There’s a lot to like about yoga, whether it’s taking part in one of the most ancient forms of physical exercise, cultivating a more peaceful worldview or simply getting a firmer bum, but with the amount of poses to practice—not to mention the small issue of beginner’s flexibility impeding your preferred rate of progress—breaking into a yoga class without feeling thoroughly embarrassed or out of place can be daunting. Luckily, you can ease into the process and improve your mental health with mindful meditation achieved through savasana, or the corpse pose.
It’s getting easier to become a lazy active person, just like how you can become a fierce activist without ever having to leave your keyboard. But for the would-be yogi interested in the corpse pose, the practice of it won’t leave you with malcontented friends who don’t seem to say much on Facebook anymore since they all secretly unfollowed you. Let’s take a quick look at how the corpse pose is done:
1. Lie down on your back
2. Make sure your hands are palm-up and your arms relaxed
3. Don’t let your chest sink
4. Keep your chin tucked slightly toward your throat so your head lays flat
You are now in the corpse pose, or what non-yoga practitioners like to call “lying the hell down.” But don’t let the simplicity of this pose make you laugh outright (as I did for about three minutes when I imagined this being taught in a 100-degree studio where people sweat themselves to near death for a ridiculous sum of money.) Rather, take into consideration what this pose might really be useful for, something that yoga definitely possesses over all other forms of exercise: mindful meditation.
It could be argued that yoga is essentially the physical externalization of meditative thought, exemplified by the many names of poses which harken back to elements of the natural world as well as the chakras, or points of energy in the human body. The benefits of meditation, even those methods less mystifying than transcendental meditation, such as the simple “mindful” variety, are well publicized, and are primarily touted for their stress reduction capacities. What better time to shoehorn some meditation into your life than at the end of a workout?
We as a people are not relaxing enough. No, half-napping in front of the television doesn’t count. Our minds require quality relaxation in which they are allowed to unfocus and take a breather, and there’s no better time to quiet your mind than when your body is worn out. So, the next time you’re doubling over and panting at the end of a workout (maybe your frustrated actor friend finally convinced you to take their spin class), find a quiet spot where you won’t be stepped on and devote some of your remaining energy to adopt the corpse pose and focus on the details of the moment: sounds and smells, external life, everything that isn’t yourself, all the while keeping your breathing steady and your mind focused only on the flow of air in through your nose and out through your mouth, breathing with your diaphragm to get the most from each inhalation. It will be hard to keep your mind quiet at first, but if you simply allow it to play out each thought to a conclusion, you’ll find that, like a child on the far side of a sugar high, it will quiet down soon enough.
This, I imagine, is perhaps the greatest accomplishment of yoga as a system of exercise; the ingrained ability to relax the mind through focusing on the movement of the body. If you feel your life could use a few more restorative moments but you’re not ready to take the plunge into a yoga class just yet, try practicing savasana once a day, either on a mat, your bed, or the floor. Just try not to fall asleep.