SAVASANA or SHAVASANA

                                                                  SAVASANA

     Savasana has been wrongly translated by “Relaxation Pose”. I firmly believe that yoga teachers must make an effort to teach the words in Sanskrit, like Judo is taught in Japanese, etc.
This mistranslation—due to the laziness of native English-speaking yoga teachers— has led practitionners to misunderstand this practice, which is done after each session of what we call “asanas” and often after a session of pranayama.
     It is not a relaxation, Shava doesn’t mean relaxation. Shava means ‘corpse’ (it has the same radical as Shiva) and a corpse doesn’t need to relax. In Shavasana, the body dies to itself, the mind remains alert and the entire person re-creates itself. In Shavasana we integrate all the changes brought up by the asana and pranayama practice.
When you get into shavasana, don’t speak, don’t stand up to get equipement such as blankets, bolsters, etc. All this should be prepared at the beginning of your yoga session.
     If you skip shavasana thinking it’s a waste of time, then your practice will not be a yoga practice but callisthenic.
When you do shavasana, don’t do anything else. Don’t put a block under your chest to open your chest! Don't put your feet in supta baddhakonasa. Don't put a block under your sacrum to stretch your psoas, etc. Shavasana is not a posture, it is not a waste of time.
     In Buddhism we have three kinds of meditation: the sitting one, the lying one, and the walking one. Shavasana is a lying meditation. Again, the body dies to itself, and the mind practices meditation, as explained for instance in Patanjali’s sutra.
     Don't play music, don’t burn incense, don’t practice any mudra. It’s not relaxation, remember! Don't massage your students or don't get a massage either during shavasana. Respect shavasana in its essence.
Shava is a corpse and a corpse needs NO music, or incense, or massage, or mudra, or whatnot. DIE to YOURSELF.

Now let me quote... David Coulter’s Anatomy of Hatha Yoga
     Relaxation involves conscious control of the somatic nervous system and of emotion and mental activity. Asanas pull the mind inside, whereas the physical exercises tend to scatter it. Not everyone can will their muscles to relax. What goes wrong? ... if the higher circuits for the cerebral cortex are not used regularly, they gradually become dysfunctional and the unconscious input from other parts of the brain gets bossy. Motor neurons are prisoners of our habits, addictions, of our hearing, sight, taste, smell, and touch; and they are prisoners of internal signals from stretched muscles, pain, or an overloaded stomach…
     But when we are in deep relaxation we may not be able to move on command. The telephone may ring, and when we try to jump and answer it… we can’t do it.
     What to do to quieten the activity of the motor neurones? The 1st thing is don’t move. The 2nd thing don’t sleep… because if you loose consciousness, motor neurones throughout the nervous system become active.
Some may be experiencing “relaxation-induced anxiety”. If you are not used to relaxing your skeletal muscles... mental, psychological, and spiritual concerns may arise… doing asanas before lying down is the most helpful remedy because it produces pleasant mental states and reintegrates body, mind and spirit.
     The number of nerve impulses per second to the diaphragm will peak at the end of inhalation when the abdominal organs are pushed downward, diminish as exhalation proceeds, and drop almost to zero at the end of exhalation —the only time the breathing-system is at rest.  It's a risky habit pattern. Constantly pausing the breath at the end of exhalation is thought in yoga to have an adverse impact on your cardiovascular health.
N.B.  Those with low blood pressure may need to turn onto their left side before sitting up.

Deepening Relaxation
     Even if the somatic and autonomic systems are not creating obstacles, the mind may still be active, and this too can prevent deep relaxation. When the body is relaxed but if the person purposely entertains thoughts, skeletal muscular activity reacts immediately, which clearly shows that quieting the mind is just as important to relaxation as quieting the body.
     Hatha yoga has many techniques for making the mind still, from concentration exercises on the surface of the body, to watching the breath, to more subtle exercises such as "sweeping the breath up and down the body," or holding your attention on regions such as the navel center, the third eye, or the pit of the throat... The results of these exercises are clear, the mechanisms obscure. We know only that the skeletal muscles relax, and that the autonomic nervous system fulfills its autonomous role in managing the internal organs and tissues of the body without the necessity of conscious input. That is quite enough.
     One word of caution about abstract exercises: those who are flighty and psychologically fragile should stick with grounding concentrations such as focusing their attention on the rise and fall of the abdomen during inhalation and exhalation, or thinking of relaxing large body parts such as the head, neck, shoulders, arms, and forearms.

THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ABDOMEN
     This is the beginner's first exercise for relaxation. You simply lie in the corpse posture and concentrate on the rise of the abdomen with each inhalation and the fall of the abdomen with each exhalation. Make the breath as even as possible and watch its pace gradually diminish. Notice that inhalation merges smoothly into exhalation, but that exhalation does not merge so smoothly into inhalation (chapter 2). After you have practiced this exercise for some time, it seems natural to allow your breath to stop at the end of exhalation. It seems as if it could stop forever, as if you could literally expire.
     As discussed earlier, the end of exhalation is the only time this should happen because that is the only time the diaphragm is completely relaxed.
     But don’t hold or pause your breath at the end of the exhalation.
     Paradoxically, this simple concentration exercise in even breathing is also one of the most advanced, and few people will be able to do it for long without falling asleep or letting their minds drift. Resorting to diaphragmatic breathing, taking deeper breaths, complete breaths, or breathing faster all minimize those two problems, but they also compromise relaxation. But even if these techniques are counterproductive as far as relaxation is concerned, at least they prove that concentrating on the rise and fall of the abdominal wall is so relaxing that you have to be hyperalert not to drift. This exercise is not easy.

SWEEPING THE BREATH UP AND DOWN THE BODY
There are many different relaxation exercises in shavasana that involve sweeping the attention up and down the body in coordination with the breath, usually from the toes to the crown of the head during inhalation, and from the crown to the toes during exhalation. You should breathe normally at first and then gradually lengthen the breath as relaxation deepens. Your greatest challenge will be to keep attentive.
There are many variations of this exercise. You can reverse directions and inhale your attention to the toes and exhale your attention to the top of the head. or you can use your "breath" as a vehicle for traveling your attention to different parts of the body. The point of all such abstract relaxation exercises is less complicated than may at first be apparent: they are all tricks to hold the mind steady while the body relaxes of its own accord.
    
THE SIXTY-ONE POINTS EXERCISE
One of the simplest (yet interesting) of the abstract exercises carries your attention to a succession of 61 points on the surface of the body. If you can hold your focus for a moment at each spot, by the time you get all the way around the body and mind will be deeply relaxed. The exercise can be done in many different ways, but the simplest is to pretend that you exhale to each point. This means that at the beginning of each exhalation you lock your attention onto a specific point, on the body, hold it there throughout exhalation and the ensuing inhalation, and then move on to the next point at the start of the next exhalation. A variation is to imagine a blue light at each point. As you become proficient you can lengthen the time you hold your attention at each point either by extending your time for each inhalation and exhalation, or by holding your attention at the same spot for more than one breath cycle.
Assuming that you are physically comfortable, the main challenge in this exercise is holding your attention on each one of the sixty-one points successively. You might get down to the right hand, or partially back up to the tip of the right shoulder, and suddenly realize that you have lost awareness of where you were. or if someone is leading you through the exercise you may suddenly find yourself being asked to concentrate at some specific point and have no idea of how you got there . In any event, this means that you either went to sleep or let your attention wander, and this broke the relaxation. The most certain remedy for such problems is daily practice and better preparation, which can include a good night's sleep, an enthusiastic session of hatha yoga, and a less soporific diet.
If you have trouble keeping your concentration even under ideal conditions, try just focusing on the first 31 points (the upper half of the body) and come back to the beginning from there. or you can try breathing faster. and thereby move more quickly through the exercise. If you take 1 second inhalations and 1 second exhalations, the entire exercise will take only two minutes, and once you have memorised the points you can usually hold your attention throughout the cycle, at least at that rate. Then you can slowly lengthen your breaths. Don't be surprised, however, to learn that lengthening the exercise to just 4 minutes (2” inhalations and 2” exhalations) may create a real challenge. Keep trying. Keep improving the conditions under which you do the exercise, and keep gathering more experience. If you are determined and patient the exercise will finally work.

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