And yet, there are many people who see Autumn as the end of something magical, rather than the beginning. My father used to get a wistful expression on his face on the Fourth of July. If we asked him why he seemed blue, he’d reply “Summer’s almost over”. For those who don’t love Autumn the way I do, Autumn is not a time of joyful bonfires but a time of sadness. There people who find this to be a season of loss and decay. Instead of seeing the brilliant red and yellow leaves, they see their favorite shade tree is ‘dying’. Just as the Greek myth of Demeter went into grief, striking the world with six month of barrenness for Hades’ kidnapping of her daughter, Persephone, many feel sorrow at this dormant and introspective time of year.
In Yoga, most traditional Hatha and Ashtanga based classes end with Savasana: corpse pose. The first yoga class I took, I was a invited as a guest by my friend, Tammie. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, and was extremely self-conscious the whole time. When our teacher announced we would be ending the class with Corpse Pose, I was more than a little taken aback. We were supposed to lie on our backs and pretend to be dead ? I had images of an entire studio full of chalk outlines and crime scene photographers. I imagined a Film Noir detective kneeling by my body, speaking into a Dictaphone, saying “The victim took a yoga class to keep her friend company, and that was the end of her.” Little did I know how soothing Savasana can be.
It’s now ten years later, and I can’t imagine not having this valuable tool in my arsenal to fight stress and tension. At the end of each class, I invite my students to lie prone and, with verbal cues, to relax each muscle group. I have found that by initially tensing each muscle area and then relaxing it, I’m able to bring a fuller release to each area. By slowing the breath and moving into a quiet breathing pattern, by clearing your mind of random thoughts and by focusing on nothing but allowing yourself the grace of renewal, the body is able to gain in strength. It sounds funny, doesn’t it ? Relaxing, to gain strength ? Lying prone, like a sloth, creates energy ? Studies have shown that regular practice of Savasana can help improve your immune system, can improve insomnia, can increase your overall stamina and has more of a rejuvenating effect than sleep does.
So, in Autumn, it’s a wonderful excuse to practice this Yoga pose. Make sure you have a space in your home in which you can lie undisturbed, put on quiet music and just allow yourself to recharge, like a battery. You will feel renewed and your spirit will feel restored. Your mind and body will thank you. Instead of thinking of this as the pose of death, remind yourself that it is life giving. And, I promise: no CSI photographers will traipse through your living room.