Relaxation at the end of a yoga class is a fundamental part of the yoga, and I see that this resonates with all the people that attend my classes.
To the uninitiated, it may at first seem a bit weird but once they engage in the process, it becomes a real game changer, as it was with my first yoga class.
We call this practice of release or letting go ‘yoga nidra’ or yoga sleep, where the objective is to set the body to sleep but maintain a focussed mind. Other terms used are savasana which translates to corpse pose, the most common position in yoga classes for the process.
For some, savasana is the best kind of calm. But when you’ve sandwiched a sweaty vinyasa session into an overloaded schedule, stopping to put on socks and a jumper, turn down the lights and find a corner can feel like a distraction however perhaps we may just need that time lying on the mat and doing nothing.
The word savasana in Sanskrit comes from two words: ‘shava’ meaning corpse and ‘asana’ which means seat or posture.
Ancient yoga texts state that lying like a corpse ‘removes the fatigue caused by other asanas and induces calmness of mind.’
In the pose, your jaw, tongue, eyelids, pupils, spine, arms legs, fingers, and toes – your entire body, in fact – should all be relaxed as you focus on breathing with the aim of promoting a meditative state.
This calming of the nervous system helps mitigate the ‘fight or flight response’, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, helping with digestion and immunity, to releasing lactic acid build-up after a yoga class, savasana has both short and long-term benefits.
Most importantly, in savasana, we allow breath to flow without obstruction or restraint, expelling old, spent oxygen and drawing in new supplies of revitalising breath, known as prana or life-force, is the best way to re-energise ourselves.
Savasana’s proximity to the ground is no coincidence either. We find that when we release tension and let go, ‘give in to gravity’ this creates a sense of calmness and the body really feels grounded, almost like you are being pulled into the mat helping to let go of things that are occupying our mind space, this body-mind connection makes the pose so meaningful.
Some people find that lying on the back is not comfortable so we can modify this relaxation by taking a seated meditation or ‘legs up the wall’, whatever allows a few minutes of comfortable stillness.
The yoga teacher will take the class through savasana, explaining the process, for some it is the best part of the yoga practice. I encourage everyone to try a yoga class and see for themselves how good this feels..