Savasana

Ramanand Patel and Constance Braden

At her request, Ramanand Patel sent Constance Braden some notes on Savasana. She edited them, with corrections from Ramanand, after practicing the pose as the notes instructed. In writing the following article, she used these notes and reports on her own and her students' experiences.

Take great care to lie down symmetrically, palms facing up, a blanket supporting the head and neck. Place the head on the center point of the back of the skull, without lifting the chin, so that the eyes when closed will look down toward the lungs. At first, however, keep the eyes gently open. Recognize that looking only takes place, requiring no effort or activity. Only three factors are necessary for looking to take place: adequate light, an unimpaired instrument of looking, and presence of the mind. The inner ears are soft and deep, so that hearing is passive and receptive. The mind, watching the passive seeing and hearing, is falling into a more relaxed, receptive state.

Gently lower the upper eyelids to close the eyes.

The breath is free and natural; the mind remains aware of the breath so that you remain awake and present. The bones of the toes are now softening within themselves as though melting under warm sun. The flesh and skin of the toes deeply relax within themselves; the nerves and blood vessels receive a sense of freedom from all pressure and tension. The bones, the flesh, and the skin everywhere in the body, piece by piece, now follow the toes into a state of relaxed passivity so that there is no pressure on any of the nerves. (This can be guided further slowly referring to different parts of the body.)

The mind is receptively aware of the contact of the brain with the skull. On inhalation, the brain releases away from the inner surface of the skull. On exhalation, the brain releases away from its center towards the skull. The mind is a witness to this rhythm as it is established more and more completely in the "diaphragm" of the brain.

The breath in the chest is for conscious breathing and is related to the thinking faculty. The belly or abdominal breath is for relaxed breathing related to the feeling faculty. One bridge between the conscious breath and the feeling breath is the faculty of imagination.

The mind now recognizes any particular feeling of relaxation arising within you. As the abdominal breath becomes more passive, watch the relationship between this feeling and the abdominal breath now becoming more fully established. Imagine what this feeling would be like if it were much more completely established. The passivity of the belly breath grows along with this enhanced feeling of relaxation. (This, too, can be guided further slowly referring to different parts of the body.) After ten minutes or more, continue as follows.

To come out of the pose, let the mind become aware of the breath and, as though the breath is opening the eyes, let them slowly open. Witness that looking only takes place; one does not "do" looking. Bend the knees and place the soles of the feet on the floor. Rest, continuing to allow the feeling you have been experiencing in its depth and fullness. Roll to the right side, rest for a few breaths, and then sit, letting the head come up only after you are fully seated. Sit for a while in this quiet state.

Arising from the passive abdominal breathing in Savasana, practitioners have experienced peacefulness, contentment, surrender, deep softness, freshness, lightness, tenderness, love, gratitude, joy. Others have felt absorbed into the earth, or moved to tears by the deep beauty of the breath, or glad to be alive. As the feeling grows into its fullness, note its clarity. Each time you practice Savasana in this way, you can see what arises, and using the ever-increasing passivity of the breath, bring that feeling to completeness. Using the intellect to choose a feeling to work with may also be successful, but the discovery of what is already there within body and breath is profound. The key is to understand deeply who is the "I" who is holding the undesired tension in the body and the mind. In Savasana is an opportunity to dis-identify with the vrttis and to discover what is more essentially natural to us, our inherent peace and joy.

Ramanand has been a student of Shri B.K.S. Iyengar since 1968. He lives in Dublin, California. For more information, visit http://www.yogirama.com.

Constance Braden, certified at Junior Intermediate II, runs the Houston Iyengar Yoga Studio. She is the content editor of this magazine.