Tree pose. Dancer's pose. Bow pose. Camel pose. These are just a few of my favorite yoga poses. But "savasana;" or, "corpse pose"…that's never been one of them. A few of my friends cannot understand why I've always struggled with savasana – "You just lay on the ground, what's not to love?" But as someone whose brain rattles on as fast as it can whenever I get a moment of downtime, savasana is never quite as relaxing or therapeutic as it should be. Even so, I've come a long way in the past year and despite still being an "Anxious Amy" by nature, I've developed a few tricks to help me get more out of my entire yoga practice, savasana included.
1) Make A List
I'm a big fan of to-do lists. It's rare that you'll see me out and about without my planner (note: I'm talking an old-school, book-style planner with my initials etched into it. I love my iPhone, but it's just really not the same. There's just a certain gratification in crossing through certain tasks and moving on to the next). If you can't seem to get your mind off all of the activities you need to be attending to like grocery shopping, homework or housework – write it all down before you step foot on your mat. While this may seem like it would do little more than making you hyper-aware of all that you should be doing during that hour you're spending in yoga class, don't forget to add "yoga" to the top of your list. Taking care of your mind and body is just as, if not more so, important than anything else on your list. When you're there, be there, and when you're done, move on to your next task. But don't let those other tasks rattle you while you should be allowing yourself a few moments of peacefulness and total relaxation.
2) Narrow Your Focus
When I was little and would whine to my parents that I couldn't sleep, they would give me the totally ineffective (for me, anyway) suggestion to "count sheep." Years later, while counting sheep still doesn't work for me, I find that it is impossible for me to turn my brain off if I'm lying in complete silence. It's like my mind starts going a mile a minute in an effort to fill the air. When this happens, I find it useful to find something simple to narrow my focus. For example, focusing on the ticking of a clock or the sound of the crickets outside helps me to slow my thoughts down and eventually relax. If you can't seem to turn your thoughts off during savasana, it's worth giving this a try. Perhaps it's the clock ticking that will help you out, or maybe the sound of the fan, or even the beat of soft music if that's part of your practice. Let your thoughts settle on this, rather than the thousand other places your mind wants to wander, and see if eventually your mind allows you to let everything go, if only for a few moments.
3) Avoid Scheduling Anything Immediately After Your Practice
I know, I know – I don't know your schedule and how many things you have to pack into your day. But my schedule isn't a cakewalk either. Between juggling two different graduate programs, a job, a relationship, two kittens, and everything that falls in between, it's not easy to carve out some additional time after a yoga class. For most of us, we're lucky if we even have time to get to class in the first place. But if you have the ability to carve out some wiggle room immediately after class, you might find that peacefulness in savasana comes a little bit easier. If you're lying there wondering what time it is, if class has gone over, if there's going to be traffic, if you're going to be late, etc., your poor mind can't catch a break. If you've got a little bit of buffer, you won't be worried if class is running a few minutes over or if you remembered to DVR "NCIS."
4) Practice At Home
If the few minute time span at the end of your yoga class is the only time during the week that you suddenly instruct your mind to turn off, of course it's going to be difficult. It's hard to flip a switch when we are so accustomed to juggling a thousand things at a time. I know it's impossible to find downtime these days, but try to set aside a few minutes each night (or whenever you can!) to roll out your mat, lie down, and attempt to clear your head. I know it's not as easy as it sounds (whenever I attempt to do this at home, I usually have kittens stampede across head within a matter of moments), but getting the hang of it under home conditions may make it a little bit easier at the end of your practice elsewhere.
I know it might seem impossible at times, and I have struggled with taking full advantage of savasana from the very first time I stepped foot on the mat. Well, actually I fell asleep during savasana at the end of the very first yoga class I took in middle school, but since then, stress levels have risen (hard to believe life gets more stressful after middle school, huh?) and sleep and relaxation have become less of a priority. However, as I've grown up a little, taking care of my mind and my body has become much more of a priority, and I've better learned to appreciate the benefits of my yoga practice – from beginning all the way to the end. You're preaching to the choir when you say that sometimes it's impossible to slow your thoughts down, but I promise – it can be done.
"Silence is a source of great strength." Lao Tzu