Savasana For A Tired Lower Back
As I write this, it is the middle of Thanksgiving weekend. Many of us spent time in the car travelling to visit friends and family. Some spent long hours doing Black Friday shopping. I personally did not, but we went on a long hike, to be in the outdoors. It was uphill but worth the view. Hikers may want to practice viparita karani, or after a sequence of other poses, this variation is quite nice too. In any event, some of these circumstances breed lower back fatigue, leg fatigue and low grade back ache, and you might wonder what you can do using some simple yoga techniques to alleviate discomfort.
Savasana is For Hikers Too
What is Savasana?
The classic meaning of savasana is corpse pose, or relaxation
. Not sleep, but deep relaxation
. It is not always practiced the same way. If you have a stiff lower back, you might want to use props to practice savasana since lying flat on the floor may pull your back via tight hamstrings.
Propping in Savasana
Savasana for a tired back
What I propose for today is using a bolster, or a few stacked blankets to help weight the top of the thighs down so that the legs and lower back release into gravity. Fighting the physicality of a pose helps the nervous system to calm down, and once this takes place, a calmer breath and the possibility for relaxation can then occur.
You might even consider setting up for Pranayama using the bolster to open the chest, and then segway into a 15 minute relaxation practice. Remember that yoga sequences need to make sense; there are times when you might want the bolster under your knees, or some other variation. Tune into yourself, book a private yoga lesson, or come to class
Supported Pranayama Practice
Supported Pranayama Practice can be used as an alternative to classical Savasana, and has many benefits, especially when the right props are used
Using props to support the torso in Savasana has many benefits:
- Especially with beginner students who tend to fall asleep during relaxation, this variation keeps students more alert than in classical Savasana
- Due to the elevation of the torso, it reduces nasal congestion
- The props help to support the shoulders and neck as well as open the chest
- The strategic placement of yoga props will aid students in feeling the alignment of their back ribs and the different components of breathing
- The support will help to roll the tops of the shoulder blades back, whereas many people suffer from the postural imbalances of rounding shoulders and forward head
- Improves breath awareness and helps to teach proper breathing patterns
- Is a lovely alternative to seated mindfulness, as the student can relax the lower body.
How to use props in supported pranayama practice
supported reclining pose for pranayama
In the photo above, please note that we used what we had at hand. In lieu of an eye bag, we used the student’s soft sweatshirt. We also had one yoga mat, 4 of the 3 Minute Eggs and one standard bolster. For my favorite yoga props, click here. You can make substitutions or additions as needed. I will give you the directions for what is pictured.
- Position your bolster parallel to the mat with 2 eggs underneath the top end.
- Recline over the bolster, keeping the small of your back against the bottom end of your bolster.
- Allow your arms to rest, here we used the eggs to alleviate the pull and meet the students needs.
- Allow your legs to stretch out , and separate, and relax.
Stillness: there is a relationship between stillness and the practice of yoga
Sometimes we think of stillness as lack of movement, but stillness can be a very quiet place, while nonetheless, hosting a lot of healing activity. For yogis, the first pose for ‘stillness’ is corpse pose, which is a wonderfully restful pose for the sympathetic nervous system. It also relieves fatigue and restores balance. Yes, it is also used to manage anxiety, but for some people, unaccustomed to practice, you may find it easier to fidget than lay still. Many insist it is the hardest pose to master. It is also the most important.
Savasana is not the same as napping or lying on the sofa, which tend to distract or dull the mind and senses. If you are watching a scary movie, it may even cause your blood pressure to rise, so not a great remedy if you are already super stressed out. Savasana is more like tuning in. It provides the brain, which communicates nonverbally to all the systems of the body, a chance to hear itself, which in turn, promotes healing. So the next time you think of skipping this crucial part of yoga practice, be still, close your eyes, let everything relax, and just let your mind stand off to the side, as you watch your breath for a few moments then just let go. Try it out. You may learn, or un learn something. Check out my Yoga Mind cd for some guided practices and set up tips or learn how to customize your session
Sunny Day Savasana: Summer may feel relaxing but the extra light and heat coupled with more sitting (car? soccer watching? cycling?) plus walking/standing/running can often leave the body out of whack. More than a stretch, a passive way to restore balance is to set yourself up for a 15 minute savasana. For guided yoga based relaxation practices, download my YOGA MIND cd
Here is a photo where the back legs from behind the knee crease to the heels is supported. Guaranteed to please. I absolutely love to have my calves and feet elevated. I obviously have a lot of props and bolsters in my studio – you can substitute with blankets and or folded towels or cushions that are firm.
For a personalized approach contact me. The benefits of relaxation (savasana) are numerous:
– savasana allows you to deepen your breathing,
– savasana reduces stress hormones,
– savasana slows down heart rate and blood pressure,
– savasana un-tenses your muscles
– savasana increases energy and focus,
– savasana combats illness,
– savasana relieves aches and pains,
– savasana heightens problem-solving abilities by turning down the thinking mind
– savasana boosts motivation and productivity – rest and digest !
– savasana increases happiness, by releasing dopamine, seratonin, oxytocin and other immunomodulators to change brain chemistry
so what are you going to practice ?
Has anyone made mistakes? Do you find you dwell on the past or learn from it? This is a great piece of art from MOMA and a common expression when you are on the yoga mat and begin a pose, you are tight, need to adjust, OOF….. you never want to do that again! So what do you do? It’s interesting to see what our styles are when encountering resistance or when taking a decision that isn’t right for us. So what can you do?
Using mindfulness to bring yourself into the present moment, have some objectivity about what you did, how you could do it better, then let it go as you are now prepared for what lies ahead. This is the gift of savasana in our practice, it helps us to integrate and assimilate and then see the gift of the new moment we are in
Yoga as Therapy tip of the day: Savasana – there are so many ways to set up for it. You really just need a 15 minute or so window. Many classes are run with 3-5 minute practices – this does not provide adequate rest to the body or nervous system; although it is a good idea to have a short ‘time-out’ after practice if you are then going to include a pranayama or meditation. You will go deeper; and remember – it is called “practice” so just look at it like that and enjoy
This is hilarious!
Everyone is different of course, some people “can’t” relax, some people fall asleep instead of relaxing. I find in many classes that I have seen, there is only a 5 minute savasana; it isn’t enough. Mostly I think people just want to come in and bang out a work-out, but you really aren’t doing your Yoga justice to omit the very core of practice ~ integration, calm, witness, awareness, dropping into your light body…..
You can build a sustainable relaxation practice on your own. By that I mean, time spent on the mat that cultivates the calm tools for getting through daily stress.
There is one track on my Yoga Mind cd that I like for learning, called Diving Deeply into Relaxation, I think you can listen to a clip on I Tunes
If you are a bit overloaded by Saturday, which many of us are, just taking some time to lay out your mat, cover your eyes, and turn the world to mute will refresh you. Try it
Yoga based relaxation is for anyone, any time, any place