A Savasana Practice to Ease Depression and Inspire Joy
There is a relaxation that comes from moving deeply inward and cultivating calm in ever more subtle layers. Another kind of relaxation is experienced after a genuine belly laugh, hearing a moving piece of music, or giving a gift from the heart. To understand these different types of relaxation, one can look to the different movements of prana (vital energy) throughout the body, called “vayus.” The “moving inward” type of relaxation involves samana vayu (energy moving inward toward center) and apana vayu (energy directed downward, grounding and settling), while the belly-laugh release involves udana vayu (energy uplifted) and vyana vayu (expanding outward). The idea that one can relax into a state of openness and brightness may be new (as we often tend to associate relaxation with grounding and turning inward), but relaxation practices that include udana and vyana-focused visualizations can prove helpful, particularly when we’re feeling tired or depressed.
I would like to offer a savasana particularly suited for morning practice or for times of sadness, when you need an energetic lift. If you are a teacher, you could read it to your class. If practicing on your own, you could record yourself reading the relaxation, or have someone read it to you. If you practice it often, you will likely commit it to memory.
Begin by giving yourself permission to be truly comfortable. Cover your body, making sure that you’re warm enough. Place a folded blanket under your head and a bolster under your thighs for more comfortable alignment of the back. Relax your arms about 12 to 16 inches from your sides, with legs about mat-width apart.
Establish an easy awareness of the breath, and simply enjoy its rhythm, tone, and texture. Notice how the breath changes and adapts its movement to your relaxing body.
Bring your attention to the solar plexus (upper central abdomen), and see if you can feel the warmth in this area—perhaps visualizing the sun there: Surya, Surya, Surya. Allow that warm radiance to begin a slow expansion outward to the navel, heart, and ribs. Take three slow, deep breaths, as though fanning the flame. Then expand the circumference of the rays of that sun to include the pelvis, sides of the torso, and up to the notch of the throat. Take three slow breaths, encouraging warmth and light. Now, expand the brightness to include the jaw, upper arms, and extending down to the knees. Take three breaths visualizing healing and ease in the ever-widening circle. The radiant circle includes the top of the head, and outward to the fingers and toes, as you breathe away any tension or efforting.
Bring your attention to the solar plexus (upper central abdomen), and see if you can feel the warmth in this area—perhaps visualizing the sun there: Surya, Surya, Surya.
Return to the solar plexus. Allow the sun at that center to radiate healing light and life outward through the toes, fingertips, and crown of the head. See your practice as one of healing for all those around you. Your own inner peace is a gift of peace for all. Take several breaths, slow and deep.
Now, bring your attention to the tip of the nose, and sense the cool temperature of the breath as it moves in. The warm temperature of the breath as it moves out. Then focus your attention on only the right nostril, bringing your awareness to the fine line along which you feel the temperature of your breath, and the exact point where you feel the change in temperature. Remain at that point for five breaths. Repeat the same process on the left nostril for five breaths.
Finally, repeat the process in both nostrils together for five to ten breaths, noticing how becoming more aware brings a tangible ease across the forehead and temples. Refine the awareness of the subtle, sweet expansion in the mind, radiating clarity through all the thinking processes. From the eyebrow center, emanate kindness and wisdom to all sentient beings.
As you slowly begin to move back into an awareness of your physical body, allow for a playful exploration. Stretch as though from a nap on a beach, awakening to a wonderful day ahead. Yawn and reach and wiggle. Roll to your right and smile.
Gently press yourself up to a seated posture—moving, with joy, into seated meditation if you wish.
Beth Spinder C-IAYT, ERYT500 is a yoga therapist, teacher, and published writer on yoga related subjects. A frequent contributor to YogaInternational.com, she has offered yoga therapy in hospitals, clinics, and schools and has been on staff as a yoga therapist at the Himalayan Institute, Omega Institute, and in centers for addiction and recovery. Beth travels worldwide offering inspiring retreats and trainings at Sivananda Ashrams and private retreat centers. She has studied and taught yoga... Read more>>