My Mother was in her late 60’s when I first introduced her to yoga. We would stretch together and laugh as our stiff bodies did not seem to bend the way they were supposed to. When I began teaching, Mom came to my class. During the opening meditation I asked the students to check inside and see what yoga pose their bodies would like to do that day. Going around the room each student expressed what poses their bodies needed. One student said she would like to do Forward Fold for the tightness in her back, another said Fish Pose to open her heart. When it came around to my Mom she said “ I like that “Courvoisier” Pose!” Well the whole class had a hearty laugh thinking, perhaps, my mother enjoyed a little nip now and then, but we all knew she meant to say Savasana or Corpse Pose. Well, as it turns out, Mother was right. More and more studies are showing that a 15 minute daily Savasana practice not only calms the mind and gives your body a rest, but can help with mild depression, headaches, fatigue and insomnia. It can also lower blood pressure.
Savasana is pretty easy to do. You lie flat on your back with your feet splayed apart, your arms by your sides with your palms facing upward. You can tuck your chin into the chest or add a blanket under your head to release the back of your neck. Close your eyes, relax and breathe. If your back is uncomfortable lying flat you can roll a second blanket and place it under your knees. You can even get more comfy by covering up to stay warm and placing an scented eye pillow over you eyes. Breathe deep into the diaphragm and allow your attention to go inward and watch the rise and the fall of your breath. That’s all there is to it. And it can really be a challenge. Mostly to let go of the idea that you have to do something to get any benefit. After 10 minutes or so your mind will begin to calm and you will enter a state of deep relaxation.
When we relax deeply the parasympathetic nervous system begins to engage. This is the system that allows the body to rest and digest. This can be more healing than sleep, as dreams sometimes stimulate the sympathetic system of fright and flight.
You may even lose weight with daily practice. Stress increases the amount of the hormone cortisol that the body produces. High levels of cortisol can stimulate eating and these extra calories are converted to fat. If this fat is stored around the abdomen it can create insulin resistance and can lead to diabetes and heart disease.
My Mom lived to be 89. We practiced yoga together over the years and I have fond memories of the two of us side by side in Savasana. It remained her favorite pose and it has become mine as well. Here’s to you, Mom!
by Sue Anne Parsons