You unfold from Toe Stand, look at your sweaty reflection in the mirror and breathe a sigh of relief. You made it. Savasana. A break to just let everything you did within the last 50 minutes of the Standing Series sink into your system and to basically let yourself relax. You take a quick swig of water and lay down, feet facing the back wall. And then it starts…
You’re focusing on your breath. You clear your mind. That’s it…your mind is clear. You’re thinking nothing…nothing at all. It’s hard to think nothing at all. You know what else is hard? Raising kids. And work. Work is really hard. And balancing both while trying to fit this 90-minute yoga class into your schedule is sometimes impossible. Know what else is impossible? Triangle Pose. Man, that wrecked you today. Just like that car wreck you got into last week. Ugh. Sorting out the insurance claims has been such a nuisance. It took up so much time last week and now you’re driving a rental car that you hate. But at least no one was hurt. It was just a fender bender. But it took up time and time is what you lack. In fact, you’re running out of time to get that project done at work…
And then you hear the teacher speak. “Change. Wind Removing Pose.” What? Savasana is over?
If this is what your Savasana sounds like in your head you are not alone. I often tell my students that Savasana is the hardest and most challenging pose in Bikram Yoga as it requires you to lay in complete stillness within complete silence as you try to stay in the present moment when your heart is probably racing and the sweat is definitely dripping. This posture requires complete surrender, which is something our Western minds are just not accustomed to, as we like to feel like we’re in control and crave equilibrium, as well as, comfort.
The 2-minute Savasana is meant to set you up for the rest of the Savasanas in class. If you can achieve absolute stillness, relaxation, and patience, while being able to connect to the breath and your body to be present in the given moment, than you will be able to achieve presence, hard work, and integrity for the remainder of the class. But this is no easy feat and it doesn’t necessarily get easier the longer you practice. You can be absolutely still in Savasana and the mind is pinging back and forth from topic to topic that have little or nothing to do with what is happening right now. So, this week I thought I’d share with you some ways that I’ve found throughout the years to have a successful Savasana in the hopes that we can all achieve the incredibly elusive goals of this posture.
It’s not about clearing your mind. Everyone always thinks that to meditate or to be present the mind has to be absolutely clear. If this is what you focus on than the mind takes over and offers you a wide array of distractions. And this is where the choice comes in. You can either choose to lean into your thoughts, which will make them speed up and move faster, or you can choose to release the thought and stay with the breath or the body. Your mind is always working, but you can take control of what it’s working on with patience and practice.
Focus on the breath. Now, this is not the first time you heard that one. But most people don’t know what to focus on. It’s your choice. You can focus on the chest rising and falling. You can focus on the sound of the air moving in and out of your system. But my favorite is to focus on the air moving across the upper lip as it passes in and out of your nose. Because this is such tiny spot to focus on, it will keep you engaged.
Focus on the body. The goal is to stay present, right? Then stay with the body. Think about what your body feels like. Do a slow scan from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, releasing tension when you feel it and allowing each cell to relax. This helps to keep you with each moment, as well as, each breath.
Use a mantra. Focusing on the breath and body not working for you? Connect to a mantra, or short phrase that will keep you calm, relaxed, and present. I often suggest using the phrase, “All is well, “ in my classes. But there are tons of other mantras that you can use that might speak to you more. Repeat the phrase in your mind and connect it with each inhale and exhale. If the mind wanders, come back to the mantra. Do this as many times as you need to. Sometimes we need anchors, like a mantra, to keep us present. Try it and see if it works for you.
Remember that this stuff is not easy. None of it is. But I can tell you it’s worth it. All of the lessons you learn from your yoga practice are meant to transfer to your life outside of the studio. If you can be present while you are feeling vulnerable, uncomfortable, and challenged you will be able to achieve presence outside of the hot room making you more available to the friends and family that mean so much to you.
Originally posted to viewsfromthepodium.com on May 27, 2014