Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Yoga Posture: The Corpse (Savasana)

Sava means a corpse. In this asana the object is to imitate a corpse. Once life has departed, the body remains still and no movements are possible. By remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you learn to relax. This conscious relaxation invigorates and refreshes both body and mind. But it is much harder to keep the mind than the body still. Therefore, this apparently easy posture is one of the most difficult to master.

Lying upon one's back on the ground at full length like a corpse is called Savasana. This posture removes and destroys the fatigu, and induces calmness of mind and quiets the agitation of the mind.

Steady, smooth, fine and deep breathing without any jerky movements of the body soothes the nerves and calms the mind. The streses of modern civilisation are a strain on the nerves for which Savasana is the best antidote.

When the body and the mind are constantly overworked, their natural efficiency diminishes. Modern social life, food, work and even so-called entertainment, such as disco dancing, make it difficult for people to relax. Many have even forgotten that rest and relaxation are Nature's way of recharging. Even while trying to rest, the average person wastes a lot of the body's physical and mental energy through tension. More of our energy is spent in keeping the muscles in continual readiness than in actual useful work. In order to regulate and balance the body and mind, it is best to learn to economize our energy. We can do this best by learning to relax.

In the course of a day, the body usually produces all the substances and energy it needs. But these may be consumed within a few minutes by bad moods, anger or intense irritation. The process of eruption and repression of violent emotions often grows into a regular habit. The result is disastrous for the body, and also for the mind. Yoga precribes a period of complete relaxation, when practically no energy or "Prana" is being consumed. Perfect relaxation must be practised on three levels: physical, mental and spiritual.

Physical Relaxation

Every action is the result of thought. But just as the mind may send a message to the muscles ordering them to contract, the mind may also send a message to bring relaxation to tired muscles. At the end of every asana class, a complete physical relaxation is practised. This autosuggestion begins with the toes and moves upward through the muscles. Then messages are sent to the kidneys, liver and all the other internal organs. This relaxation position is known as Savasana, or the "Corpse Pose".

Mental Relaxation

When experiencing mental tension, it is advisable to breathe slowly and rhythmically for a few minutes. Soon the mind will become calm. You may experience a kind of floating sensation.
Spiritual Relaxation

However one may try to relax the mind, all tensions and worries cannot be completely removed until one reaches spiritual relaxation. As long as a person identifies with the body and mind, there will be worries, sorrows, anxieties, fear and anger. These emotions bring tension. Yogis know that unless a person can withdraw from the body/mind idea and separate himself from the ego-consciousness, there is no way of obtaining complete relaxation.

The Yogi identifies himself with the all-pervading, all-powerful, all-peaceful and joyful Self, the pure Consciousness within. He knows that the source of all power, knowledge, peace and strength is in the Self, not in the body. We tune to this by asserting the real nature, that is "I am that pure Consciousness or Self." This identification with the Self completes the process of relaxation.
                      The Sivananda Yoga Training Manual