Yoga Tip: Relaxing in Savasana

Savasana – The Hardest Pose

I was once told that Savasana is the hardest pose in yoga. “What’s so hard about laying down doing nothing?” I used to wonder. It’s not until I learned that you’re supposed to not only do nothing, but *think* of nothing, that I realized how hard, if not unattainable, this pose can be.

The popular instruction during Savasana is to focus on the breath, following each inhalation and exhalation. In theory, this gives you something to “do” so your mind doesn’t run away. If your mind is like mine, however, it will find all sorts of occasions to slip out.

After many attempts to coax and coerce my mind, I’ve achieved some marginal success with a “trick”: listening. Yes, just listen to the sounds and noise around you when you’re in Savasana, the wind, the rain, people talking or the sound of traffic in the distance. The more you listen, the more you’ll pick up on the sounds that aren’t so normally obvious: the creaking of the various appliances in the room, the clock ticking, the sound of your neighbor’s breaths, etc.

Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the Senses

Savasana is where we practice pratyahara, which means the withdrawal of the senses. It’s the fifth of the eight limbs in Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga. “Why would I want to withdraw my senses?”, you may wonder. The point is to relax and to stay present, which is hard to do if our minds are roaming from the past to the future faster than a supersonic jet. The more we can turn off the stimulation, the more we can relax.

It may be helpful to remember that Savasana can happen in stages. The first stage is physical relaxation, you are just sinking down on the floor and letting go of muscular tension. The next stage is mental relaxation, and this doesn’t mean that you’re completely off in the ether. It’s just the opposite, you’re completely in the here and now. You don’t lose any contact with the “real world”, it’s just that it doesn’t get to you. That’s pratyahara.

Listening works for me because it requires just enough of an effort to focus on something to keep me present. In a way, it keeps my mind busy, but in a more constructive way than if it were off making to-do lists. Next time you’re laying there on your mat planning for dinner, give this trick a try and see if it works for you.

My friend Mitch calls this, “Listening to what is going on outside to curb the noise inside the head.” I couldn’t have said it better.