When one things of yoga, one might think in terms of stretching, pulling, moving, bending, twisting and possibly turning inside-out. Well, yes, these are many attributes of a beautiful practice, but today my discovery was that the actual power of yoga... or grace of the practice... lies (literally) in the Shavasana (the Corpse Pose). There is lots of beautiful work to be done in throughout the session of yoga, but when it comes to returning the body to a blissful state of relaxation, the end justifies the means absolutely.
When we move into stretches our nervous system moves into a Sympathetic reaction (fight or flight), meaning that it’s ready for action. Not that yoga should be done in a fight or flight motif, but when standing in on one leg and balancing with your hand stretched out in front of you and your leg is pointing in the opposite direction... your body is actually under a wee bit of stress and it’s response is to engage the body parts that will make sure that you don’t fall. OR, if you do, to fall with ease or give a command to put your hands out or put your leg down, or reach out for the other leg in front of you for stability. And when this happens your body reacts... endorphin's, chemical reactions, sweating might occur, heart rate increases and your blood moves out to the extremities. The tiger comes out and you, the zebra, is on high alert... either run or be eaten... running is really so much more fun... and living for another day. Well, and that’s pretty awesome as well!!
Our bodies are designed to not remain in this flux, how ever, and thus, we only stay in these poses for a short time. Just enough to feel a stretch and focus on balance and harmony. Unlike in our day to day jobs or life... we are constantly in a “fight or flight” mode and our nervous systems are CONSTANTLY over-worked and on guard. This is why many people are becoming stressed, finding the end of their rope very quickly and having tempers, mood swings, fatigue, and the list goes on for days and days. So, a the end of a yoga practice there is a cool-down phase... something that allows your body to move back into a Parasympathetic reaction or rhythm. This is where the heart rate goes down, blood rushes into the digestive system and internal organs, body cools down, and general healing takes place for many of the tissues in the body.
This can be a time where the body experiences wild and erratic emotions as well. It is a time of closer and opening and closer and opening. Many people are so engaged with their day that they have no idea that they are doing what they need to do to get back to normal flows in life. Enter the Corpse Pose... lying on your back, knees flat on the floor or over a bolster, feet to the corners of the mat, arms out to side at 45 degrees and then inhale and breath. Eyes are closed and body sinks closer into the ground beneath it. There is some guided closer stories and a quite time to just let your body hang out. THIS is the time where the magic happens. Your body comes back to it’s ‘true’ reality, or state of being.
So the next time you think that you don’t have time to take a break a the end of a yoga practice and you have to run out the door before everyone else... think again. You paid for the course... why not get the full benefit out of it? And relaxing IS a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE benefit. Let your breath take care of you and let the work take care of itself for a few minutes... you owe it to YOU.
The tiger comes out and you, the zebra, is on high alert... either run or be eaten... running is really so much more fun... and living for another day. ... well, that’s pretty awesome as well!