We’ve all had those days, the days when you can squeeze only 55 minutes into your day and your yoga class is 60 minutes long. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and leave early. About once a week, I’ll have someone come to me before class and let me know that they will be cutting out early. It happens. I don’t really mind, as long as you set up in the front of the room and leave silently. I’m usually happy that you were able to make it to class at all. With three kids, I know that the hardest part of the practice can often times be getting to your mat.
What really breaks my heart is when I see someone repeatedly miss savasana. Savasana is arguably the most important part of class. It helps your mind, body and spirit.
During savasana your mind gets a much needed moment of quiet. It is purely mediation. In as little as five minutes, savasana can clear your mind and set the tone for the rest of your day. If you feel as if you are not accomplishing much is savasana, try and stay totally present in it. It is hard to not allow our minds to wander off into the rest of the day. The real work of savasana is in the mind’s effort to stay present. Five minutes of meditation is known to lower your blood pressure and regulate a healthy heart rate. Your nervous system releases many beneficial chemicals during the work of yoga. One of those chemicals is called GABA (Gamma-Amino Butyric acid), which is neurotransmitting amino acid. GABA inhibits nerve transmission in our brain. It is present in many antidepressants and is triggered through having an alcoholic beverage. Simply, GABA helps us relax more and think less. During savasana your mind is allowed to fully absorb these chemicals, mellowing and lifting your mood. That sweet, blissed-out feeling after a great yoga class doesn’t happen without savasana. Rushing from your mat floods your brain with adrenaline, washing out GABA and more, and undoing all the hard work you did to deserve that post-yoga glow.
Savasana allows your muscles to relax fully. In some styles of yoga, the degree to which you can relax your body is more revered than the amount you can work. It is a skill to soften. It is hard to let go. Savasana give you the time to practice this skill. If you allow yourself to be fully present during savasana, it can be time to deepen the connection between your mind and your body. In savasana, the relaxed mind remembers how to do all of the physical work your just went through. You create stronger paths between the mind telling the muscles to move and them actually moving. In short, savasana makes you stronger and more flexible, by allowing your mind to learn everything your body went through in class.
The spirit is a slippery thing to talk about. We all have different definitions and attachments to the idea of spirit. So, speaking very broadly, savasana gives you the time to connect with your spirit. It takes the sensations of the body and talk of the mind out of the equation. You are given an opportunity to connect with yourself, fully. This is part of what can make savasana so difficult. It can be uncomfortable to look directly at ourselves. Savasana exposes us. There is no work to hide behind, no thoughts that must be thought. In savasana, everything else gets a moment to rest while you let your spirit shine.
As an instructor, I feel like you aren’t getting the most out of my class when you miss savasana. You miss out of the few minutes that bring the whole practice together. In a lot of ways, without savasana, yoga becomes a bunch of calisthenics and deep breathing: great but not everything that is possible from yoga. So please, give yourself five extra minutes in your schedule. Don’t miss savasana. Really, what is more important that relaxing your mind, strengthening your body and freeing your spirit?