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5 Ways to Make Savasana More Sacred
It has taken me years to truly appreciate the benefits of the final resting pose within a yoga class (known as Savasana). As a new student, I used to cut out early or just lie there with my eyes wide open thinking, “I’m just laying on the floor”. I didn’t get it and I recall thinking it was a weird way to end a class. Where was the logic? Okay, we’ve gotten really sweaty and we’ve stretched. Now just lie in a puddle of your own fluids and close your eyes, trying to reach enlightenment. In my defense, the classes I was taking early on were led by teachers who pretty much followed that route— get the class sweaty, then tell them to lie down for a few minutes at the very end.
As a yoga teacher and now a student whose practice has changed and shifted countless times over the years, Savasana has become something I look forward to whether I’m leading the class or taking it. Savasana to me is the most sacred piece of the puzzle. It seals the deal, it’s the part of class in which all of the work and energy we’ve put in can now culminate into a sense of buoyant, floating surrender. Without this final pose, we would leave feeling unmoored and drifting.
Creating a restful end to a yoga class is now such a pivotal part of my teaching that I’ve put together a few tips to making Savasana more sacred. I hope they serve you and your students well.
1. SET THE STAGE
If your students don’t know what’s going on, they’re more likely to let their minds wander about how weird it is to be lying on the ground or they may begin reciting their to-do lists, now that they have a “moment to think”. But Savasana is not a moment to think, to analyze or to conjure up lists. By making it well-known as the class nears to the end that this final pose is all about rest and recovery, that props can and should be used to make your students feel more comfortable, and that it’s important to ground their energy before rolling up their mats and heading out the door, we can groom even the newest of students into yogis who look forward to restoration.
Try this: Treat Savasana, not as an after-thought, but as the peak pose of your class. Set aside at least 5-7 minutes for this pose (I often save 10). Teach and speak in a way that moves the students toward recovery and peace as the class comes to an end. For example, during the last few reclined twists or happy baby poses in class, you might say “as we prepare for Savasana— our chance to let go and rest— begin to slow your breathing down, relax your shoulders, and soften the space between and around your eyes.” Then, as your students settle into Savasana, you might drive this home with something like “set yourself up in a shape that you can relax in for the next few minutes, maybe covering up with a blanket, or supporting the thighs on blocks.” However you choose to phrase it, make it clear that this is an important part of the class and that those who leave early are missing out on the benefits.
2. MAKE IT SAFE
If Savasana is about letting go and surrendering, then it makes sense that the space should feel safe to do so. Loud sounds, folks walking around, open windows with car horns blaring or people yelling outside— these can all distract or startle the students. One time, I was in a deep Savasana and the teacher had the doors open to let in a nice breeze. It was heavenly… until the wind caught one of the un-propped doors and slammed it closed with a loud bang, shattering the window. Yikes! Not only was this an oversight on the teacher/studio but it was very dangerous. Try going back to that studio and relaxing, ever again. Work to create a safe place for your students to relax and let go with both the mood/tone of your voice, and the physical environment in which you’re practicing.
Try this: Make it known that Savasana is sacred, that your studio lobby is a quiet space while a class is going on, that phones should be silenced or turned off (not just placed on vibrate) and do your best to keep outside noise from causing a distraction. This might mean securely propping open a door to keep it from slamming, or maybe opening the windows on the side of the room that don’t face the street to avoid car alarms and traffic from startling the stillness.
Often, students need a little bit of guidance in letting go. They also appreciate the wisdom of the teacher in aiding this process. There are lots of methods to facilitate connection, both with the group and individually at the very end of a class, that keep you and the students from feeling as though you’ve just left them out to dry. Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide what is within your comfort zone.
- Reading. Some teachers like to read quotes, passages, or their own material as students either enter Savasana, or just before pulling them out of Savasana.
- Massage. This is my favorite! I walk around and give gentle circular pressure on my students’ shoulders or the soles of their feet. Be careful though— some folks don’t like to be touched, are ticklish, or even have sore/tender spots. I once tried to massage a student’s foot and didn’t notice her bandaid on her toe, covering a cut she had. She let out a sharp scream and a few curse words, I apologized and blushed, then quickly retreated back to my cushion and hung my head. These things happen. Just be more aware. It’s a good practice to ask students as they enter class if they have injuries or don’t want to touched, massaged, or adjusted.
- Incense and candles. This is a great way to bring a warm ambience into the room. Be aware that some folks don’t enjoy fragrances. A way around this is to burn the incense very briefly as they settle into rest, then blow it out before it becomes too strong.
- Speaking. Speaking from the heart is very powerful, especially after a vigorous class when students are their most open. Feel free to speak about whatever you’d like to share. I would caution against going too personal, though. I’ve attended plenty of classes in which the teacher deemed it appropriate to discuss things like their relationships. I remember one time lying there, thinking “wrap up it up! No one cares that your boyfriend didn’t do the dishes! This is our time, not your therapy session”. Then I felt like an asshole for judging her in my head and that started this whole other emotional spiral. Then I was mad at her for making me feel bad. Then I realized it was all ‘my stuff’. Then Savasana was over. Oh, joy.
- Playing an instrument. A few times, I have attended classes in which the teacher or their friend played an instrument or sang during Savasana. This is a beautiful way of connecting and sharing your gift.
- Guided relaxation. Another one of my favorites! Slowly and quietly guide your students into relaxation by giving them a visual of a peaceful setting, or by naming off one-by-one the bits and pieces of the body from head to toe, asking them to relax those parts.
4. GIVE THEM SILENCE
Resist the urge to talk, read, or play an instrument during the entire Savasana. Your words might be silver, but silence is golden. Give them a chance to sit with themselves, quietly. This facilitates rest and surrender as some students are active listeners and they will cling to and analyze every word you’re saying while they should be relaxing.
Try this: If you do decide to read, play an instrument, or speak, do so as the class is settling into Savasana. Then, allow at least a minute or two without any talking before you bring them back out of it. It’s okay to play soft, calming music during the entire Savasana and this can often even help students to unwind. But use caution with playing songs that have lots of lyrics as they may be annoying, offensive, or otherwise distracting. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: Would I like listening to this if I were paying to get a massage? If the response is “no, it’s way too busy”… then you have your answer.
5. USE PROPS
Savasana is traditionally taken lying flat on the back, but this can be uncomfortable for some folks. I usually say “take a restful position” and then throw out a few examples: legs up the wall, supta baddhakonasana (reclined cobbler’s pose), padding with a blanket, lying on the belly, or placing a bolster under the legs.
If your students aren’t yet familiar with the shapes listed above, try demonstrating a few of the options and then letting them choose which is the most comfortable for them. Not all Savasanas look the same since we all have various body types, injuries, and tight/sore spots.
BRINGING IT HOME
There are lots of ways to make Savasana a more restful and enjoyable experience for your students, even those that are brand new to the practice or that have a hard time sitting still or relaxing. Remember that this final period of class is vital and it’s a way to absorb the benefits of the practice and ground the energy before sending our students back out into the real world. Use it wisely, and make it sacred. They’ll thank you for it.