You are on your yoga mat. Sweat drips...your muscles groan... when will this pretzel-bending body journey end? Then the lights dim, the teachers voice softens and you hear the cue.
"Savasana." Ahhh, blissful reward is on it's way...
The last pose of the yoga class, dead corpse pose or savasana, offers the yoga practitioner massive health benefits, although this is not always easy to achieve. Staying still for ten minutes can be extremely trying for some, as our busy Western minds are not accustomed to taking 'time out'. To achieve savasana, simply lie flat on your back, palms facing up, close down your eyes and return to a natural breathing pattern. Let your thoughts drift and feel the weight of your body rest upon the earth. It is here the experience of a floating, outer-body realisation can occur, known in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as 'pratyahara', or 'withdrawal of senses'. This is the desired state of the experienced yogi.
So what occurs on a psychological, physiological and metaphysical level?
The physiological benefits
After twisting, inverting, stretching and lengthening during the class, your muscles and organs are ready for rejuvenation. Dead corpse pose engages the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) decreasing blood pressure, slowing the heart rate and allowing the entire body to repair cells and release stress. The metabolism awakens and the nervous system relaxes.
The psychological benefits
A strong yoga practice will challenge you mentally. Our bodies will naturally take the path of least resistance, so learning to control your breath and remain in postural discomfort creates neurological distress. Savasana allows us to relinquish all conscious control and a deep sense of peace and contentment arises, along with clarity of thought and presence of mind.
The metaphysical benefits
Savasana is known to induce a trance-like condition, giving us an intrinsic sense of self and 'oneness' with the fabric of nature and time. The integration of the physical practice (asanas) with breathing (pranayama) in savasana leads us to a state devoid of social masks and dogmas, freeing us from the burden of the body and the ego, transcending our earthly selves into the ether.
Surrender and Discover your own Peace
The goal of the yogi is to repose in peaceful meditation in order to find the 'higher self'. By engaging in dead corpse pose, we learn to detatch from our body and mind to experience the lightness and joy of complete surrender. This doesn't come easily, however, it takes time and practice to master such vulnerability and acceptance of this pose. Some days you will get it, some days you won't.
Does it really matter? No. I am not here to tell you how to feel. I am here to tell you I am trying to work it all out too. So join me. Let's nut this crazy life out together - without judgement, without expectations... just a bunch of yogis laughing as they fall (again!) onto the floor.