Shavasana may look like a nap at the end of a yoga practice, but it is much more than that. The essence of Shavasana is to practice being simultaneously aware, alert and at ease; it is a deep relaxation that is fully conscious.
But the art of relaxation may be harder than it looks. I have seen many yoga students who can attempt challenging asanas, yet struggle with just lying on the floor. Why is this?
We live in a modern society that is based on speed and productivity – the clock never stops ticking and we become used to engaging our muscles and brain to achieve goals. When our muscles and brain have been trained to be constantly engaged, relaxing may feel impossible and lying down without moving may feel like a chore.
In Shavasana, we learn how to consciously let go of all activity, including accumulated tension. Shavasana practice tells the body to release physical tension and mental stress by gradually relaxing one body part at a time, one muscle at a time, one thought at a time. The conscious act of relaxing causes all tension, even that which has been held long term in your body and mind, to be released.
Learning how to do nothing is a skill that, as a result, enables you to be more productive when you need to be. With the world moving so quickly, cultivating the art of relaxation (shavasana) has never been more valuable.
In order to prepare for deep relaxation, it is important to first engage the body and mind with active asanas before attempting Shavasana. Asanas cause your body to stretch, open and release and they also relax the diaphragm so the breath can move freely. Shavasana, in turn, helps you to fully integrate the benefits of your asana practice.
Shavasana gives you a little taste of what meditation offers. When coming out of Shavasana, take a few deep breaths, give yourself a few moments to regain physical awareness of your arms and legs, and then slowly begin moving your body with gentle attention. A feeling of connection, clarity, all-knowingness, love, or joy may arise from this state of ease and relaxation.