Has this ever happened to you too? The yoga class slows down, you slowly and peacefully start to lie on your mat for Savasana, and – boom! There goes the monkey mind, racing with all of the worries that were supposed to be left with the shoes at the studio entrance.
Sometimes it seems that once we start to slow down, the mind begins to race even wilder than when we were stressed. It’s awful and makes it so difficult to relax or follow a yoga teacher’s well-intended guidance. How can we enjoy our Savasana?!
I'm not claiming to be the master at this, but here are some tips that I use that have definitely helped when my own Savasana runs out of control. Hopefully you can use them too so you can find a way how to clear your mind in Savasana!
1. Use an eye bag.
I swear by it. There is something so helpful as a gentle pressure on the eyes that calms them to drop into their sockets. This initiates the needed relaxation response. The darkness helps slow the nervous system because there is less information to take in when there is no light.
2. Close your ears with something.
I use a towel or one of my t-shirts and wrap it over the top of my head, closing in on each ear. Some teachers use music during Savasana and some talk throughout the whole relaxation process.
My nervous system needs the incoming stimulation to be blocked to establish spaces of silence for relaxation, instead of reacting to more stimulation. So closing the ears can create the feeling of really being swaddled into a safe cocoon.
3. Focus on the experience inside your body.
Beginning with your feet, focus on the experience inside your body. For example, see if you can feel awareness inside your feet. Then relax that region of the body, from the inside out. Then move upward, piece by piece, body part by body part, purposely relaxing each part of the body—from the inside, rippling to the outside.
Once you get to your face and the top of your head, imagine your whole body is like a piece of clothing and you're just letting it go and drop onto the floor.
4. Notice your breath.
Many of the yoga scriptures explain that the regulation of the breath is the tool to regulating and calming the mind. Scientific studies have shown that deep breathing, which moves the diaphragm further down towards the lower organs, compressing them upon inhale, induces the relaxation response.
So, allow your inhale and exhale to be a little bit longer than your regular breathing, both at the same length. Stay with this even breathing for about 3-5 rounds. Then, increase the length 1-2 counts more on both ends for about 3-5 rounds.
Move the breath into additional parts of your torso, going in all directions. Do this a few more times, increasing the length, refraining from any stress. Lastly, relax everything and notice the air flowing in and out of you naturally. It’s as if you are being breathed into, instead of doing it. Watch it just gently happen.
5. Imagine a beautiful, blue sky with some clouds.
Imagine a beautiful, blue sky with some clouds, all in your mind. The clouds are the thoughts. The sky is your mind’s essence, clear and calm. Try to see pieces of the sky in-between the clouds, watching the thoughts pass by.
Focus on the sky, which never changes. As your body and breath relax, use these spaces for your mind to be filled with nothing but clear, blue sky.
6. Give your troubles up to a Higher Power.
It’s often when I’m bothered by something that my mind will increase its activity in Savasana. Instead of stopping it or acting as if it doesn’t matter, I give my troubles up to a Higher Power. Every problem, every annoying person, every worry, I see it go up to the heavens where the clouds take it and create some miracles.
Using the mantra “Let Go” — inhale with the word “Let” and exhale with the word “Go” — is a soft reminder that I am not in control of everything. The more we have space for the possibility of miracles, the more that they can actually happen.
7. Be kind to yourself.
The most important thing to remember is that we are not our mind. If we can simply watch its busyness, like watching a movie with intrigue and amusement, the thoughts can’t harm us. Allow yourself to be entertained by the thoughts and activity in your brain. What is important is that we don’t have to believe all of the thoughts; we can simply watch them without reacting.
The good thing is that with a regular yoga practice, our Savasana gets easier, just like all the other poses. Repetition does bring familiarity and practice does help us refine the details. This establishes a safe space for calm and relaxation.
So when you're in Savasana and your mind gets extra busy, don’t give up! It happens to everyone. We just try again on our mat tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. It's called a yoga practice, after all, isn't it? ;-)