The Space Between: Shavasana



ShavasanaOne element that distinguishes Hatha Yoga  from other physical disciplines is the practice of Shavasana, the corpse pose. My favorite part is that it starts as a physical experience and then can take me to spaces between thoughts and illusory identities.  It’s first role is to let the body completely rest after the posture practice.

Positioned laying down on the back allows all the supportive muscles of the body to release. You’ve probably felt this when you practice, more and more the longer you stay in the pose and the more calm you become. The body actually lengthens when these muscles release just like in a good nights sleep, giving that slowly melting feeling. Your arms should be spaced apart from your body with your palms up and the fingers allowed to gently curl into their natural resting position. The feet should be spaced apart wide enough that your legs can comfortably roll outwards. Now, just think beach chair and no worries and you got it. B.K.S. Iyengar called Shavasana the antidote for the stresses of modern civilization, but I think that is just until we learn to be more tuned with how we allow our nervous systems to react to external stimulation. Good yoga practice is a very real training of our circuits.

So, the body is relaxing. You’ve had a vigorous practice or maybe a soothingly sonorous instructor leading you to relax deeply.
Your heart beat is slowing down… the body cooling down… the breath slowing down…..And the breath is your doorway.
At first your breathing may still be deep from the demands of your practice but as you continue to relax it should become finer and gentler. Eventually, there should be a smoothness and softness to it that leaves the spine undisturbed and the nervous system quiet. As you go ever deeper into your relaxation you should begin to let your breath become thin and the exhales to fade into nothingness… leaving the breath suspended. Observe yourself in stillness.
Recognize the clarity in which you can feel things continue to move, such as your beating heart. Even while you feel a stillness in yourself you can feel a soft pulse in different parts of your body. This is the beginning of realizing self as being separate from form. This technique of holding the breath out, called bahya kumbhaka, triggers a mechanism that hinders the process of thought. It’s is one of the easiest ways to get into deep meditations in a very sort amount of time.

There are many rhythms, like the heart beat, constantly running inside of us. Many of them are much, much more subtle. They are in the mind. When we go deep in Shavasana or any proper meditation, our awareness is drawn inwards and can recognize them. They become immersed in the original intelligence of consciousness. You may have had, or heard of, experiences during Shavasana like lights or colors, fleeting and barely comprehensible thoughts, and other phenomenon I guess I would call energetic gear shifts. These signs indicate that a re-ordering in your rhythms is taking place that propels the evolution of your form(mind included)(actually, mind especially!) towards harboring greater consciousness.

Can you see it in the evolutionary history of our Universe that leads to us here today? While entering meditative states you can also suggest new structures and behaviors to your sub-conscious. See how you feel when you invoke the feeling of thankfulness each time you exhale. Once your energetic rhythms are “caught up” with consciousness you will only experience absolute and profoundly peaceful stillness. Shavasana should approach the feeling of being dead, funny as that sounds. You can simulate the experience described in many Yoga traditions or the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Bardo Thodol… existing between bodies, between forms, between dreams.

Sincerely yours,

George Anthony

About our Author

George AnthonyGeorge Anthony is a yoga teacher and modern mystic that travels the world training teachers, likes diving into self expanding experiences, and loves to share good energy with all people. He’s the director of Sajeeva Yoga School, musician, artist, novice acrobat, acroyogi, cook, handstand master, and philosopher. Join the vibes!