By Lynda Shadbolt
I love the end of a yoga class when the instructor invites us to lie down, cover ourselves up, get super comfortable and close our eyes. The final relaxation posture is called “savasana” in the Sanskrit language. I think it is a favourite pose for a lot of people.
In a typical yoga class you will start with a quiet centring, a gathering and collecting your attention and directing it inward. Then there are often warm ups followed by a flow of postures, which can include standing, seated on the floor, or any combination of this. Some classes are faster paced. Others are slower. Some are gentle and others vigorous. I like to practice with themes, so I often have a focus, which can really be anything – hamstrings, breathing, endocrine system, the shoulder girdle, the skin, love, etc.
The human mind loves to be creative, and so if you meet a hundred yoga teachers they will all teach differently, each with their own themes and passion. So there is movement of some kind in the class, and then the last few minutes are dedicated to stillness to resting, being quiet and settling. I just love this pose! The mind is so busy during the movement taking in instructions, observing, adjusting, wandering all over the place and being reminded to come back to the body. The physical poses really give the mind something to think about. And the body gets attention. So when we come to the end it is such a relief in many ways to stop and to settle, sink and absorb the practice.
A teacher recently said to our class, “Think of the desert like those hot summer days when it hasn’t rained for weeks. The rain comes and the earth just drinks in the water. It absorbs it.” The final pose in yoga is like that. We stop, rest and settle and are invited to let every cell in our body absorb our attention, the energy we have generated and ultimately love. Yoga is a practice of love. This kind of inner attention, or absorption is called “samadhi” which is one of the eight limbs or parts of the yoga practice.
When I first started doing yoga 30 years ago I would often skip this pose, or take a minute or two. Thirty years later I realize that these practices are essential for our nervous system. In the quiet, in the settling our whole system settles and we can rest and digest our practice and our life. We hang out in the parasympathetic part of our nervous system, which is where healing and revitalization take place. In this pose the yoga student perfects the art of stillness. Of being so close to themselves and letting the good vibrations of love and peace and ease move through their whole biological, ecological system. It’s a chance to really unplug from phones, computers, news and the busyness of our lives and just take the time to nourish ourselves. We then go back into our lives connected to this deep quiet inner space that guides us in our relationships with ourselves, our families, our friends and our co-workers. We practice on the mat and we take it out into the world. That is what yoga is about.