Savasana aka corpse pose, final relaxation, or just “take rest” as Pattabhi Jois used to say, is usually practiced at the end of a yoga session. Lie on your back. Let your legs separate slightly and roll out. Keep your arms along your body with the palms facing up. Allow the floor to support your weight fully. Let the breath be natural. A nice little exercise to do for a few minutes is to watch your belly rise and fall as you breathe in and out; even to use the words as a mantra, “rise, fall, rise, fall…..” or whatever words work for you. Then let go of all that too.
Savasana was never really the focus or end goal of my practice. I definitely enjoyed being in it. Over time, after an hour and a half, sometimes longer of a full-on ashtanga session I certainly realised the need for it. With some guidance from experienced teachers, the deep, grounding calm from being fully in it became a necessary conclusion to a practice. As Paul Dallaghan, my principle teacher often says, his day is different, more agitated if for some reason savasana was rushed. I didn’t mind skipping a pose or two to have time for a long relaxation, the kind that allows the heart rate to slow down, the sweat to dry, the muscles to relax, and any nervous tension to settle. The stillness was rejuvenating.
Then during the first trimester of my twin pregnancy in 40C Indian heat, things changed a bit. My intense morning sickness meant that I only made it on my mat in the evenings once the sun had gone down. Fatigue rendered short and simple sessions. Savasanas had become fifteen minute to half an hour naps! The second and what lasted of the third trimester I spent in bed rest; so lots of savasana! I continued with a simple pranayama practice while lying down. This was great to ease sleepless nights. Again the savasana after that turned into much needed sleep.
I gave birth at seven months gestation after spending a few weeks in hospital hooked up to an IV. The medication was supposed to control the contractions. After the emergency delivery Leila and Rahul were whisked away to the NICU before I even got to see them. They were tiny and needed support from machines to live. That’s when the stress and adrenaline in my system kicked in, and it had to in order for me to get through the next few months. It was necessary for me to spring back into the busy Hong Kong world of traffic, lights, sounds, long days at the NICU filled with schedules, spreadsheets, worry, fear, good days, bad days; nights expressing milk, washing. labeling, freezing many milk bottles. This was day in and out for six weeks. Savasana? No way.
I honestly don’t remember when I started my practice again; ashtanga lite of course. I think it was after both L and R came home. It was also the six-week safe marker to begin practice again after giving birth. With two babies to take care of practice happened once, maybe twice a week, mainly when Maher was in HK over the weekend and he managed to convince me to take the time for myself. A session was about half an hour-long, and if there was a savasana it was either a one minute forced and agitated experience, or a ten minute nap. Many times the practice was a ten minute “savasana” on the mat! This was only possible because I had my mum and mother-in-law helping out with R and L.
I finally understood what it was like for many of my students who dreaded, even feared savasana, the ones who twitched nervously and those who just rolled up their mats and left. When the babies were eleven months old, by which time we had already moved back to Chengdu, and there was no more real impending health worry, the four of us and a group of friends went to Koh Samui for a week-long holiday. I took a couple of classes at Yoga Thailand. The first morning I arrived late. I felt like everyone in the room could feel my nervous energy and hear my minds voices racing through whether Maher was able to handle the two crawling all over the hotel room on his own, whether they needed diaper changes, whether I had washed and sterilized enough milk bottles. How was he going to get them both to sleep? And what about him? When is he going to be able to eat, drink, run, or practice, and have a minute?” It’s not easy to handle the two babies at the same time. It was not about leaving the babies in someone elses care because I did that since they were born. This was supposed to be my time to relax and be “free” of that for a couple of hours. Everyone around me had been in retreat for more than a week already. They were calm, focused, in the moment. In this quiet space, my inner voices were screaming. If I was walking through the bustling streets of HK no one would even notice these inner jumpings of my mind.
I walked out of savasana. “The babies needed to nap. If they didn’t sleep they would be cranky all day.” I never walked out of a studio during savasana in my life, not in Beirut, Paris, Singapore, Shanghai….I did at YT. Was I out of my mind? Man was I glad Paul wasn’t there! When I rushed back to the room, L and R were sleeping in their cribs, Maher was practicing and listening to classical Indian music.
4 months later over Chinese New Year we went back in Koh Samui. This time I was generally more in control of my situation. L and R were already a year and two months old. I was confident that together we could handle the two babies on our own and Maher is one of few people who can singlehandedly take care of the two. One morning we went to Spa Samui for breakfast. There was the usual morning yoga class in the outdoor shala for their guests who are doing a detox/ fast. I was only walking past the class, but I felt my body tense up. My pace quickened. The thought of having to listen to a teacher calmly, and then actually follow through with the instructions scared me. I wanted to run. By extension, there was no way I could be teaching a class in such a state. Self practice is different entirely, especially if it is in my living room and I can go in and out of it as the need arises.
Other than that little episode it was a wonderful, much needed holiday, Back in Chengdu, I managed to let go a little. The stress of taking care of the children eased. More often than before, my head was above water. Around that time I read The world needs savasana, an article by a teacher at YT, Elonne Stockton. It made sense, and helped steer me back on track savasana wise. Things slowly seemed to be falling into place again. My 5 days a week practice has become a slightly more intensive version of ashtanga lite. Teaching will come when the time is right. Savasana is happening again. Something clicked and it’s wonderful. Other than me feeling more balanced after a good savasana, modeling this simple way of taking time out to relax and regroup to R and L is invaluable.