Is It Shavasana Yet?
The Joy of Mindful Repose
Every yoga class I take ends with Shavasana, which is also known as the Corpse Pose. When I was new to yoga practice, I was mystified when instructors told me to lie down on my back, extend each foot to a corner of the mat, and stretch my arms out to the side with palms facing up.
“I came to a fitness class just to lie down?” my inner judge would ask. This Corpse thing was so different from the fitness classes I took and taught in my younger years. Sure, we used to end an aerobics class with a “cool down” but it was all so darned purposeful in those days.
There is a purpose to Shavasana, too, but it is very easy to mistake it as nap time. It’s not. I am mystified when fellow students choose to leave before Shavasana. Why would someone want to forego this blessed, sanctioned rest? How often are we given permission to slow down and be still in a state of wakeful repose? How often do we give ourselves permission to chill so thoroughly unless we are crawling into bed?
It is the segment of class that I look forward to the most. (And quite often, it seems too short!)
Many say that Shavasana is the most important pose of a yoga practice because it provides an opportunity to relax body, mind and spirit. I’ve come to appreciate it as a time to consolidate and integrate the work I’ve just put my body through, while staying awake and mindful of the present moment.
“To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and to perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand
what we have already been given.”
~ David Whyte, Consolations
Wouldn’t it be awesome if kids could end their school day with Shavasana? Or if adults could wind down from work with a Corpse Pose before they race off to cocktails, grocery shopping or making dinner? What would happen if we took the time to consolidate and integrate what has transpired on any given day whether we are in a yoga class or not?
I’m growing more and more fond of the proverbial pause button. After a time of deep, reflective rest, there is often more energy for the “next thing.” There will always be a next thing, but with a bit of Shavasana, we might feel more joy in tackling it.
So that is why I ask, “is it Shavasana yet?” It’s not that I don’t believe in naps. In a perfect world, perhaps we get to do both.
Comments on this blog post are welcome — see the bottom of this page.
Prompts For Joy
Click here if you are searching for music to listen to during Shavasana.
Click here to be blown away by a colorful chameleon. (Thanks, Claudette Bergman!).
Close-up detail of Alphonse Mucha’s 1898 painting, Iris. I had the privilege of seeing this and many other of Mucha's paintings during a recent trip to Prague.
My article, “I’m Not Contagious,” which includes the poem, "Aftermath" by Madeline Sharples, is about feeling invisible while mourning. This article can now be found at my website (Welcome>Writing>Articles), or by clicking here.
“I'm Not Contagious”" originally appeared in The Compassionate Friends’ We Need Not Walk Alone, and was reprinted in The Therapist, and elsewhere online.