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Reconsidering Savasana

Reconsidering Savasana

I don't see an inherent flaw in any of that logic. None of the above is false; we do live in one of the noisiest and most stimulant-laden cultures in all of human history. It's true that most people have to seek and cultivate peace and quiet, as peace and quiet are diminishing experiences in a world of progress, technological revolution and pervasive social media. Defining Savasana in terms of stillness and peace is perfectly valid, but it would be a shame not to examine the final pose in an asana practice a bit further.

Like various philosophical and religious theories, different schools of yoga offer unique theories on how to exist happily and effectively in the world. Individual yoga teachers might offer thousands of varied examinations of the practice and value of Savasana. The more apt examinations likely come from personal experience, which I find is the most authentic source of information for students. (Shri K. Pattabhi Jois famously said Ashtanga yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory.)

Recently I delighted in the arrival of a new personal experience of Savasana in relation to the Asana practice. This fresh perspective is a different take on three main components of Asana practice: intention setting, asanas, and savasana.

Intention setting as a vessel of your light

Consider that the initial intention-setting in yoga can act as a symbolic vessel for the unique light of the student's being. Most yoga lineages agree on the inherent existence of this light, meaning light and goodness is the crux of humanity. You don't have to earn it or become good enough for the light; it just exists like you do.

Through an intention- a setting of purpose by the student in the first few minutes of practice- the student can channel their particular light. Of course, we don't know this to be true for certain, but choosing the theory of inherent goodness can provide a valuable shift in perspective.

Poses as a system of symbols

To further this line of thought, the poses can act as physical symbols through which students can channel their intention. On an overarching level, the poses can become symbols which represent how students wish to exist, physically and mentally.

Do you want to stand confidently in the world? To me, that's about being willing to own and take up space. You might try getting bigger in Warrior II, or creating more space across the whole practice by filling your body with breath.

Want to be vulnerable but strong? Maybe in a heart opening pose, you decide to root your legs with such strength that the vulnerable opening of the heart is inextricable from your power.

I could go on and on.

Constantly creating the physical stance the student desires to embody can allow her to finally bust through unconscious physical habits. Many yoga teachers offer the convincing theory that interrupting unconscious physical patterns can help people rework unconscious mental patterns. Interrupt those unconscious physical habits, rework them...sounds like growth to me.

Again, I don't want to say that I know this theory is true; how can teachers of any philosophy prove it's right through and through? Too often it seems teachers seek to prove the veracity of yoga's teachings. Proving the truth of my viewpoint seems a difficult/exhausting business to me.

I would rather highlight the efficacy of choosing a system of theories- also known as stories- that serve to elevate me to my highest effectiveness and happiness in the world. The theories I've applied to intention setting, asana and savasana have served to help me feel more conscious, aware and confident.

Savasana as a humble surrender

Here's where it gets complicated. Lately I've been thinking that savasana is not just one more theory of relaxation or one more method to be calm so we can exist in a certain way.

Savasana can also mean "death of the practice" or "death of the pose." Interesting.

I sometimes think that savasana is actually the temporary death or surrender of all theories, philosophical understandings and methods (yoga included) of discovering answers to those ubiquitous human questions.

Questions like: Why am I here? How do I best exist here? How do I prove that I know how life works? What's the best way to be the best person I can?

Is it possible savasana is not a time to strengthen the lessons of asana practice, but to surrender all your efforts? Savasana can also be the act of bowing humbly to the mystery that exists. It's the physical symbol of telling the Universe: "Yes, I did that yoga practice and exercised the theories I've been suspecting are helpful to me; I did my very best. But I also get there are some things I don't know. Whatever's out there, however this existence thing works, I bow to it. There are questions I don't even know how to ask. Daily mysteries unfold around me that I could not possibly perceive. So I'm dipping into mystery and letting it carry me for a bit."

Because at the end of the day, will you ever really prove those theories are 100% true? Probably not. Does it have to be scary that we don't know all the answers? Maybe not. It might take some practice approaching mystery.

How about five to ten minutes of practice every time you do asana yoga?

In Brida, Paulo Coelho says, "We don't look for an answer, we accept, and then life becomes much more intense, much more brilliant, because we understand that each minute, each step we take, has a meaning that goes far beyond us as individuals." Is it possible that pumping the brakes on the answer-seeking mechanism of yoga could help us see the brilliance of life more profoundly?

Running from mystery is intellectually exhausting. In my experience, it takes up a lot of energy to pretend I know all the answers. So these days I'm taking all of that value and beauty I found in asana yoga, and I'm surrendering even that for a few minutes. Approaching the undercurrent of mystery that I constantly sense and saying to it: okay, sure. For a few minutes a day, you and I can be friends.

By Claire Heywood

Claire Heywood has her BFA in English writing and lives in Fort Collins, CO. She globetrots teaching yoga retreats and writing travel-inspired nonfiction.


Try the following YogaDownload classes to start experiencing Savasana in a whole new way:

Big Backbends - April Laliberte 

Ground into Essence - Alex Cordoba 


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