Dealing With Stressful Times

Anyone who has ever taken a yoga class will tell you that perhaps the most important as well as the most enjoyable posture is the final relaxation pose at the end of class which is known as Shavasana. Shavasana, which translates to "corpse pose" is a time when the body and mind quiet and the door to stillness, peace and inner healing is opened. The benefits of Shavasana are many including reduced stress, deep relaxation, balanced emotions, lower blood pressure, helpful for insomnia and leaves the practitioner feeling renewed and refreshed as if they have had a min-vacation for body and mind. And I would be remiss if I didn't say Shavasana just feels good! It is here - in this deep state of relaxation, where natural healing on all levels can occur.

"The stresses of modern civilization are a strain on the nerves for which Shavasana is the best antidote." BKS Iyengar in Light on Yoga.

To experience shavasana come onto your back - preferably on the floor but a firm bed can work as well. Your legs should be approximately hip width apart, allowing your feet to drop to the sides. Bring your arms to 45 o your body with the palms facing up and your head neck and spine into one line. Let your breath deepen and feel the support of the floor under you - releasing into it. Draw your consciousness deep inside. Remain here for ten to twenty minutes. To come out of the posture take a few deep breaths and then begin to wiggle your fingers and toes. Gently roll your head from side to side. Feel free to stretch your body in anyway that might feel good to you now. Then roll to your right side into a fetal position. Rest here for a moment. Then very slowly press up to a seated position with the help of your right and left hands. Sit for a moment with your eyes closed and then slowly open your eyes looking down at the floor. Before beginning shavasana, please read the rest of this article for helpful tips to enrich your experience.

The more relaxed your body is the quieter your mind can become. To deepen your experience of Shavasana, I have listed a few suggestions for deepening your comfort, quieting your mind and for addressing special challenges.

For deepening your comfort:

Eye Pillows: Placing an eye pillow over your eyes is soothing, helps to relax the muscles around your eyes, and sends a strong message to your brain to relax. Eye pillows can also be placed on your forehead or into your hands, which gives a feeling of grounding and relaxation.

Blankets: Essentially anywhere your body touches the floor is a candidate for support and as a result will help you relax. You might wish to experiment with the following suggestions:

Arms: Place folded blankets under the length of your arms.

Back: Fold a blanket the length of your spine and place a second blanket horizontally across one end of the blanket making a letter "T". Sit a the edge of the vertical blanket so that when you lay back your sacrum (the bony part of your spine between your hips) is on the floor, your lower back and spine on the blanket, and your head supported by the horizontal blanket.

Heels: Slightly rolled blanket can be placed under your Achilles tendons.

Suggestions for special challenges in Shavasana:

Lower back challenges: Place a rolled blanket, pillow or bolster under your knees.

Neck challenges: Place a folded blanket under your head or a rolled towel under your neck.

Pregnancy: Raise your torso by placing a bolster, pillows or two to three folded blankets under your back and be sure to support your head with another folded blanket. (If you are using blankets under your back should run the length of your spine from your lower back to the tip of your head) Another option is lay on your right side in fetal position with a folded blanket between your knees. Place a folded blanket under your head for support.

For an agitated/active mind: Place a yoga block or a thick book behind your head and put a sandbag on it so that 1/3 of the sandbag is on your forehead. This helps to quiet your mind. Also focus on making your exhalations longer than your inhalations. (Note: a homemade sandbag can be made by filling a soft pillow case with rice approximately 1/4 way and tying it off.)

You may also wish to place a blanket over you, as you body will cool down when relaxed.

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