It seems only fitting that our last Yin pose to cover is shavasana, doesn’t it? Is there anything better than giving into shavasana at the end of a particularly trying practice? For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, shavasana is typically done at the end of your practice, but you may occasionally find a teacher who incorporates the pose into other times of class. Teachers and students alike have many methods of coming both into and out of shavasana, all with the same goal in mind. Shavasana leaves a lot of room for creativity, and props can be really fun. Bolsters, blankets, pillows, eye covers, sandbags…the list goes on. If getting into something supportive and relaxing sounds up your alley, grab some props and get ready. A prop-free shavasana is still relaxing, and may leave you feeling more connected to the earth due to the lack of contact when using some props.
Begin by lying on your back or a bolster if you choose to do so, and adjust any props accordingly. You can put on socks or other extra clothing if you tend to get cold, or grab a blanket. Ideally, you remain totally still throughout the pose, so get comfy! Once you are comfortable and the lights are dim, close your eyes. This is where you can make shavasana your own. Hands are typically by the sides with the palms facing up, but I know some yogis who feel very settled resting their hands on top of their abdomen. The rest is up to you, but this is my favorite way to come into shavasana:
Begin by counting backwards from 10, taking a long, slow, deep breath for each number. Let your mind begin to settle and quiet. Once you have gotten to the bottom, begin releasing the muscles of the body one group at a time. Begin in your feet; quickly flex the muscles of the feet and then actively release the muscles and let them feel heavy. Complete the contraction and release as many times as you need. Once the area feels settled, move up the body. Calves, quads, abdominals, arms, shoulders, and finally the neck. After you have completed this, pay attention to any Chi or energy that you may be feeling. For example, if you focused on your hips during your practice, take note of any new sensations there. Does it feel lighter? Heavier? More airy? Bring your awareness to this area, and that with each breath you are driving more Chi into that area. You may begin to feel tired, but it’s important that you remain awake and somewhat alert. Shavasana should be an active rest. If your mind begins to wander, count back from 10 and repeat that part of the practice. You can always bring your mind back to your breath.
This is, of course, only optional and just something to get you started. For the greatest benefits, aim to stay in shavasana for about 15% of your active practice time, so an hour’s long practice receives a 9-10 minute shavasana. Enjoy this as often as you’d like- even in the middle of the day! (Trust me.)
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