Yoga Lesson #1: Shavasana, The Most Important Asana
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
There are hundreds of different asanas within the Yoga practice that are meant to use our bodies to represent or re-create animals and other beings found in nature. The complexity of these postures, from standing on one leg or one arm or even balancing on our heads, test our body's ability to challenge our strengths and weaknesses and find comfort and stability. After a beautiful and energetic flow and combination of all these asanas, we arrive at the final posture: Shavasana.
Shavasana literally translates into "corpse pose". In this position we lay down on our backs, place our feet slightly wider than our hips while allowing them to fall open and our arms are long by our sides with palms up. From there, we give into the floor and relax every part of our body. I often mention the cheesy fondu metaphor to my students to encourage their bones, muscles and skin to melt into the floor and let everything go.
Similarly to a corpse, we lay still without moving, mimicking the finality of death: the ultimate restful state in our physical world. Yeah, I know, it's kinda grime if you think about it, but I find that within Shavasana holds three main benefits that we shouldn't take for granted not only within our practice but our lives.
Allow the body to soak in the benefits of the practice.
At the end of every practice, I often feel tingly sensations, from pulsating muscles to an amazing flow of energy from my head to my toes. Although strange at first, I allow my mind to relax into these moments and merely observe what is happening. I envision the muscles that were challenged rebuilding and the energy that may have been blocked flowing freely between my limbs and joints. During theses moments we allow much needed time for our mind and body to sync up, release any remaining tension and relax into the new flow of energy throughout the body. A practice without even one minute of shavasana is robbed of a beautiful moment to rest, reset, and rebuild because its within these restful moments that we benefit the most.
Nothing is being asked you.
Throughout our lives and yoga practices we are demanded to continuously do. In a given vinyasa flow you might have to hold Utkatasana for longer than 5 breaths (eek!) or outside of class you might have to wake up at a certain time, get to work on time, go to work in general, prepare for that meeting, work with that person you're not fond of, etc. In each moment we are being asked to do something to achieve a certain result and this requires extreme effort, energy and concentration.
In shavasana at the end of our practice, nothing more is being asked of us. We are to merely be. My appreciation for shavasana has continued to grow not only through my self-practice, but my most recent private lesson for a family of five. When we reached the final pose, the kids were wide-eyed and restless whereas the parents were calm and completely still. I imagined their day before my arrival full of an intense get-the-kids-to-school morning, followed by 8 hours at the office then coming home to be a parent complete but not limited to dinner and homework, then finding Shavasana. I could feel their energy shift and their minds empty as they found that moment to just be. And I'm sure for the first time that day nothing was being asked of them; not from work, their kids or themselves.
Although a restful and meditative state, Shavasana is also a moment to lay in gratitude for our bodies and all it does for us. With this tool, we learn, we grow, and we live through experiences that push us to be better. Our bodies are equipped with all the tools we need internally and externally to move through our days, move on our mats and move through a variety of experiences. It's in the final posture that we can enjoy the steps we've taken, recognize our intentions and be still in anticipation of the benefits and greater things to come. Because why work so hard in our practice and never fully take the time to enjoy all the amazing things that result from our efforts?
Thanks for reading,
And remember to always have faith, keep a vision and make art in everything that you do.