Was It Good for You, Too?

What was your best—or worst—savasana-like experience ever?

By Ashlee Davis
Apr 22, 2016

“I had prepared the atmosphere for a special candlelight Yin &
Restorative class, and everyone had settled in for savasana,” recalls
Marla Ericksen, founder of Empower ME Yoga Studio in Ottawa, Ontario. “I
reached for my iPod to start the soothing music that was to accompany
our journey to serenity when ‘Locked Out of Heaven’ by Bruno Mars
blasted out 
of the speakers at what seemed like 
9,000 decibels.”

Oops.

When we facilitate mindful disciplines in group or personal training
environments, creating a safe and peaceful space to engage with, and
draw from, the mind-body connection is one of the gifts we offer our
participants. Done well, a final savasana can be integrative and
healing; even for pros, however, good intentions sometimes backfire.
Here, successful professionals in the mind-body field explore their best
and worst savasana-like experiences in the hope of inspiring—or
forewarning!—others.

The Best of Times 
and the Worst of Times

While closings differ across disciplines—yoga concludes with corpse pose
and tai chi ends with a standing qigong move, for example—many practices
find common ground in finishing with some kind of meditative body scan
after active physical work.

The ability to offer others a unique, transformative experience of this
type often comes from having lived such events firsthand. Paul Galloro,
E-RYT 500 and founder of Paul Galloro Wellness Centre in Richmond Hill,
Ontario, says his most inspirational savasana began in a saline
flotation tank: “I was floating in complete darkness, with ear plugs. I
started by thinking, ‘Wow! How can I bring this to my classes?’ and my
mind started to wander. I noticed my body started moving, bumping into
the walls of the pod, and my legs even started sinking towards the
bottom of the pool. My neck was tense from trying 
to support my head. I
changed my breath to match the mantra ‘I am here now.’ Within moments,
my neck relaxed, my legs floated back to the surface, and my body
stopped moving. I felt as though I had become part of the water. Time
stood still and flew simultaneously. While I can’t take personal
flotation tanks to all of my students, I definitely now continue to
recreate the experience verbally for them [in savasana].”

Not all teachers draw from their best moments; sometimes a
momentary setback can broaden an educator’s overall vision. Valerie C.
Grant owns The Posture Coach Studio, in Devon, Pennsylvania, and is a
PMA®-certified Pilates teacher and Fedenkrias® Guild–certified
practitioner based in Philadephia. She candidly shares that, during her
first time presenting sessions in Bangkok, “I hadn’t done my cultural
homework, and I asked the participants to lie supine and prone on their
mats while I spoke to them. I didn’t know that lying face-down on mats
where they’d previously been standing barefoot would be offensive to
some cultures, and difficult to hear and understand for others. A few
students hesitated. I mistook it for a language barrier and kept
insisting [that they] do it. Although I regret it to this day, I am
grateful for the lesson it taught me: Know your participants’ cultures
when trying to create a safe savasana-like space.”

Fortunately, some errors can be more easily remedied. Remember Bruno
Mars shattering the tranquillity of Ericksen’s class? She made a quick
recovery: “We were all shocked into the present moment. The room burst
into laughter, and I was divinely led to jump to my feet and dance with
wild abandon. The class followed my lead. Then I had everyone stand
still and bear witness to this life-
affirming experience. The
spontaneous nature of the shared experience heightened our capacity for
mindfulness, and we symbolically broke open the locks that kept us out
of heaven!”

Compelling savasana-like mindful closures can occur in many disciplines.
Galloro recalls leading a session at the Can-Fit-Pro 2015 convention in
Toronto where many participants were moved to tears by the music. “I led
them through my ‘Chakra Dance Party,’ and we finished with everyone’s
breath connected, movements fluid and the room unified. As the dance
transitioned into savasana, they could feel the energy settle, and
that’s when it happened. I could hear people having emotional releases
all around the room, and even I began to cry as I guided the group of 70
through a chakra-clearing meditation.”

What Works and What Doesn’t

A truly memorable savasana-like experience depends on many factors,
including environment, music, tone of voice, and actual content.

A quiet, still, comfortable setting is certainly conducive to a
successful savasana. But pure silence isn’t necessary and is likely
impossible. Distractions like air-conditioning or heating units turning
on and off, cellphone vibrations, and music from other classes
frequently permeate the savasana experience. Helping participants to
find a balance between their bodies and the environment is one of the
tasks for facilitators.

“Popular distractions can be advantageous,” says Lyndsay Murray,
mindfulness instructor at Exhale Spas in Dallas. “Instead of ignoring
[them], I remind my participants [to recognize them] , then invite the
mind to turn away and focus on the savasana at hand. If we just had a
perfect environment all the time in mind-body, then we’d never really
help students own up to learning the power of fine-tuning the mind in
the midst of life’s noises.”

Yury Rockit, movement specialist and owner of Ki Mind Body Studio, based
in Hanoi, Vietnam, agrees: “The ultimate power of the mind is to become
friendly with itself. Working on mindfulness for an imperfect world in
an imperfect environment is just another, updated example of functional
training for the mind.”

Grant is convinced that “the best savasana actually starts at the
beginning of class.” She explains her technique this way: “Before we
begin the movement section of any barefoot type of class, I lead
participants through a body scan. Drawing students’ awareness to their
muscular preferences becomes rewarding to the kinesthetically aware. We
start with one side of the body in supine; I ask people to focus on each
part of the body as it touches the mat and how heavy each part feels,
then I draw their attention to the other side of the body in comparison.
The theme is not to judge, but to ‘compare to be aware.’ When we repeat
the process at the end of class, the students always feel a difference
and get closer to themselves, which rewards me as a facilitator. It
feeds my soul every time I teach.”

What doesn’t work well is failing to engage with your
students. My worst experience of savasana, as a participant, was in a
yoga studio in New York City. I had dropped in to attend a single
session from the “Intro to Yoga, Level 1” track. We began the class with
headstands, and the instructor stayed at the front of the room on a mat
for the entire experience, doing her own workout and saying at
intervals, “Now you do this. ” At the end of class, she
simply stopped the background music, ceased moving, lay on her mat and
gave everyone 15 minutes of silence with no instruction or warning.
Within moments, many were snoring. Others left. When I asked her at the
end of class why she just began savasana with no explanation or
invitation, she replied, “Most people just need a power nap after such a

hard workout.”

In Closing

Success in facilitating a mindful savasana (or savasana-like) experience
hinges on various factors, some controllable, others not. Ultimately,
enabling participants to sense the unity of mind and body, 
and to
connect with their breathing spirits, will long continue to be among the
essential benefits.

You can also offer your participants some of savasana’s benefits without resting in corpse pose at all. For one or two different ideas, see the Web Extra at www.ideafit.com/fitness-library-may-2016-inner-idea-web-extra.

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Some teachers allow savasana to evolve, by enriching the setting with scents and sounds, by extending the experience into a full-length class or by giving savasana their own flavor in other ways.
´┐╝

At his Ki Mind Body Studio in Hanoi, Vietnam, Yury

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Ashlee Davis

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