At the beginning of his ‘Yoga Sutras’, Patanjali gives the following definition: ‘Yoga is the restraint of mind fluctuations’. Here ‘mind’ is understood as the totality of such processes as observation, reasoning, evaluation, and memorisation. It operates in terms of a person’s individual characteristics: feelings, emotions, desires, memory, and intelligence. It turns out that, in fact, Yoga is the ability to sort things out in one’s head rather than the ability to perform intricate poses. Let’s try to understand why this is so important and how to curb these ‘mind fluctuations’.
Usually during a class, we are completely preoccupied with asanas; we are listening to the instructor and our body, trying to do everything right. Our bodily limitations prevent us from being distracted. We are concentrating on the process. But the lesson comes to its end, when we all lay down together in Savasana, and our heated brain starts to work. After all, we definitely need to do something when we are not sleeping, don’t we? The mind realises it’s his turn while the head is overwhelmed with various thoughts: ‘what to cook’, ‘how to arrange travel’, and ‘whom to call’. Usual internal dialogue is switched on. Daily thoughts can be replaced by dreams and memories, but then you receive a chaotic influx of regrets, fears, doubts, and so on.
Savasana (Corpse Pose) is one of the most important and most difficult Yoga postures. It is the most important due to the body’s relaxation and the calming of the mind. It is also the most complicated because it must be done consciously. We are also relaxed during sleep (although opinions on this question differ), but there is no awareness. Therefore, never neglect the Savasana, and do make time for it. Nowadays, many Yoga teachers leave a maximum of 5 minutes for Savasana, but that is not enough, especially for a beginner. This time will last only for the first physical phase when you lay there, relaxing your body, aligning your breath and heart rate. But calming the mind takes as much time and preferably even longer. In a sense, this is meditation, and Savasana should last at least 10-15 minutes.
Let us go back to our thoughts. The best response to the question in the article title is ‘nothing’. Yes, that is right: just do nothing! Perhaps, that is why our advice contains the word ‘not’ so many times.
- After achieving full physical relaxation, direct your attention inward, focus on your breath and on your body sensations.
- Focus on the point in between your eyebrows if your closed eyes are wandering.
- If you feel that your mind is immediately beginning to carry you somewhere far away, then you must go back and begin again, according to your logical chain of thought. Do not immerse yourself in such thoughts, but simply identify such instances one by one and return your mind to the present moment. Return to yourself.
- Of course, the mind will continue its tireless activity, but you should view this process as if you were doing this from the outside, detached and calm. Do not interfere in the internal dialogue and do not identify with thoughts. Then they will go away by themselves when they are deprived of energy.
- Sometimes, your head is occupied by bad thoughts, whether they are insignificant troubles or your deepest fears or regrets, fed by your internal problems. There is no need to fight them or try to replace them with good thoughts. There is no need to analyse and blame yourself. Negative thoughts may also freely float by and vanish beyond the horizon of consciousness. This is a process of purification.
As for the obvious benefits, you learn to relax your body and mind. In addition, Savasana is a wonderful way to train your mind to work more effectively with thoughts. Having mastered this state of conscious relaxation, you should transfer it to other asanas, and then beyond the classroom into real life. This will refresh your world view and teach you to treat both successes and failures, by others and oneself, very differently.