Savasana (shavasana): The Sabbath of Yoga?

Have you seen the t-shirts that announce savasana is why I come to yoga? The first time I saw the saying, it made me laugh and then gave me pause. Is that really what people want when the come through the door? Granted, I realize we all NEED a little more savasana in our lives, but really? There are numerous research articles about how our culture is over stimulated and sleep deprived (here is one I recently read: https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep-deprivation/effects-on-body#1).

As a seasoned teacher of yoga, I have asked many classes “who needs a long relaxation today?” and often get a cheering response. I have wondered what would happen if I put aside all the traditional warm-ups, the deep stretches, the sequences and flows I’ve created and skipped the balance postures too; if I invited my class to settle on their mats and simply rest. Would you want a refund? Would you feel you received what you needed? Clearly, if you sign-up for a restorative yoga class or a yoga nidra event, you arrive with this expectation. But what if it were an all-levels class? What would your response be? One thing I do know, is that most of us have a hard time doing savasana on our own at home. There are too many distractions and demands on our attention.

I confess that I have attended a 90 minute yoga class where I centered, did 15 minutes of moving, and then put myself into savasana. BUT, it took me years to do that without feeling guilty or wimpy; and I have only done this on a few occasions, despite needing it more often. Why is it so hard to give myself permission to simply rest? And you? Do you give yourself permission to rest?

In recent weeks, the idea of the sabbath has surfaced in my thoughts. While there have been periods in my life when religious practices on Sundays were part of my routine, I have not consciously acknowledged the sabbath consistently.

According to Merriam-Webster, Sab·​bath | \ ˈsa-bəth is defined as: the seventh day of the week observed from Friday evening to Saturday evening as a day of rest and worship by Jews and some Christians; : Sunday observed among Christians as a day of rest and worship; a time of rest. A Google search informs me that The word “sanctified” in verse 3 comes from the root qadash, which literally means “to set apart as holy.” The first place the word “Sabbath” (from the Hebrew verb shabbat, meaning “to rest from labor”; the day of rest) is used for the seventh day, is in Exodus 16:23.

So the sabbath may be loaded for you; with meanings or connotations; with historical or traditional associations. Of all the definitions, translations, and etymology notes, the consensus is that the sabbath is to cease or to rest. I am especially partial to the description that is to set apart as holy. No religion or rules, to just find holiness; to appreciate rest as sacred.

How do we create a sabbath or real-time savasana? In theory, we make the time for it. In practice, this isn’t easy (at least not for me). Some suggestions are: 1. keep one day/week free of responsibilities 2. unplug from devices one day/week 3. practice relaxation; many times in small moments

Many of the journal articles relating to savasana explain that this can be the most difficult of all yoga postures (see links below). It requires us to be still; to be quiet, to feel what we may not really want do deal with. Perhaps you are too stimulated to relax. If you simply need sleep, savasana might only be a teaser. However, when you practice yoga long enough, you will likely begin to make peace with the challenges of this posture.

I strongly encourage you to practice savasana with as much fervor as you might in your plank. You may be surprised one day to come to a class and have a 30 minute savasana, just to help you along your journey. At the very least, you will be given complete permission to cease and rest (and sport the T-shirt should you choose).

May you find rest in what you call holy!
Namaste,
Molly

Links: https://chopra.com/articles/why-savasana-is-the-hardest-yoga-pose
https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/corpse-pose

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