Saturday, March 3, 2012

After Savasana/Deep Relaxation

First, a moment of clarification: I'm going to refer to Savasana as Deep Relaxation.  Just a personal quirk of mine.  And the Deep Relaxation here will refer to resting fully supported on the ground.

I've been to a fair number of classes and workshops over the last 10 years and it seems so much emphasis is placed on Deep Relaxation and almost none on coming out of that place of deep rest and contentment.  As instructors move their classes into Deep Relaxation, they talk about arm and leg placement, or putting one's legs up the wall to make the pose more restorative.  There may be breath work like the 61 points of light or similar variation.  There may be a discussion on abdominal breathing and the use of a small bag of rice to facilitate that breath.  Some read poetry, play music, or do nothing at all (my personal favorite - hard to 'absorb' the class when the instructor in yammering away in the front of the room). 

But nobody talks about coming out of deep relaxation.  Heck, I've been in sessions where I'm just starting to really let go, and then I'm being told to get up! Time to Om!  No to minimal transition from that relaxed contentment to sitting up.  Now granted, sometimes the instructor has misjudged how much time they had at the end (I've been there myself), but egads people!  Don't be an alarm clock! 

Which is the point of my discussion today.  Coming out of Deep Relaxation mindfully.  Alarm clocks are for the morning. 

My preferred method is -  assuming at least 5 minutes of Deep Relaxation (longer if possible) and the person is resting on the floor:

1) inhale up from the soles of the feet to the crown of the head, and let the breath sweep back down and out through the soles of the feet.
2) next inhale, begin to wiggle fingers and toes
3) next inhale, begin to rotate ankles and wrists, being mindful to rotate wrists in both directions especially for vinyasa/astanga folks
4) next inhale, room permitting, stretch arms over head and stretch feet in the opposite direction. 
5) exhaling, release everything and let the earth support you.  Take a couple breaths.
6) exhaling, draw knees into your chest, and release the lower back with a little movement
7) next breath roll to a) left side for relaxing b) right side for more alertness.   I usually do left.   Making sure to place arm under head to keep spine in-line
8) with upper hand, gently push yourself upright to a comfortable seated position
9) end with sitting in silence for however long you have left and close class.    Ahhhh.....

This whole sequence should only take about two - three minutes, shortening the sitting in silence as needed to end on time.  Following the breath helps maintain that sense of relaxation and also is a good way to count coming out. 

Not infrequently, I will instruct the class to come out of deep relaxation in their own method and timing.  Now folks who have been with me a while will do some variation on the sequence above.  I usually don't do this method if I have a class with new-to-me folks because too often I see the "jack in the box" effect, where they go from laying down to sitting up with nothing in between.  Not recommended - you don't get up in the morning like that (unless you suddenly realized you were running super late), so you shouldn't Pop! out of deep relaxation.  ((shudder!)) It's jarring just thinking about it!

To recap:
DO - move gradually back into the body and limbs
DO - support the head when in foetal position (resting on your side)
DO - take your time, like you are waking up for the first time that day
DO - continue to breathe

DON'T - pop-up from reclined to sitting.  Save that for the middle of class asana
DON'T - rush  

Do you have a preferred method for returning from Deep Relaxation?