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I remember the first time I practiced Savasana at the end of a yoga class led by a teacher. I wasn’t expecting it as I thought it was just something specific to my yoga video (ask your parents, kids). I’d just come out of Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and was counter-posing when the teacher said we could make our way into relaxation whenever we were ready. I looked around and people were putting on their socks and comfy jumpers, some of the participants even had blankets! All I had was my cardigan so draped it over myself and laid, as instructed, like a starfish on my mat. The incense was still burning, the candles were lit and the lights dimmed. Ahhhhh, bliss! I felt safe, nurtured, cocooned and most of all, relaxed! How was that possible when I was in a room full of people who I didn’t even know?!
Savasana fast became my favourite part of the practice and the lingering smell of incense in my hair and on my cardi helped me to get back to that state of pure bliss in between classes.
But, after a while, I started to become too familiar with the practice of relaxation at the end of the class and instead of being in a state of peace, my mind started to wander- I’d started to take my Savasana for granted. It was like the novelty had worn off for me. As soon as my head hit the mat I would think: what am I going to eat for dinner? Did I respond to that Email? Where is my life going?!
Coming out of Savasana I realised that I’d cooled down, my breath had softened and I felt kind of relaxed. But had it really worked? Had my chattering mind hindered my experience of relaxation? The answer is, no. I had still experienced all of the physical benefits of the practice: my body had become still, rested and cool and I had connected with the Earth by lying down on it. My stress levels had lowered as, even though I was thinking, I wasn’t getting stressed about my thoughts as I knew they were just thoughts the same way as sometimes when you’re dreaming, you’re aware that you’re sleeping.
Each time a thought came into my mind I let it go. It took me a little time but after a while I’d catch myself thinking and rather than getting caught up in that thought I would just observe it. Observing a thought isn’t the same as thinking it. It’s like watching someone else think, and you wouldn’t get stressed about someone else’s thoughts, would you? So because I wasn’t stressing out about the thoughts in my head my parasympathetic still managed to kick in along with my rest and digest and so on.
So, is it ok to think in Savasana?
If you’re skipping from one thought to the next and just literally lying down lost in the busy thoughts of your chattering mind then the only benefit you’ve experienced is cooling down from the physical practice. Your muscles probably haven’t had a chance to relax as, if you became stressed by your thoughts you can bet your bottom dollar you were tensing up and if you were tensing up, your adrenalin would have been having a party that your parasympathetic wasn’t invited to.
This isn’t beneficial, as all of the energy that you’ve worked to stimulate in the asanas would have been used up by following the path of your thoughts, which can be exhausting. If this sounds like you don’t worry. Definitely don’t create more stress by trying really hard not to think during Savasana.
Just acknowledge your thoughts and observe them instead of following them. If it helps, try letting your thoughts form into an image and see yourself looking at that vision. This way you can isolate yourself from the thought and avoid using up energy by being part of it, therefore you prevent yourself becoming stressed about its content. Realising that the mind is separate from thought is the practice of being mindful. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have to think but it allows you to not always be so thoughtful. Looking up the definitions of both mindful and thoughtful really helped me to grasp this concept so it might help you too.
So, the next time you’re in Savasana and that sense of failure floods over you as you realise you’ve spent the last few breaths lost in thought, congratulate yourself as you have just separated yourself from that thought long enough to realise you were thinking it in the first place.