It may come as a shock for an advocate of exercise to say how important rest is, but how often do we truly rest all of our muscles, including our brain? Savasana or corpse pose does just this.
What is Savasana?
Savasana/shavasana is a Yoga asana or pose. It is translated as corpse pose as you are doing just that; becoming a corpse. Don't worry, you'll keep breathing, but we are switching off all muscles. This includes the brain which is incredibly hard for most of us to do. This is done for 10-20 minutes if possible, but any amount of time below will still give benefits. It is only when you try to do this consciously that you'll observe it to possibly be one of the hardest Yoga poses. With a conscious scan of the body you will find areas of the body that aren't fully relaxed and if you are able to observe your thoughts you may find your mind wandering off to all sorts of places. Don't worry, this is completely normal and absolutely fine. It is something that takes practise and a willingness to be still.
How do we do Savasana?
Lie on your back with your feet a hip distance apart and arms slightly out to the side with the palms facing the ceiling.
Make sure your pelvis is in neutral and the back of the neck is long. To lengthen the neck you can physically move your head with your hands.
Close your eyes.
That is it!!!
Well, that's almost it. Without practise and dedication your body will still be holding tension in certain areas and your mind will wander. In the video we do a body scan. This helps you find and release any tension, as well as having the added benefit of giving your mind something to focus on.
Why should we do this?
It is so rare that we do this in 'everyday' life. Even when falling asleep we will often be holding tension in our body and mind. A full relaxation will give your body a well deserved rest, helping it restore balance. Savasana often comes after movement, so we are giving our bodies a chance to digest the work that has been done on them.
We are literally practising dying which may sound a little scary. But in Savasana there may come a time when you feel 'out of your body'. When the body and mind are completely still you can discover that you are more than just the cells that make up your physical being. This realisation can have a profound effect on your life including a better self-image, increased confidence, greater calm and an all round sense of peace.
With a body scan you may learn about your own body. You can discover the areas that you regularly hold tension. This will mean in day-to-day life you will be able to observe these areas and release them before it gets too much. When doing the scan after exercising you can discover the muscles that you have worked. You may discover pain from overworking muscles and learn safe limits for your body to use in future workouts. This is why I think it is as important in Pilates as in Yoga.
It is a challenge! You may find it extremely difficult to begin with or you may find yourself uncomfortable in allowing yourself to do nothing. These are great discoveries. Once you overcome these you may feel even better about yourself and begin to treat yourself more kindly in everyday life.
It is a form of meditation which has many benefits for the body and mind. These include reduced stress, improved concentration, increased happiness, increased self-awareness, increased acceptance and many more. Much has been written recently on the benefits of meditation.
It is a reward for your efforts in class and in life. See it as a treat to yourself, to allow time to 'do nothing'. We rush about in our daily lives so this is time for YOU!
Every Savasana will be different and provide new information/challenges. You are never the same as the day before so neither will your Savasana be.
Give Savasana a try!
Whatever I teach, be it Pilates or Yoga, I always give the option of a Savasana at the end. Or you can just lie there instead ;)
I've also made two versions of a Savasana video. The first has no background sounds. I would recommend this version if you think you may be distracted by sounds, or have performed Savasanas before. The second version has the sound of the sea and a singing bowl, so is great if you think your mind will wander when there is total quiet. I hope you feel the immediate benefits and would love to hear how you get on.