– one of the most important yoga poses
by Robert Nilsson
A paradox within yoga is that some of the most advanced and deep-reaching techniques are so simple that if you only read the instructions in a book, then the chance of obtaining a genuine experience is very small. At some point or other, it is a good idea to find a yogi who lives and teaches here and now.
Savasana, “Dead still”, can at first seem so simple that you say to yourself: surely I’ve been doing that all my life. But, Savasana, lying completely still on the back, is not the same as flopping down in front of the TV, or dozing off on the sofa (which might not be so bad either).
What makes all the difference to the experience is your alertness. Instead of habitually letting the thoughts wander, daydreaming, perhaps planning a little… then you keep your attention with the experience of the whole body lying completely still.
Savasana can help with stress, insomnia, nervousness, etc., but you don’t have to suffer from any of these to get something out of this technique. In the afternoon, for instance, after a long day full of activity, Savasana can be a good way of giving the body and nervous system a much-needed break. Instead of “refuelling” with artificial energy, give yourself a conscious break – and afterwards the energy and inspiration will reappear by itself.
In connection with the physical yoga exercises, Savasana also plays a very important part, but it is used in a slightly different way. You will always begin a programme of yoga poses by lying on the back for a while, while you experience the body and breath calm down. A yoga programme can consist of several poses complementing each other in pairs, e.g. one forward- and one backward bending pose. Following a group of poses like that, lie in Savasana for a moment before doing the next group.
Savasana should not be confused with Yoga Nidra, meditative deep relaxation, in which you also lie still on the back. In Yoga Nidra, your attention is captured in a far more dynamic way. By listening to the instructions from the teacher or the CD, your awareness is guided throughout the body, to the breath and to various pictures and symbols, at a somewhat brisk but calm pace. This triggers a deep relaxation. Every time you get lost in a thought and forget what you are actually doing, the instructions pick you up again and lead you back. In that way, Yoga Nidra makes it easy, even for beginners, to enter a very deep relaxation. You should have a prior experience with Yoga Nidra to fully appreciate Savasana.
If you meditate, Savasana can enrich your meditation, as the ability to be still is an important prerequisite if you really want to go deep. You will also find various meditation techniques where you meditate on stillness.
In Savasana, you maintain, in a relaxed way, the experience of the whole body lying still for 10 -12 minutes. Sometimes, when you lie down to practise Savasana you might feel restless. Then, you can use breath awareness for about one minute, right in the beginning of the ten minutes, to deepen your state. But only for one minute.
Savasana is silence, the body doesn’t make a sound, it is completely motionless, not a finger moves. It is an experience of stillness in the whole body …
Lie down on a quilt or blanket on the floor – not in bed or on the sofa. Lie full length on the back with the feet a little bit apart and the arms comfortably extended alongside the body; you can, if necessary, cover yourself with a thin blanket. Lie for 10 -12 minutes only, so you don’t get sleepy or restless.
Be aware of your body, the whole body, of the stillness in the body and remain with this experience. Even though you might want to adjust the body as you go along or scratch yourself or the like, then relax towards this impulse and remain still, completely still. If your concentration slips, and it usually does once in a while, and something else takes up your attention, then that’s all right. But let go of the disturbance as soon as you discover it and return to the experience of stillness. It might happen several times; in a firm but patient way you return to the technique every time.
Tip: Experience stillness in the body in other situations, for instance, sitting where you are right now, just close the eyes and experience motionlessness in the whole body for a couple of minutes. Or do the same thing in a meditation pose.
Also, lie down, completely still in Savasana, immediately after exhausting yourself physically.