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I know it sounds funny, but shavasana is an acquired taste. It develops over time and takes a great deal of practice to reap the rewards.

How can laying on your back with your eyes closed be hard work you say? Especially after a challenging yoga practice. But being still and quiet and not sleeping brings up a great many things for most people.

I have seen from time to time, people who will roll up their mats as the rest of us are getting ready to lay down at the end of class. True, sometimes people need to leave early and tip toe out. But still others seen no reason for staying, when the “workout” is over. “You are not doing anything anymore, so just leave. It is a waste of time.”

I have seen those who fidget and fuss, eyes open, sighing loudly., and when it is time to begin to “bring awareness to your fingers and toes”, they have sprung up to a sitting position and are ready to bolt for the door.

For some people, if they are asked to just be still with themselves, that is the most terrifying thing they can imagine. That would mean you have to actually be present with yourself and see what sorts of things might float to the surface. Thoughts that are easily kept at bay with being “busy”. You cannot hit a moving target, so as long as we remain in constant motion we won’t have to look at ourselves and see what is there. Quiet is the enemy. Sitting with yourself for too long will be your undoing…

My own personal experience was not that, but something else. I would finish a class, covered in sweat and suddenly not have the actual practice to focus on anymore. So my mind would spiral back to the outside world and all of the people, situations and things that made me insane and stressed out of my mind. On occasion I would drop into shavasana, that utterly relaxing in between space, not awake, not asleep, and I would begin to feel so blissed out. But then, I would pull myself away from it and think “you are wasting your time here pretending that there is bliss to be experienced.  You are wasting precious time that you could be spending being pissed off and furious at how not o.k. Everything is! You almost fell for it. Just say “no” to shavasana.

So I began to lay there, sharply awake and use that time to mull over and retrace the laundry list of how I was being done wrong by the world and the stupid people in it. I began to look forward to this heightend time at the end of class to more finely hone my powers of discontent  and plot the demise of my enemies. Amazing…

Slowly, ever so slowly, I would have experiences of going deep, sometimes falling asleep, but sometimes dropping into a true shavasana. I would be weightless floating in space and enjoying the silence and I would begin to hear a voice. I would think, “Who the hell is that? Is it God? Why are they talking? I really need them to be quiet because I am so blissed out right now….” then I would realize that it was the teacher, and that I was laying on a rubber mat in a room full of people and that I felt like I had been asleep for hours. Reality: 5 minures.

As this happened more often, I noticed that I felt less and less inclined to “hurry up and be upset again at the injustice of it all. Time is a wastin’!” Then I began to notice that I just didn’t get as worked up over stuff the way that I used to. I was spending more and more time in a yogic state. On and off of the mat. The scales had tipped.

I refer to shavasana as a time to “marinate in the juice of the practice”. It is like pushing the “save” button on the computer. It seals it all in. And in that time the body, mind and spirit can rejuvenate, reboot, rewire. Yoga changes us and shavasana seals in the newly edited version. 

Shavasana is now my dear friend and a state that I can dip into whenever I need it. Whether I am laying on my  mat or not.

That is a sweet and  useful life skill indeed.