I was teaching class last week and chuckled as my class heaved itself out of Savasana (Relaxation Pose). I felt called to speak on the purpose of Savasana, especially discussing how exiting Savasana is an essential aspect to maintaining the essence of the pose. As Yoga Teachers, we need to be sure we educate our students so they get the most out of this crucial pose.
One of the many benefits yoga has on our physical body is its effect on our nervous system. The nervous system is our body’s way of communicating to its various parts quickly. The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord while the peripheral nervous system refers to the nerves that innervate all of your muscles and other organs in the rest of the body.
While the nervous system has a hand in almost every bodily system in the body, the most important for our purpose is its control of how stressed or how relaxed our body is.
In our culture, we rev our nervous system at a high, stressful, level, constantly moving and doing things, checking our phones, ticking things off our ever-present to do lists. We need to use stimulants to get us going in the morning and drugs to calm us down at night enough to sleep.
At times this “revving” is quite beneficial because it helps us “take off” as soon as we hear a “go”. Most of the time, though, it is an unnecessary action that slowly takes its toll on our body and unfortunately, it easily becomes a habit, especially when we are exposed to as much as we are in our culture. We then begin to think in a revved state and hold our body in a revved state, slowly exhausting it.
When we do yoga we calm our system and even reset and retrain the nervous system to run at a slower level. Yoga helps us release the nervous system and relax it. Yoga moves the spine around in all directions, freeing tight and frozen muscles and bringing new awareness and life to the nerves. This movement also helps retrain the body for new habits instead of the same old ones. When we continue to hold the body in the old way, it maintains the old thoughts. As we move the body in new ways, we begin to introduce new ways of being.
Savasana gives us a time to let the body integrate the new knowledge, the new way of being we learned during our practice. Just as studying to take an exam gives you an opportunity to review the knowledge you gained during a semester in school. When we rob the body of that opportunity, it easily falls back into its old way of being, the old habits, especially the nervous system.
Skipping Savasana is almost akin to not doing a practice at all. Yoga will still help without it, but your time in Savasana helps imprint the new way in your body, exponentially adding to the benefits of being on the mat. What does hopping out of Savasana do to our students? When they rush out of Savasana, they re-grip muscles that can rev the nervous system again and cause old habits to creep back in.
Instead, teach them to come out slowly. Begin by simply breathing more deeply and moving the toes and fingers. Let them slowly build movement until they can bend their knees to roll to one side and rest for a moment. Then, have them use their upper hand to press up, keeping their upper leg relaxed. Let their head hang until they are sitting fully upright. Then lift the head at the very end. Then just have them sit for just a moment. Invite them to still feel Savasana even though they are now sitting. Invite them to take Savasana with them as they leave class.
How do you guide your students out of savasana? Any tips to share with other teachers?
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