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The challenge of Savasana and the benefits of corpse pose

The challenge of Savasana and the benefits of corpse pose - Goodyoga

Savasana, or as some of my students like to call it, La Siesta, is more than just taking a nap at the end of class – though the occasional snore heard around the Yoga Hall may argue to the contrary.

To the outside observer, it is true that Savasana appears to be an easy pose, or maybe not a pose at all. However, let me clarify, Savasana, when practiced correctly, can be one of the most challenging of postures and one of the most rewarding with great mental and physical benefits.
The point of Yoga is to still the mind in order to know the what some people call the spirit, others call the soul or just the observer. When the chaos of the mind becomes silent we are able to hear and come into tune with who we really are and what we really desire. Imagine your mind like a lake full of ripples. Imagine those ripples disappearing, one by one. Note how clearly you can see to the bottom of a lake once those ripples subside. The same principal applies to the mind.
The calming of these ripples is what each asana and round of pranayama practiced in Yoga prepares both the mind and body for. All that movement, focus and breathing is preparation for a state of silence both inside and outside. The final posture of Savasana is the blissful reward for that preparation; however, if we do not pay attention, the reward can become squandered and lost.
This is why I say Savasana is the most challenging of postures. Yes, even more challenging than perfecting Uttitha Trikonasana, a posture B.K.S Iyenger is quoted as saying can take up to 10 years to accomplish. This of course means perfecting the more challenging posture of Savasana is a lifelong pursuit.
While in Savasana one should try to let go of the mind while remaining alert. This takes time and lots of practice and this is the detail that is all too often forgotten. Those 15- 30 minutes at the end of each Yoga class gives us precious moments of reflection and peace that in our everyday lives most of us don’t normally get. Consequently, not only can new realizations come forth from this posture, a wonderful sense of peace and wholeness can also be experienced.
So the question is- How do you perfect a posture that can only be corrected by your internal guru, yourself? My advice is the following, though I encourage trying out different techniques if you do not find this one useful.
The first trick is to pay attention. Listen carefully to the guided meditation. Allow yourself to feel each body part relax as your teacher guides you into a deeper and more relaxed state.
Pay attention to how your body changes in weight, in temperature and let the breath go to wherever tension resides. Let it go with each exhale. If thoughts begin to creep in (and they will) let them come and go. Watch them like a movie. You are the spectator during this posture. Don’t get angry or annoyed with the thoughts. And don’t get sucked into them. Watch and pay attention to how these thoughts, can change the tension in your body. Be curious about it, but don’t get upset with yourself for letting them creep in. They just want to know that they are still important. Let me them know that they are and you’ll get back to them…later. Resisting thoughts will only bring them in stronger. Listen to your breath. Feel it. Watch it. Focusing on the breath will help you exponentially to step outside of your head and into your body and as you do this, feel how you come into contact with something more than your mind, perhaps your soul?, and how this conscious relaxation and calm awareness carries you forward into then finally into the blissful peace of meditation.

Happy Savasana!

The challenge of Savasana and the benefits of corpse pose - Goodyoga

Be Your Own Expert

The other day I was approached by a new student of mine who asked the following:

I have gone to different Yoga classes and sometimes I hear one thing from one teacher and another from a different teacher. With conflicting information, how am I to know which one to follow?

I smiled and told her that was a great and incredibly important question. The answer is that you should listen to all of them, but you shouldn´t follow any of them.

Let me clarify. You should only listen to those that YOU feel in tune with. Yoga is about YOBe Your Own Expert - GoodyogaU becoming your own Expert. Yoga is not about following someone else’s idea of perfection nor is it about creating factions and divides based upon one guru’s teachings or another’s. The beauty of Hatha Yoga is that it is trying to teach and get each individual to recognize what their soul, through the medium of their body and breath, is trying to manifest.

Finding a good Yoga teacher is extremely important as you pursue the art of Yoga, but your teacher is not God. God (Shakti, the Universe the great I AM…etc) is essentially within you and you should be listening to whatever that voice, that pain, that emotion, is telling you.  Any good yoga teacher should know this and teach this principle.
If you want someone telling you what to do, go to a doctor. If you want to be autonomous and responsible for your own well-being and health, listen to yourself. Follow a practice that encourages this relationship with yourself. This does not mean that you can’t seek advice and guidance from other ‘experts’ but at the end of day, the only ‘expert’ advice that really matters is your own.

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The Yin and Yang of Stress

The Yin and Yang of Stress - GoodyogaThe glands of the body work in much the same way that the muscles in the body work. When you stretch and contract your muscles you get movement. The movement of stretching or contracting is neither good nor bad, it is just how the body works to get you to move. Issues arise when a muscle has been overstretched or held in contraction for too long. When this occurs there is discomfort and pain. Such is the way with the muscular system and such is the way with the endocrine system.

To simplify things, the endocrine system is in large part what dictates your body’s reaction to stress. It is composed of two basic opposing forces that work together to regulate the secretion of hormones, bodily fluids, alertness and the uptake of nutrients. These are the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems. The yin and the yang of your stress response.

The parasympathetic system works to bring the heart rate down whereas the sympathetic system is in charge of taking care of your ‘fight or flight’ responses. Both are equally important to the correct functioning of the body, but what usually occurs  in our modern world is that we keep our ‘fight or flight’ response on all the time, thus overexerting our sympathetic system and creating unnecessary and harmful levels of neurotransmitters  that inhibit the calming effect of the parasympathetic system. Bringing down the levels of these sympathetic neurotransmitters that are being distributed throughout the body and causing damage can be reversed by activating the parasympathetic system.

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A Note on Breath

A Note on Breath - GoodyogaWhen I first started practicing Yoga I could not have cared less about the Breath. For me, all I wanted to do was get my leg and knee back into working order so I could start jogging again. At that moment in time, talking about Breath was unimportant and perhaps even a bit dull and tedious.
But I was so very, very wrong.
Everything revolves around breath. Without breath, you die. There is no other way around it. The first moment of autonomous life is an inhale and the last moment of life is an exhale. Furthermore, what we now call our diaphragm, in utero, was once a part of the heart. The health of your heart and the movement of your breath are intricately connected. They cannot be separated.
Your heart and breath are integrated just as much as your mental health and breath are connected.  Breathing from the chest is a warning signal to the brain. When an animal is threatened (which you are an animal) breath moves from deep slow complete belly breaths into shallow quick paced chest breathing.  Breathing from the belly and slowing down its rhythm is a signal to relax. When the body is relaxed it is able to heal and the mind is able to revert its energies into more creative forms of thinking rather than being stuck in fight or flight mode.

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