I have been practicing yoga on an almost daily basis for years. I am not an advanced yogi, but I am for sure a devoted one. Every time I step on my mat, I focus, I sweat, I give my 100% through Surya Namaskars, in standing poses, backbends, and all other asanas. You would think I would get better and better practicing like that. It would only make sense that my practice would deepen with such dedication.
The progression was not that steady. There was stagnation at some point. So I practiced more and more and more. Every morning through the same sequence. Nothing was happening. No magic. No improvement. Something was missing. Savasana.
I was skipping that last pose which usually finishes the practice because of time issues. At least that was my excuse. The truth was that I was practicing to feel good about myself, my body, and I thought Savasana was a waste of time.
What a fool. I had it all wrong. It is only recently that I realized how important Savasana is. That final pose is where everything comes together, where all the efforts you’ve put through your practice get integrated into one unique experience. Savasana is one of, if not the most important poses of all. Learning Trikonasana, or Ekapada Kundiliasana is super fun, I get it. But in the end, I believe what you will learn in Savasana is what will serve you the most in the rest of your life.
Savasana is about learning to let go yet to be fully present at the same time. Savasana is about opening up, arms and legs relaxed, exposing yourself to whatever is there, totally vulnerable. Savasana teaches you to go through life unprotected, aware that life is fragile, and that it can end at any moment. Savasana is about learning acceptance and tolerance, before trying to change things.
In a study by Buruck et al., nurses giving elderly care went through an emotion regulation skills training, so that the authors could assess if this kind of training had an impact on their well-being at work. What they find is very interesting, and confirms most of what we already know when we start to learn about mindfulness and the practice of yoga. One of the primary aims of therapy and interventions on emotion regulation based on mindfulness-based approaches is usually the acceptance of negative affective states and the willingness to experience them. In this particular study, the authors found that acceptance and tolerance was key before applying change-oriented skills that would lead to modification of their behavior.
What this says is that we can’t take a short-cut. There is no short-cut. Through my yoga practice, I wanted to feel good about myself. I wanted results, fast. However, no matter what I was doing, I wasn’t satisfied. I was in motion, I wanted change, but I was skipping the first part: I wasn’t accepting what was already there before moving on and embracing change.
That’s why Savasana is essential. We need that time off to pause and stay with what is, to check in to see how we are doing. You can do that meditating of course, but for someone with anxiety issues like me, sitting still is challenging. Once the work is done, once the physical asanas are behind me, that’s when I get calmer and I can finally relax, to realize that all this movement is in fact useless, that the only thing I need to truly learn is to be comfortable in that moment, with myself.