Ask The Yogi: Relax Like the Dead

Ask The Yogi

Savasana by Michele Dante

Question: “I find corpse pose to be the hardest for me to practice. My mind races, thoughts come and go, music is in my head, and so I find it very difficult to concentrate on the sensation of the breath and deep realxation. Is there something you can recommend that will help me?”

A: You are certainly not alone!  Your question illustrates why corpse pose or Savasana is considered to be the most challenging asana in a Hatha yoga practice.  Savasana requires our mindful awareness without becoming lost in the mind.  It also requires our complete relaxation without falling asleep and a degree of inner and outer stillness rarely encountered in our daily lives.  Because this level of stillness can be unfamiliar, the mind may initially fight to hold onto habitual patterns.  Savasana helps us re-train the mind to let go of old thought patterns and embrace the unknown as a path to liberation.

There are some tools you can use to deepen Savasana. By practicing Savasana throughout the asana portion of your practice you will begin to diffuse some of your excess mental and physical energy.  Give yourself a dristi or gazing point.  Go into postures without struggle by breathing consciously to keep your awareness on your breath and not on your scattered thoughts. Ultimately even your breath will become secondary to your inward gaze or focus.  You may also practice systematic relaxation of the body.  After you asana practice, a transition exercise of progressively engaging and then slowly releasing the muscles in your body individually or all at once will squeeze out any residual tension and invite your body to melt.  Another suggestion is to place your hands on your heart and/or abdomen and breathe into them.  When you feel a sense of calmness, release the arms and slip further into Savasana.  These and many other exercises may be used to calm the physical, mental and energetic bodies by utilizing Dharana or one-pointed concentration.  When you begin to peel away the layers of resistance the soul-stillness you want emerges naturally.

Like any other yoga posture, Savasana improves with practice.  Practice conscious relaxation at home, at work, in the grocery store!  By becoming truly aware of your thoughts and then allowing them to pass or by replacing thoughts of struggle or distraction with a mantra or a peaceful, compassionate affirmation, you will spontaneously begin to change.  This is the practice.  There is no need to struggle.  Be willing to change, accept your natural state and recognize your true identity.  Be simultaneously vigilant and kind to yourself and you will soon be able to take your Savasana off the mat and share it with the world.

Michele Dante is an ordained minister,  teacher, musician, Licensed Massage Therapist and co-owner of Inner Vision Yoga
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