Destination: Savasana

by Linda Nansteel Lovell

At the end of my first-ever yoga practice a few years ago, when the teacher announced it was time for Savasana (pronounced sha-VA-sa-na), I was somewhat taken aback. What exactly was I going to do for ten minutes lying on the floor with my eyes closed? When she further explained that it was also known as Corpse Pose, I remember grimacing (inwardly, I hope). I wasn’t particularly inclined to consider my impending demise, at least not at that point in the proceedings. The time seemed to last forever as I lay there on my nest of woolen blankets, with my legs up on the folding chair that had so recently been my base of operations for the Extra Gentle Yoga practice. Despite my teacher’s introduction to this time of rest at the end of each practice, I found my mind wandering, my eyes fighting the urge to sneak a glance at my watch, and my neck itching from the blanket.

Several years and a whole bunch of practices later, I now appreciate why it’s called Corpse Pose: it’s meant to be a time of stillness, of silence, of being totally in the moment...a bridge between the focus of the practice and the chaos of the “real” life to which we’re returning. And really, how hard can it be to lie there and do nothing? You just might be surprised to discover that some consider Savasana one of the hardest poses to practice.

The challenge of Savasana is not to the body but to the mind. After an hour or so of balancing, aligning, twisting, stretching and contorting (although my teacher no doubt will take umbrage at that last term), it’s time to completely relax the body while keeping the mind still. Occasionally, one of my fellow practitioners will lose the battle and emit a few light snores, and I confess that there are some nights that my mind simply refuses to stop moving around. Most Monday nights, however, I can’t wait to build my blanket nest and transport myself to ten minutes of my perfect peaceful place...

...It was a travel-brochure kind of a day on the island of St. Maarten. The water was as clear as the sky was blue, and I was simply floating, suspended in the susurrating waves. The far off but unmistakable rhythms of a steel band wafted over me, borne on the faintly spicy trade winds…

“Now gently,” the soft, familiar voice of my teacher broke in, “very gently, start to make small movements. Maybe just make small circles with your wrist or ankle, whatever feels good to you tonight.”

And that fast, Savasana was over. 

The trade winds resolved themselves into the endless breathing of the building’s air handler, and the oboe students in the studio next door packed away their steel drums as rehearsal ended. With a sigh, I left St. Maarten behind for another week until it was Monday night and time for Savasana again. 

Samira Shuruk