Karen’s explanation of savasana

The Cop did a good job at practice today. He is starting to ask a few questions and kind of piece things together. The breath sequence for vinyasas, the cant of the knee in ardha baddha padmottanasana and ardha baddha paschimottanasana.

He zips right through savasana, though. I know better than to tell him to lie around for a long while – that wouldn’t compute. So he finishes his finishing poses and then lies down for a few seconds and then it’s back to the races.

So after I finished my practice I went into the livingroom and explained savasana. From my perspective. I told him that savasana is practice for dying. I reminded him of the documentary we watched about Tibetan death rituals, and how when the body dies the consciousness goes into the bardo. It can be scared or confused, and if it hasn’t figured out that it is free, if it hasn’t figured out what it is, it will hover around the physical world, longing to be reincarnated.

Savasana is practice for letting your body go. Asana teaches you to still your thoughts and sudden, intense reactions – it kind of relaxes the automatic responses of the body and its hyper-attached intersection with the mind. Pranayama teaches you to relax reactivity around breath. All of it frees up consciousness. And savasana is a place where you can practice dying. So that one day you can let go and your consciousness will remain even-keeled and clear. And then you’re free.

So that’s how I see it. The Cop listened and I felt kind of goofy spelling out my mystical beliefs. When I finished, though, he reached out and patted my hand. “You’re a good teacher,” he said. Very sweet.

It kind of makes me laugh. I love these notions of savasana, but I wonder how it would play in a regular class. Practice for dying? Yeah, I don’t think other people would necessarily find that as good an idea as I do. Somehow it seems very soothing to me. Very grounding.

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10 Responses

  1. zee: sadly, non-dualism is just a concept, too. trying to explain it is self-defeating. it just IS. or ISN’T. whatever.

    karen: I liked your answer! 🙂

  2. I deleted Zee’s answer. “His” thoughts are unattributed cut-and-paste jobs from other writers. I’m not good with that.

  3. Thanks Karen, that’s great compliment. 🙂
    I’ll not bother you anymore.

  4. I’m really, REALLY good at savasana. We did a 3 minute one today at the vinyasa class. It only took me one to fall asleep and start dreaming.

  5. karen – I don’t see how it is practicing for dying. I hate that thought actually. It’s resting. It’s not dying. We die whether we practice it or not. And we die how we die, whether we’ve practiced or not. I just don’t get that at all. And this is not an attack on you – I’ve heard it said that savasana is practice for dying several times. It just really does not resonate with me at all. I might do a poll on it actually!

  6. Yes, a poll, Lauren! I’d be interested to hear what people think.

    Haha! You are like a little cat, V. Just lie down and doze off, eh? Nice.

  7. This is beautiful, Karen. You are a good teacher.

    About the emotional and psychological aspects of “dying practice,” some days I love it and some days I find it veeeeeery creepy.

    For those who love it, I’d mention overhearing conversations of historians who get empathetically intimate with death–generations of death–all day long. And who feel joy when they contrast this with their life. The death they meditate on brightens their life.

    Anyway, who knows. But for the practical purpose of relaxing your body, NOTHING in my experience will undo tension that just won’t die like the exercise of visualizing your body just beneath the surface of the earth, in a shallow grave on a windswept grass plain in Montana (my chosen resting place), gently decomposing into dust.

    Does wonders for those knots in the trapezius.

  8. Actually my yoga teacher often says something to the same effect, that “we study yoga as Cicero said of the study of philosophy, to prepare to die.” And he often says it during savasana. And I actually like that statement – it never creeps me out. PS I really like your blog and read it faithfully.

  9. Hi Karen
    The Cop is really sweet. Yes, I think Savasana is kind of a practice for dying. But a restorative yoga teacher who was freaked out by that concept used to call it “sponge pose”. My time in Savasana is quite short, and I (gasp!) pray a little through it, wishing well for my day. However, that would be like doing a loving kindness prayer, exept it’s during savasana.
    Cheers,
    Arturo

  10. Hi Gail. Nice to “meet” you! 🙂

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