Rest for the Weary

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – if you practice only one yoga pose each day, it should be Savasana (relaxation)! There are many modalities for exercise around us. Plenty of fitness programs incorporate stretching. You can even find several programs that focus on improving body alignment.

But, where else in your world do you learn and practice deep relaxation? I’m not talking about the kind of relaxation where you snuggle up with a good book, hunker down with a big bowl of popcorn and a movie or even sleep.

I’m talking about the formal practice of doing nothing at all. I’m talking about a rest that you remain awake to observe. I’m talking about making the choice to abide in stillness, and then watching what happens.

This type of relaxation is a learned skill (one I’m already teaching my two-year old as pictured above). It doesn’t always come easily for me. There are days when I have to reaffirm my choice to relax 40 – 60 times during my practice.

People often tell me that Savasana stresses them out. They say they feel agitated when they are laying there. With love and empathy I say, relaxation itself doesn’t agitate you – it reveals the anxiety and tension that you are normally able to ignore.

Thankfully, if you stick with it, Savasana is actually a wonderful salve for agitation! When you start to feel tense, take a deep breath and bring your awareness to your body. Start at the top of your head and slowly relax each muscle as you move down to your toes.

The Set-Up

Set yourself up for success by using props that encourage your body to surrender to relaxation. Here is my favorite Savasana set-up.

Here’s what you need:

  • Yoga mat
  • 1 bolster
  • 1 eye bag
  • 5 blankets in the traditional fold (Judith Lasater calls this “Tadasana” for the blanket) as pictured here:

Slightly unfold one of the blankets, leaving it stair-stacked, as pictured below. Place it at the top of your mat.

Roll one folded blanket on its long edge, as pictured below. Place it at the bottom of your mat.

Fold two blankets nearly in half, leaving them stair-stacked, as pictured below. Place one on each side of your mat.

Place the last blanket, the bolster and the eye bag beside your mat.

Lay down so the bottom edge of the top blanket comes under your shoulders. Roll the sides of the top layer under to support your head.

 

Slide the bolster under your knees. The long blanket roll should support the back of the ankle, so the heels do not touch the floor.

Tuck your hands into the blankets at your sides. The wrists should be supported by the bottom layer. Tuck the hands into the top layer. (I folded over the top layer of blanket in this picture to show the hand placement.)

Cover up with the extra blanket. Place the eye bag over your eyes.

Then, choose to surrender. Surrender all holding, all tension, all doing. Choose to surrender over and over again for the next 20 minutes. Enjoy!

P.S. This post is part of a series on the basics of many of the most common poses. Look here for additional posts in this series.

P.P.S. My husband repalced his afternoon coffee break with a Savasana break instead. See his playful approach to the practice here.

Can you give yourself permission to choose rest? How wonderful is it to do nothing?! Can you imagine what the world would look like if everyone did nothing for 20 minutes a day?

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What do you think?

  1. [...] you have time for only one yoga pose a day, practice Savasana. But, if you can squeeze one more in, you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck with Adho Mukha [...]

    by Slowing Down the Dog
    on October 11, 2011 at 3:38 pm

  2. #1. How did you get AE to do this? Was she naturally curious because she saw you doing it and wanted to try? My guy is not much of an imitator but I would love if he and I could do this together!
    #2. What do you do to keep AE occupied while you do your yoga?
    I’ve been sick lately (3weeks now) with a crazy fever virus but prior to that I was trying to become more purposefully active which included a yoga DVD. I feel like I need to take more time for the poses than the DVD allows and after reading a few of your posts, I’m thinking that I may want to just simplify even further and work on just a couple of poses.
    Is it absolutely necessary to have all those props?

    by Marie
    on October 11, 2011 at 7:58 pm

  3. Great questions, Marie!  AE does see both of her parents doing it often, and she is quite curious, so that helps. I keep a basket of props on the floor so it’s accessible. And, she has her own yoga mat. 

    But, specifically related to the relaxation, I talk to her about it anytime she is naturally slowing down. It’s important to catch her while she’s awake, but mellow. I massage her shoulders, hands and feet while saying “relax your shoulders, etc.” I make audible sighs (big exhales) that she copies. We make the sound of a snake (which lengthens the exhale). Then, when it’s time to slow down but she’s revved up, I use those markers we created to “cue” her relaxation response. And, I keep my expectations realistic. It won’t always work. Success is 5 minutes of relaxation for her. I do my own 20-30 min daily Savasana while she naps. 

    As for my active practice, I include her as much as possible, but she wanders off to play with the toys that surround us. I have stepped on many a Lego during my practice – not fun! She is often climbing on me while I practice. I try to breathe and embrace my imperfect practice. :)

    I’m sorry you’ve been so sick. I love your idea about just working on a few poses. You may have noticed that all of the poses of a traditional sun salutation are already included in the series. But, I separated them out to emphasize that 2 slow sun salutes with careful attention to alignment are better (IMHO) than 10 rushed ones. More poses are coming in the series, too. Ask me anything about the poses. I’m happy to help!

    And finally, as for props. They are helpful, but improvise. Couch cushions make good bolsters. You can use the firmest blankets you have around. Pillows. A clean sock placed over the eyes can even substitute for an eye bag.  

    Hope this helps!

    by Jennifer Hoffman
    on October 11, 2011 at 10:23 pm

  4. [...] most important thing I could do with the quiet time that evening was absolutely nothing (aka – Savasana). And, it was absolutely wonderful – exactly what I [...]

    by My Relationship With the Truth
    on October 12, 2011 at 8:11 am

  5. [...] Savasana (relaxation pose) [...]

    by Back to Basics Series Links
    on October 12, 2011 at 6:25 pm

  6. I love this pose!

    by Andrea @ The Greenbacks Gal
    on October 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm

  7. [...] practicing Savasana the other day, I had the idea. Can I start a new meme? How wonderful would the world be if the idea [...]

    by Relaxation Meme
    on October 18, 2011 at 8:09 pm

  8. [...] them to settle down by first settling down ourselves and then calmly inviting them to join us. Relaxation is a learned skill. And, we have to practice it ourselves before we can teach it to [...]

    by Inspiring Calm…Teaching Yoga Relaxation to Our Kids
    on November 28, 2011 at 9:16 am

  9. [...] I am a huge advocate of sneaking in a yoga pose at your desk at work. I’ve been known to discreetly practice a tree pose in line at the grocery store. And, I whole-heartily believe that if you only have time to practice one yoga pose a day, it should be Savasana. [...]

    by Yoga for a Healthy Heart
    on January 18, 2012 at 4:30 pm

  10. [...] a wonderful thing, and I believe the world would be a better place if everyone at least practiced Savasana (relaxation) every day. But, I also know that small changes are powerful. If you can’t have the perfect [...]

    by An Imperfect Yoga Practice in an Imperfect World
    on May 31, 2012 at 8:52 am

  11. [...] If you’ve spent much time around here, you know my yoga mat is usually surrounded by a handful of props. Sometimes I reach for props to make a challenging pose more accessible. Other times, I use a prop to more deeply explore a yoga pose. And, I regularly use them to facilitate the process of relaxation. [...]

    by Give Me Some Props – A Giveaway & Discount!
    on September 11, 2012 at 12:24 am

  12. [...] yoga mat is the perfect place to tend that ground. The practice of restorative yoga and deep relaxation provide a unique opportunity to grow joy-producing thoughts. If I am going to have a joyous Holiday [...]

    by Let Joy Arise
    on November 12, 2012 at 11:31 am

  13. [...] my yoga mat, Savasana, or relaxation, is the ultimate practice of softness. To aid in my ability to surrender and [...]

    by My Pursuit of Softness
    on February 20, 2013 at 7:03 am

  14. [...] The single most effective way I know to replenish my often frazzled nerves, to respond to the lack of control I actually have, to heal from and process life’s hurts and pains and to gain clarity when overwhelm threatens, is to practice a rest that I remain awake to observe. In yoga, we call this Savasana. [...]

    by The Habit of Intentional Rest
    on May 31, 2013 at 11:16 am

  15. [...] pose basics – relaxation meme – teaching Savasana to kids – for heart health – an afternoon Savasana break – a [...]

    by Savasana (Relaxation)
    on June 23, 2013 at 5:23 pm