I was teaching class last week and chuckled as my class heaved itself out of Savasana (Relaxation Pose). It definitely brought up my desire to speak on the purpose of Savasana, especially discussing how exiting Savasana is an essential aspect to maintaining the essence of the pose. So, let’s look at the purpose of Savasana on a purely physical level.On a physical level, yoga helps us release the nervous system and relax it, at least a bit. The nervous system is our body’s way of communicating to its various parts quickly. It controls our breathing, heart activity, among many other things. For our purpose, the most important responsibility of the nervous system is it controls the stress we feel as well as our relaxation. In our society and culture, we rev our nervous system at a high level. Using an analogy, it is quite similar to revving a car engine. At times this “revving” is quite beneficial because it helps us “take off” as soon as we hear a “go”. Most of the time, though, it is an unnecessary action that slowly takes its toll on our body. Unfortunately, it easily becomes a habit, especially when we are exposed to as much as we are in our culture. We then begin to think in a revved state and hold our body in a revved state, slowly exhausting it.

When we do yoga, we begin to retrain the nervous system. The brain and the spine are the core of the nervous system. Yoga moves the spine around in all directions, freeing tight and frozen muscles and bringing new awareness and life to the nerves. This movement also helps retrain the body for new habits instead of the same old ones. When we continue to hold the body in the old way, it maintains the old thoughts. As we move the body in new ways, we begin to introduce new ways of being.

Savasana gives us a time to let the body integrate the new knowledge, the new way of being we learned during our practice. Just as studying to take an exam gives you an opportunity to review the knowledge you gained during a semester in school, when we rob the body of that opportunity, it easily falls back into its old way of being, the old habits, especially the nervous system.

So, skipping Savasana is almost akin to not doing a practice at all. Yoga will still help without it, but your time in Savasana helps imprint the new way in your body.

So, now we come back to where we began, what does hopping out of Savasana do? When you hop up out of Savasana, you easily grip muscles that can rev the nervous system again and cause the old habits to creep back in. Instead, come out slowly. Begin by bending your knees to release your lower back. Roll to one side and rest for a moment. Then, use your upper hand to press you up, keeping your upper leg relaxed. Let your head hang until you are sitting fully upright. Then lift your head. Keeping your head low helps deactivate the stimulation of the nervous system. Ahh…doesn’t that feel better?