Namaste Miami: How to Play Dead in Yoga

It sounds so easy when yoga teachers tell you to relax into Savasana, or corpse, the final resting pose that can stretch five to fifteen minutes. Physically, it is: You lie on your back, eyes closed and palms up with your arms and legs slightly spread and feet falling apart.

Basically, it feels like doing nothing.

Perhaps that’s why it can be so freaking hard.

Teachers tell you to imagine the body melting into the ground, calm the mind or look into the third eye, which is problematic if you only believe you have two. Instead things like -- Maybe I’ll finish in time for The Office or Is it weird to eat popcorn and cheese for dinner? or [Insert work/relationship problem here] -- popped into my mind. I sneezed. My nose itched. I swayed my feet to the chants that were supposed to be filling me up with peace. It took me four years of practice to stop thinking – Are we done yet?

Teachers have suggested a few things that now work for me. One said to imagine a clock behind the eyelids and tick through the numbers with your eyes. Another suggested visualizing a color, which can lead the mind elsewhere. Think green and – poof! – you’re in a forest. Or, rhythmically tap your index finger and thumb.

Dona Piza, owner of Prana Yoga in Coral Gables, says it’s all about the breath. If the breathing is erratic in Savasana, the mind will follow because breath controls the thoughts, she says. She recommends inhaling for four and exhaling for four. Another suggestion: tighten the muscles and release them before mentally checking the body.

Piza tells me Savasana is among the few ancient postures still practiced today. “Savasana is the most important pose you can do,” she says. “It’s hard to quiet the mind but it really is important.” Savasana helps relieve high blood pressure, ulcers, psychosomatic diseases and buried stress, she says. It’s not uncommon for teachers to notice students crying during the pose as they deal with whatever is coming up internally.

And the beauty of Savasana is that you don’t even have to do the hard stuff before it to reap the benefits, Piza say. Just lying regularly in the pose ten minutes can bring you peace. Sweet! And a whole lot cheaper than a therapist.

- Janine Zeitlin

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