(Need more sleeping cat pictures?)
Relaxation pose is the name we give Savasana (shah-VAH-sah-nah) in English.
In Sanskrit, it means corpse – a pose that mimics death.
But if you have a rounded upper back you can easily become one of the undead: not quite able to settle without something to prop up your head.
Sadly, everything in our technological society conspires toward rounding our backs. We sit and stare at computer screens. We drive, we hunch over bicycle handles. And even non-tech activities – cooking, caring for a baby, gardening – bend us in the same forward direction.
For some of us, the tendency to a rounded upper back also seems to be inherited, or at least picked up as a posture we learn to imitate as a very young child.
For me, it’s both. I work at a computer and come from a long line of women with dowagers’ humps.
For years my chosen prop in Savasana was a folded blanket under my head.
Without it, I might start relaxation pose in comfort, but within a few minutes, the back of my head would begin to feel too heavy on the floor. My shoulders would tense, and I’d feel constricted in my upper chest.
My blanket, however, was a doubled-edged sword. It made my relaxation pose more relaxing, yes. But as long as I used the blanket, I wasn’t coming closer to the classic pose.
Then, in a recent class, Louie suggested using a facecloth, folded in quarters and then fan-folded in thirds to make a small, narrow oblong.
Placed in the right spot in my upper back, it lifted my rounded spine away from the floor. My collarbones broadened and my shoulders rolled back.
And not only that, it was a heaven which might conceivably lead to a better pose over time.
But as I worked with the facecloth at home, I ran into difficulties. It proved to be a tricky little parcel, apt to come unfolded as I moved into place.
When it was good, it was very, very good, but when it was bad, it was a fidgety mess.
Lately I’ve started using my eye bag instead. It’s a little longer than the folded facecloth, and not as high, but when it hits the right spot, I get the same effect.
If you don’t have an eye bag, by all means try a facecloth.
Place the eye bag (or facecloth) on your mat in the centre, lengthwise, with the top of the prop where you expect to place the bottom of your neck.
Lie down. Make sure that your spine is centred on the prop.
With your knees bent, push yourself along the eye bag until you feel your shoulders broaden and your neck lengthen.
Keep your weight on the prop as you move: part of what makes this work is the way your skin is pulled downwards as you slide.
Take your arms out to the sides. Lengthen your buttocks toward your heels. Then one by one lengthen your legs.
You may not get to the right spot on your first try. If, a few minutes into your rest pose, you start to feel a familiar strain, then bend your knees and slide an inch or so toward your head.
You’ll know you’re in the right place when your collarbones roll toward the floor, and the back of your neck lengthens. (If your shoulders are very tight, or your upper back is very rounded, the eye bag may not be enough to keep you comfortable. Have a folded blanket nearby for the back of your head.)
If this was your kind of post, you might also like:
Five Good Reasons to Let a Timer Be Your Practice Buddy
Five Minute Yoga Challenge: Reverse the Curve
Supported Bridge: Cross Over into Quiet
With the help of the talented Angela Wan, I now have a complete, and very handsome .pdf of My Five-Minute Yoga Practice. Over the next week or so, I’ll be adding the .mp3 files and finding an online host for the download.
In the meantime, as soon as I can get it all onto a flash drive like the one below, we’ll have some Facebook fun: a contest! You’ll be able to win this rare, otherwise unavailable logo-imprinted flash drive, with the download installed.
Stay tuned for details.