When people think of hard yoga poses, they typically think of contortions they can never imagine being able to perform. They think of ‘hard’ poses like Peacock and Garland. They never imagine that the most difficult pose is the one accessible to all people, even non-yogis and paralyzed people.
The hardest pose doesn’t require super strength, or balance, or even flexibility. It requires gentleness and presence. It doesn’t require years of practice; anyone can get into the physical configuration in seconds.
Despite its ease and accessibility, this pose is one of the most beneficial and rewarding of the many yoga poses. It is the pose that helps us integrate and absorb the benefits of the other poses. It is a pose that many of us (yogis and non-yogis alike) are in every day, and that all of us will eventually experience. The pose I am talking about is the Final Resting Pose, typically called Savasana (pronounced shavasana) or Corpse Pose.
In it, we lie totally motionless, without thought or expectation, without goals. Lying motionless, relaxing all muscles and surrendering to the embrace of the Earth is much harder for most of us than it sounds. Lying with a still mind, heart, and body makes it even harder. Just ask any meditator how difficult it is to still the mind. Just ask any human how difficult it is to still the heart. Just ask any kid on Christmas Eve how hard it is to still the hopes and dreams and expectations.
Final resting pose is typically performed at the end of practice, but it can be performed alone, at any time. It is the pose we use when experiencing Yoga Nidra, deep yogic relaxation. It is the pose we leave the empty envelope of our bodies in when we leave this mortal sphere. It is arguably the ultimate yoga pose.
In meditation, we sit in Lotus Pose. This grounds us firmly to the Earth, stacks the spine, aligns our chakra (subtle energy centers of the body), and allows us to sit in relative relaxation and ease. This posture best allows prakriti (Kundalini Shakti or nectar of life) to flow. We sit here with still mind and relatively still body.
In Savasana, we lay totally still. No muscles need be active, none working to hold us upright. Even the most accomplished meditator has an active body (while sitting perfectly still) to offset the pull of gravity and maintain the position. In Savasana, every muscle is released, there is no gravity to rise up against. In Savasana, there is nothing to be done. No activity is required.
There is nothing to be done, nowhere to go, nothing to occupy the mind.
No one cares if Kundalini rises or not, or if the vertebrae are stacked. No one cares if the mind is still. Nothing to accomplish. Nothing to be done. Just…release. This is harder than it sounds. Some days it is easier to approach this state, some days you just drop right in, like sinking into a warm bath on a cold day. No one ever truly reaches this state (this side of the grave), but we just drop in nonetheless.
As you can see, Savasana is more than just a yoga pose or posture; it is a state of being, an integrated state of mind, body, and spirit. It is asana, as all yoga poses are. In Savasana, it is also a state of non-being, to a degree active yoga poses cannot have. Yet all poses contain an element of Savasana in them.
As I write this, my mind is active, my body tingling with energy, my soul vibrant and joyous. Savasana gives me a chance to drop all that, to re-connect to the stillness inside. It is a gift to us all, accessible to us all.
Meditation is also a gift, one yoga prepares us for. To meditate (one component of yoga) without (the physical component of) yoga is hard, for how can we hope to know the stillness of the mind before we know the stillness of the body? How can we hope to control and release the mind when we cannot first control or release the body (of which the mind is an integrated part)?
To drop and release in Savasana is also hard, but it can be experienced without preparation by Hatha (physical part of) yoga. It can be accessed and experienced by us all. It is simultaneously the easiest and hardest pose in Hatha Yoga.
Savasana is a gift, a respite, a safe sanctuary amidst the activity and chaos of life. It is a holy place, a holy experience where we can find relief from pain, suffering, and all else. It is a gift to us all, a gift that awaits us at all times.
We just need to drop it all and drop in. There we find the peace of AUM.
There we experience a glimpse of yoga.