the importance of savasana on and off the mat
Greetings everyone! Below is a submission rejected by elephant journal. While it wasn't right for their site, we still feel passionately about what has been written and wanted to share it with all of you. Hope it's helpful!
I was practicing yoga the other night, tired, struggling to make my muscles do what I wanted, and wishing our savasanas were longer in between each posture. Savasana is a restorative posture, done lying on your back, arms next to the body, palms up, feet gently pointed away from one another, totally relaxed. I began reflecting on the value of savasana, the balance between rest and exertion, and the importance of placing equal emphasis on both the passive and active forms of asana. I realized rest is equally as important as action, just as notes in a song are equally as important as the spaces between to create a melody. Such is life. The importance we place on rest, on creating open space, should be equal to that placed on producing, achieving, doing. Each feeds the other, in yoga, and in life. The amount of rest we provide ourselves in yoga feeds the energy we have for each posture. In turn, without movement or exertion, we cannot fully enjoy the savasana. Just as food tastes better when you are truly hungry, so does rest after intense effort. Each feeds the other in a mutualistic symbiotic relationship, neither more important than the other. The asana is our request to our bodies to give, and savasana is our opportunity to give back to our bodies. Yoga is the union between mind and body, physical and spiritual. Many postures involve countering of opposing forces, stretching and contracting, pushing and pulling, in an effort to create balance, and defy gravity. Yoga is a time for opposing forces to come together and create balance.
The importance of savasana and/or rest is also equally important in our lives. This concept of relationship between opposing forces to create balance can be taken off the mat to enhance our wellbeing. In my experience, western culture does a poor job at balance. In my previous job, I ate at my desk, spent late hours at the office, thought about work on the weekends, and neglected my need for balance. Even if I scheduled in free-time, often I failed to take advantage of this off the mat "savasana". I failed to be fully present in the practice of giving back to myself. Just as in yoga, the rest is equally important as the work. We ask our minds and our bodies to perform for us, to give so we can be productive, create, get things done, but often fail to recognize we must equally give back to our minds and bodies. Rest feeds the energy we are able to put into our work. Work allows our rest to feel truly deserved.
Taking full advantage of, and prioritizing savasana on and off the mat is easier said than done especially in this modern society in which multitasking is a norm, and busyness appears to be ever increasing. In my own journey, this process included two major precepts. The first was a shift in perspective towards equality of importance given to my savasanas as my active asanas in yoga on the mat, and work/productivity off the mat. The second was to focus solely on my savasana while I was engaged in it.
On the mat, this looks like focusing solely on savasana when you are in savasana and avoiding the urge to wipe away sweat, fidget, or think about life stressors. On the mat, focusing on savasana with the same intensity you would focus on an active asana by tuning into your body, striving to allow every muscle to relax as you breathe deeply. It may also look like taking an extra savasana when needed, when you notice your body just doesn't have the energy to perform the active asanas. You can use savasana as a tool to give back to your body in your yoga practice.
Off the mat, this looks like focusing solely on your meals during lunch breaks, scheduling in time every day to give back to yourself (e.g. through reading an inspiring book, dinner with friends, a walk after work, preparing a healthy meal for yourself, taking a vacation), and trying to focus solely on that activity while engaging in it. Savasana in life should be a verb, one that signifies caring for your mind, body, and/or soul in some way. A daily ritual in which you identify how to give back to yourself at the end of work, or first thing in the morning, can support the shift towards savasana off the mat.
In yoga, the point of the practice is to recharge us, not to drain us. If we aren't balanced in yoga class, aren't breathing, utilizing our savasana, if we are giving maximum exertion all the time, the yoga becomes draining rather than restorative. The same is true for life if we aren't resting, if we aren't recharging at a balance rate to the amount worked. If we aren't taking time to be fulfilled by our relationship, seeking out inspiration, caring for our mind and body, the life will drain us, burn us out, tax our bodies, minds, and ultimately our health. Balance is a practice, made up of the choices we make every day, and a constant renegotiation of priorities, as our lives change. Balance is also, often achieved by becoming unbalanced, and finding our way back by discovering what wasn't working. Rarely do I have perfect balance, but by placing intention on taking my savasanas on and off the yoga mat, I have a higher likelihood of creating a sustainable, fulfilling life.