As a longtime yoga teacher, I know the student who walks out right at the start of Savasana. They always have a good excuse. Somewhere to be or something important to do, I’m told, and for some this is surely the case. Many times, however, the real reason is obvious: stillness creates discomfort. Dropping into the present moment without “doing ” can trigger the mind into overdrive. It can bring up underlying emotions and unmet needs. It connects us to what’s present within, and if we’re out of balance- this can be difficult. As a culture, we glorify busy! Anything less can be unsettling.
Rest and relaxation are a radical practice. To slow down and connect with stillness in this fast moving culture is an extreme act of self-care. It takes courage to carve out time for this- to be with silence and stillness- yet the benefits are far reaching. When we shift our nervous system, we shift our outlook, our relationships, our entire way of being in the world. Our family and colleagues benefit. The other drivers on the road benefit, and our renewed patience and compassion ripples out beyond our perception.
Just as we need to exercise every day- as much as we need to elevate our heart rate to support our cardiovascular system, hormone balance, and brain chemistry- we need rest. The physiology of relaxation is distinct, and different than sleep. When we slow down and rest, the nervous system switches from sympathetic (fight or flight) to parasympathetic (rest and digest). Hormones shift, immune function increases, and we feel more centered and clear.
When we are supported, we relax. Restorative yoga uses props to support the body. We hold postures for longer periods of time. Comfort is key, so the props are what keep circulation flowing and muscles at ease. For beginners the props can feel cumbersome. I like to joke that the best things in life are a pain to get to- artichoke hearts, pomegranate seeds, mountaintops. Totally worth the fuss. A deeply comfortable backbend that releases tense muscles- same deal! When we drop into supported stillness, we experience sukha, or sweetness. Amazing things happen. We reconnect with our inner calm and experience peace. We arrive at the end of restorative practice feeling clear and content.
Witnessing a room full of people drop into this natural inner state every week never fails to lift my heart. Yet I simply hold space. I’ve learned how to arrange props to support the body, how to see neutral alignment and modify poses to achieve it. But it’s the presence of the students that makes this practice so sacred. Their willingness to simply “be” is where deep healing can occur. We often put props away in silence. An unspoken peace has filled the space within and around us.
So next time you want to skip Savasana, think twice about what you’re missing out on. Even a few moments of stillness can create positive shifts in the physiology of the body. And the peace it can connect you with extends far beyond those few minutes it takes to be still.