Brad's Iyengar Yoga Notebook
"You do not need to be going to the Himalayas, you can create the
Himalayas in your own place." -- Prashant Iyengar
Savasana is better than sleep.   End each yoga session with Savasana.   In Savasana, our bodies integrate and assimilate what we have just practiced.   Some teachers have advocated certain times to spend in Savasana, like five minutes for every thirty minutes you have spent doing other yogasanas.   This is a good guideline, though you want to allow your inner intuition to be a guide too.
This pose is about letting go completely.   Proper relaxation is essential for the health of our mind and body and for clarity of thought for making good choices.   The obstacles to a good Savasana are sleep, boredom, mental agitation, and the ultimate obstacle:   thinking you don't need Savasana anymore.   Mental agitation and tension are obstacles that make us miss the point of life's journey.
Although Savasana is spoken of as the most difficult asana to master, the focus is simple -- all you do is relax every body part.   If you get distracted or agitated, you can always come back to this basis.   Just undo, unwind, let go totally.   Place yourself carefully in the pose, and then just get out of the way and observe.
To prepare for Savasana, spread a blanket out over your sticky mat.   This is not a pose that you need to "stick" in.   You want your body to be able to move and fall away as it progressively relaxes.   Lie back on the blanket and make sure that you are in the center of the blanket (you can grasp both sides of it with your hands to feel that).   Use the grasping of the sides of your blanket (or mat) to help you roll your shoulders underneath as in Sarvangasana.   Pull your shoulders and trapezius muscles under strongly but do not let that create a big arch in your low back.   You can also press your elbows into the floor to help you curl your chest open a little more.
Before you extend your legs out straight, one at a time, move the flesh of your buttocks toward your feet (to lengthen your spine) and out to the sides.   All the away from your shoulders down through your feet should lengthen in the direction that your feet are pointing.
Remember dead bodies do not need eyeglasses.   Take your glasses off and put them on a block or raised surface if you're in a group setting so they won't get stepped on.   If you are particularly agitated or your mind is racing, wrapping your forehead with a cloth bandage before you lie back can be particularly quieting.   Wrap two wraps around your forehead and then lightly around your eyes and forehead several more times.   Do not use a head wrap if you are wearing contact lenses.
Your head position in the lying poses should be the same as that of the standing poses.   Use a blanket as needed to keep your forehead slightly higher than your chin so that you have the feeling of looking downward somewhat toward your chest.   Your chin should never be jutting out.   Also use the blanket to support your cervical spine.   If you ever use a blanket for head support, it should also support your neck, so in fact it should just touch the tops of your shoulders.   This applies to all the restorative poses.   Bring emptiness into your head.   Your energy should move away from your face into the back of your skull.   Let your eyes sink into their sockets as if sagging into your skull.
If you feel that your hands want to roll inward onto their sides instead of resting palm upward, you likely need to draw your shoulder blades into and down your back to expand your chest.   Lower your shoulders away from your head.   Widen your collar bones.   This action should allow you to rest your arms with the palms facing upward with no muscular tension needed to keep them in that position.   As a general rule, your hands should rest more toward your index or middle finger knuckles in this pose than toward the little finger sides of your hands.   If your hands rest more toward your pinkies, it may be a sign that you're not open enough in your chest area.
Take time to place yourself carefully in the pose, but after you've placed yourself as carefully as you can and made the necessary adjustments you need to make, resist the urge to move any more from then on.   In this pose obtaining good alignment may be hard, but even harder than that is learning to accept the alignment you have established and surrender to it when you find imperfections later on as your somatic perception deepens.
Achieve a grounded feeling in Savasana by surrendering each part of your body completely to the floor.   Feel the support of the floor.   If it were not there, where would you go?   Be aware of any holding, gripping, or tensing and learn to release it.   Keep re-relaxing whenever you feel tension arise in an area.   Be especially conscious of your upper and lower back.
Make sure you establish at least these three key relaxation points -- your eyes receding into your head, your jaw "unhinging", releasing down, and your tongue relaxing down onto your lower palate.   Pay especially close attention to your eyes during deep inhalations since they may tend to develop tension during this period.   Your cheeks are passive; your throat and tongue are passive; your eyebrows and eyelids are quiet.   Your forehead is passive.   Your brain cells recede downward.   Let your eyes look inside into your chest, into your body.   Draw your eardrums inward.   Relax your lower lip down away from your upper one very slightly.   Let your face melt; let your skin melt; let your muscles melt.
Feel the front of your body descend into the back of your body.   Feel as though your bones are heavy and descending.   Feel your body at each point where it contacts the floor.   Is the weight on your shoulder blades equal on each side?   Your buttocks?   Your calves?   Which knuckle is resting on the floor on your right hand?   On your left?   Is there a difference?   If so why?   Often this problem points to a difference in positioning of the upper back or upper arm.
As you lie in Savasana, focus on being in the present; don't go into dreamland.   Move your attention more from the gross to the subtle.   Continue to observe your body and its processes on more and more subtle levels.   Often our mind is on our outside activities and the present gets pushed into the background.   Let the present be in the foreground.
In Savasana, normal breathing is usually done from a general area between the navel and the diaphragm.   Place your hands on your lower ribs and breathe into that area and lift that area, not your lower abdomen, with your inhalations.   Your abdomen should descend or recede with inhalations, not expand.   We do not generally do abdominal breathing in Savasana.   One awareness you can develop is the feeling of your breath in your lungs and around your nostrils.   Feel your breath along the sides of your chest, expanding from the inside.   Your breath affects every part of your body, even though it may be far away from the lungs.   In breathing deeply, try to feel the inner body expand to touch the outer body, in Mr. Iyengar's language.
After backbends or if you have back pain, raising your legs or having support under your knees is often good.   (But more generally the contact of the whole back of the leg on floor is usually more relaxing for the brain and is therefore preferred.)   Sometimes the low back has so much concavity that gets lifted off the floor and the body does not rest in spite of lying on your back.   One way to vary Savasana is to practice with your feet and lower legs up on a chair.   This allows your entire low back to remain on the floor for a very restful effect.   This effect can also be achieved by placing a bolster on the floor under your knees.   These variations are especially good after a backbend session.
Another relaxing variation is to do Savasana with your feet pressing into a wall.   Begin with your feet on the wall (your heels on the floor) and your knees bent.   Lie back and press your feet into the wall to straighten your legs, sliding yourself back along the floor so that your buttock flesh, back flesh, and shoulders are drawn under by friction, opening the front of your torso.   A sticky mat is useful for this variation.   Still another way of doing Savasana is to have one or two half-folded blankets or bolsters lying across your thighs to ground them deeply.
After a yoga session, as you lie in Savasana, feel as you lie there that truthfully you can have no hatred in you at this point, you cannot generate a hateful, or deceitful, or sly thought in this pose -- it is not possible.   In this way, subtly, the practice of yoga imparts and ingrains the vibration of purity in our body.   It raises our consciousness and intention to a higher, more spiritual plane.   In these moments, we feel how yoga is a spiritual science, not a physical work out.   Sometimes in Savasana you get a taste of the unconditioned mind, with no thoughts arising, just bare awareness.   When you achieve peace in Savasana, remind yourself that you can call upon this feeling, contact this place inside you, at any time during the day.
Coming out of Savasana should be done with the same care and thoughtfulness that you use in every other part of your yoga practice.   The transition between Savasana and sitting up to end a session, like the transitions between any restorative poses, are important times when we should be mindful to move smoothly and quietly so we do not disturb whatever peacefulness and equanimity we have established through our practice.
When you receive the inner cue to end Savasana, begin by placing your hands, one at a time on your lower ribs.   Bend your knees one at a time and place your feet on the floor near your buttocks.   Relax in this position for a few moments.   Then roll onto your right side with your head resting on your right forearm and relax there for a few more moments; just marinade in this position for a while.   To raise your torso, place your hands on the floor and roll a little farther over onto your left hand, pressing your hands on the floor to come up to a sitting position by using the strength of your arms, not your torso.   Keep your head bowed, your eyes closed, and your abdomen soft as you come up.   When you roll out of Savasana, do not let Savasana roll out of you.
"That is the end of your practice for today, but it's not
the end of awareness." -- Patricia Walden