The local community has held an annual yoga fundraiser for many years. On Saturday morning, more than 100 students were taught by teachers from different styles and studios. The organizers gave me seven minutes to teach backbends and inversions during one of the last years of the fundraiser. My segment would be the previous asana segment active before Savasana. For many reasons, no was my first thought. I’ll elaborate. I initially objected that this was not a good way to sequence your yoga class for a relaxing Savasana or Relaxation Pose.
Fear of teaching inversions to over 100 students I didn’t know scared me. I imagined people falling over the packed venue and dragging their neighbors. The options were Headstand (Sirsasana), Forearm Stand, Pinca Mayurasana or Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana). The only remaining option was Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana). It’s only possible to teach this with at least three yoga blankets supporting each student.
There was also the matter of backbends. Backbends are a favorite of mine, and some might be suitable for large classes. They are not the best class to teach before Savasana. Backbends can be very stimulating and even agitating. Forward bends are better if you want to arrange your yoga class for a relaxing Savasana. I emailed organizers to express my concerns. They were open to hearing from me and let me switch to forward bends.
WHY SUSPEND YOUR YOGA CLASS SAVASANA?
You would want to avoid scheduling your yoga class for Savasana. Savasana, in simple terms, is the most critical Pose. This is the most crucial Pose in Yoga. What other form of exercise do you encourage to lie down after a workout?
My aunt and mother took a class in Yoga at a senior center years ago. I asked them their favorite Pose, and they both replied, “The Sponge.” This was their nickname for Savasana. The name seemed silly at first. It’s an appropriate descriptor, but I began to think about it.
Savasana is a way to integrate (or soak in) the benefits of our practice. It’s like a sponge soaking in water. Our approach is spent contracting and stretching our soft tissue. After that, we relax in a supported and receptive position and allow our minds and bodies to settle. Savasana can make us agitated and anxious if we don’t practice it. Savasana will enable us to be present with our ever-changing bodies and minds. With subtle energy, we can move through the day with ease.
SAVASANA: HOW TO SEQUENCE
There are many ways to arrange a yoga class, depending on the type of Yoga you’re teaching or practicing. In my classes, however, I prefer to do Savasana. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I only teach Restorative Yoga. Today, we did core strengthening in the first 30 minutes of class. We spent 45 minutes doing standing poses in a class last week. In 90 minutes, I leave the last 15 to 20 minutes of active asana for relaxed poses.
If I teach a class that works up towards backbends, I will ensure I have completed the most intense backbends around 20 minutes before we start our 15-minute Savasana. I will then offer some gentle supine twists after the last backbend. Next, we will practice Supta Ardha Padmasana (“Supine Half Lotus Pose”) to ensure that our spines remain neutral as we introduce forward bending. We will then practice some seated forward bends, which are often supported and relaxed. These not only stretch the back but also calm the nervous system.
These are some tips to help you teach a class using Savasana. You are free to experiment and make up your ideas.
- It would be best if you practiced heating/energizing poses for the first half of your practice. These include standing poses, inversions like Headstand, Handstand, and Forearm Stand; core strengthening; and backbends.
- Allow time for relaxation and cooling poses in the final half of your practice. These include supine and seated twists, shoulder stand (but only if it is easy for you; struggling will cause agitation), and forward bends.
- Be clear about your intentions. Can you practice asana with a curious, relaxed purpose and not from a place where you are pushing and striving? If you worry about your performance, even the most serene Restorative Pose can be stressful. Yoga is not a performance; it’s a practice.
KARMA OF PRACTICE:
Pujari is my teacher. He says that Savasana refers to when we gather karma from our practice. We integrate the results of our trial in Savasana. Savasana can feel anxious if we have an aggressive attitude in choosing poses and how we approach them. If we practice with curiosity and ease and look towards Savasana as we sequence our practice, it’s easier to relax and sink into a calm, spacious place. Consider how you might practice Yoga with Savasana in your mind.