and start relaxing your muscles. A good Savasana takes 15-20 minutes, especially if you are a beginner.
Where yoga was born, they treat death in a completely different way than we do. Death is not as negative, it is just a law of nature that should be respected and accepted with a light and fear-free heart. For us, a “corpse pose” may not sound nice at first, but only until you start to be good at it. Making your body and mind “dead” in Savasana is important to free the consciousness from them and direct it to the soul.
How to Do It
Make sure nothing is going to disturb you. Switch off your phone. Your clothes should not hinder your breathing. If it is chilly, spread a blanket. No need to turn on the music. Renounce outside noises. Switch off the light.
Lie down on the back in the middle of the mat so that your head and your heels would be on it. Separate your heels with ease. Move the buttocks forward allowing the sacrum to become the point of support. Spread your shoulders, absorb the shoulder blades, and put your hands with the palms up at about 30 degrees to the body. The head should be placed freely, without falling back or compressing the throat1. Unclench and relax your jaw, increasing the weight of the lower jaw2. The mouth should be closed, with lips slightly touching each other, the tongue freely lying in the mouth not touching anything. Close your eyes with ease, not tightly, and direct your calm look under the closed eyes towards the tip of the nose. Deliberately examine yourself one more time. You should be as comfortable as possible.
It is achieved step by step – from the periphery to the center – and consciously, with full concentration on the relaxing part of the body. Even if you do not manage to relax some area, the concentration should be maximal at all times3. If necessary, mentally scan all parts of your body several times.
When deliberately relaxing your body, you feel it becoming heavier and spreading on the floor. At some point, it starts to get lighter and lighter until finally you don’t feel it at all. At this moment comes the realization that we are not our body, we just have it.
This is work with your thoughts, namely disconnecting them from thinkable objects. The point is to break the close bonds between the thinker and the thinkable, which are the main reasons for an inner dialog. One does not succeed at it at once. Thoughts are used to rustling (and sometimes, seething or even thundering) in the brain and seem to appear from nowhere, turning one into another. The power of this habit is huge. And you could fight it only with inaction.
So the main work in relaxing your mind is basically absence of any work. The appeared thought should not be driven away or fought with; it should be left unattended. Without attention, it will fade away itself, not feeding from the mind. Just observe your thoughts from a distance without getting involved in the process. Watch them appear, pass by and fade away somewhere far off, beyond the limits of your attention. Without you being involved, the thinking process will die away and finally disappear. You will be surprised at the lightness in your head4.
Once again, gently scan your body and mind. Make sure they are completely relaxed and nothing disturbs you anymore. Weightless body, clear mind and total consciousness. Then switch your attention to the chest area5 and dissolve it and yourself with it in the infinity.
At first, this condition will not last for a long time, maybe just for a couple of seconds. This is because the mind will realize its unusualness and quickly start its regular activities: to estimate, compare, associate, judge, etc. But even these two seconds will be enough for you to understand: yes, I did it! Come back to this state over and over again, making it last longer. This condition is the true Savasana.
2 it helps relax facial muscles
3 on the one hand, this is a process of learning to relax; on the other, it is abstraction from the thinking noise in the head which is much more difficult to cope with.
4 stage 3 and 4 frequently occur at the same time
5 this is where Anahata, your heart chakra, is located
At first the process of relaxation may be associated with breathing, meaning you may direct your exhalations towards the relaxing body area. This will be accompanied by pleasant feelings that show that the process is real. This method is good for beginners to feel the process of body relaxation. However, you should not get accustomed to this or any other “helper”. The relaxation should be achieved only mentally.
There is another interesting point about breathing. After you achieve and recognize full inactivity of the body and mind, you will find that there left something that is difficult to control or free yourself from. The breathing disturbs you and sometimes you find yourself thinking that you just want to stop breathing. You shouldn’t do that; you will just upset your breathing. It should slow down in a natural way from the moment you lay on the mat. Do not force this process, let it happen itself. At the last phase, just stop paying attention to it.
When you start feeling like releasing, take a couple of deep breaths, move your fingers and toes a little, stretch yourself. Then turn over to the right side and lie like this for a while, becoming aware of being in the real world. When you are ready, sit and take any comfortable position, press your hands together in the Namaste gesture and from the bottom of your heart thank all teachers, the whole world and yourself for the practice.