Happy National Yoga Month! Celebrate with us by rebooting your yoga routine for 21 days in September. To seal your home practice habit for life, sign up for YJ’s upcoming 21-Day Yoga Challenge online course, crafted to cultivate lasting commitment. Plus, enter to be on the cover of an upcoming issue in 2016. Follow #YJChallenge on Facebook and Twitter for more inspiring tips each day.
You’ve seen the t-shirts reading “I’m just here for the Savasana.” Love it. The funny thing is, though, that while Savasana (Corpse Pose) looks super easy, it’s been called the most difficult of all the asanas. That’s because it doesn’t just happen on demand: You can’t just say, “OK, I’m going to relax right now!” That’s why Savasana is such a gift. It sets up the conditions that allow you to gradually enter a truly relaxed state, one that is deeply refreshing in itself and that can serve as a starting point for meditation. Here’s a deep dive into the deep pose from Nikki Costello, a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher, that you can and should return to long after the 21-Day Yoga Challenge is over.
3 Steps to a Deeper Savasana
Step 1: Relax your back and relieve your legs
SET IT UP
• Place your mat in front of a chair or couch.
• Lie in the center of your mat with your knees bent.
• Lift your legs, and place the back of your calves on the chair or couch.
• Rest the back of the arms on the floor with the palms facing upward.
REFINE Adjust your support if necessary to be sure the entire calf,
from the back of the knee to the heel, is supported equally. Place a blanket under your head and neck (all the way to your shoulders) so that you can drop your chin and direct your gaze downward toward your heart. If you wear glasses, remove them. Place a cloth over your eyes. Turn the upper arm so that skin rolls away from the chest, and gently tuck the shoulder blades in toward your back so the center of the chest is broad and lifted. Be sure no part of the
arm is touching the torso.
FINISH Relax the back muscles by allowing them to spread from the center out to the sides. Bring your attention to the whole back, feeling the back ribs in contact with the floor. With each inhalation, notice the back ribs spreading and the lungs filling. With each exhalation, notice them contracting. See if you can feel the floor with all parts of your back, from the pelvis to the head.
Step 2: Open your chest and observe your breath
SET IT UP
• Place a bolster or a stack of folded blankets vertically on your mat and another folded blanket where your head will rest.
• Lie back on the bolster or blankets with your knees bent.
• Place the folded blanket under your head and neck.
• Extend your legs one at a time.
• Check that each leg is equal distance from the midline of your body.
REFINE Be sure the blanket is under the entire neck, all the way to your shoulders. If you wear glasses, remove them now. Place a cloth over your eyes before adjusting your arms. Extend the arms at the sides. The arms should be far enough away from the torso to allow the upper inner arm to roll away from the chest. Keep your armpit area open and the shoulders releasing down toward the floor. Spread and open the palms and fingers, and then allow the back of the hand to soften and rest on the floor.
FINISH Bring your attention to your breath. Simply notice the natural flow of your breath coming in and going out. For several minutes, observe the breath and focus on filling the lungs evenly, right and left. Consciously expand the chest both upward and outward as you inhale; release the breath slowly and smoothly. The practice of breathing consciously, using this support, will have a soothing and calming effect on your nervous system.
Step 3: Final Pose, Savasana
SET IT UP
• Lie on your back with your knees bent.
• Keep your head centered, not allowing it to fall to either side.
• Extend your arms to the sides.
REFINE If you’d like to use a blanket under your head or something over your eyes, prepare that be–fore adjusting the arms. Turn
the upper inner arms away from the trunk, and gently tuck the shoulder blades in, bringing a little lift to the chest. Do this without overarching the lower back. Maintain the arm position, and then stretch the legs out one by one. Allow the inner legs to roll outward and relax completely.
FINISH Allow your breath to flow smoothly in and out. Close your eyes and relax the facial muscles, beginning with the forehead and eyelids. Then relax the cheeks, lips, and tongue. (Relaxing your tongue will release tension in the face, which has a direct effect on the brain and mind.) Relax the throat and neck. Continue to bring attention to each part of the body, consciously relaxing each part, starting with the head and traveling all the way down to your feet. When the physical body is still and at rest, the breath naturally draws you inward toward the essence of yourself. Rest with a spacious feeling of light in your heart.