Monday, November 20, 2006

Savasana Before Bed

I do Savasana before bed most nights. (I only miss if I happen to fall asleep with my children.)

I find that doing Savasana greatly enhances the effectiveness of my sleep. I sleep more soundly and fall back to sleep more easily if I am awaken
(which can be several times each night with children.) Savasana is one of the best methods for calming our nervous system – the part of our anatomy that is responsible for the stress response. When our nervous system is calmer, our mind doesn’t work over time and can rest at night.

Another idea is to do your meditation at night. Meditation also calms your mind and can improve your thoughts before bed from worrisome thoughts to more spiritual ones. When I have lots of time, sometimes I do both Savasana and Mediation -- what a gift!

Restoring Yourself

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of restoring ourselves and our students. Our nervous systems are over-stimulated and taxed in our society, especially during the holiday season. People come to yoga to find balance in their lives and then we skip over Savasana, giving them a few minutes to unwind before going back out into the world. Did you know it takes somewhere between 17 and 20 minutes for the physical body to relax? We need Savasana, especially this time of year.

Judith Lasater recommends doing Savasana 20 minutes each day, one restorative practice each week, and a week of restorative practices once a year. (She dedicates the week between Christmas and New Year’s as her restorative time.)

My tip for you this month is to make your Savasanas longer. Treat your students to a long visualization or silence to help them counter the frenetic pace in which our cultures engages this time of year.

Releasing Old Beliefs

“We build self-images and construct concepts and paradigms that feed our sense of certainty, and then we defined this edifice by bending every situation to reinforce our certainty. This would be fine if life were indeed a homogenous event in which nothing ever changed; but life does change, and it demands that we adapt and change with it. The resistance to change, and tenaciously holding on to things, causes great suffering and prevents us from growing and living in a more vital and pleasurable way.”

-Donna Farhi

Admittedly, the quote is a mouthful. I had to read it several times to finally understand her words. It is our resistance to change that keeps us stuck in the suffering cycle. In one of the studios in which I teach, I teach in a different part of the room than the other teachers. My regular students have long grown accustomed to my unusual arrangement and I had forgotten how I have rearranged the room. Today I subbed for another teacher and was fascinated watching students come in. Some smiled, found their spot, and sat down. Others were noticeably annoyed, commenting that it was “uncomfortable”, “weird”, etc. One student had a hard time enjoying class until the end, holding on to her idea of what should have been the arrangement. By the end, we were all giggling at the realization that a mere changing of the arrangement could cause so much angst. It was so very unimportant in the grand scheme of life.

Think about what our beliefs about life do to us? We all have ideas about life that we tenaciously grip, as Donna says, resisting the natural changes in life that are constantly occurring. We even rearrange in our heads what is really happening in order for the situation to fit our paradigm.

Having a yoga practice can help us to loosen our grip on our beliefs. As we loosen our bodies, the hold our beliefs have on us also loosen. Not always, though, notice I said “can help” and not “will help”. In fact, our practice can keep us very stuck in our beliefs as well. We need to constantly evaluate our practice, what it is doing for us, and shift to make sure it is keeping us open and growing.