How I look forward to Savasana at the end of my practice! It feels so wonderful just to lie down and rest with nothing to do for a few minutes. I relish that feeling of all my muscles relaxing after working so hard, that feeling of heaviness that takes over and I love that everything just drops away - thoughts and mental dialogue, and my awareness of the surrounding environment. It's not the same as relaxing on the sofa and it's different from taking a nap - Savasana has it's own special qualities.
We are taught in class how to lie down as symmetrically as possible, flat on our backs with arms and legs turned out. We are taught to relax the muscles and allow the body to become heavy. The breath becomes light and soft, and we learn to become still. Gradually, the thoughts quieten and we can relax deeply. When Savasana is over we feel rested and peaceful, yet refreshed and energised at the same time. We are taught never to skip this pose as it's such an important part of yoga. In Savasana we absorb what we have learned from the practice, let go of what we no longer need and feel that we have a fresh start when we return back to the rest of our day.
But have you every wondered just how Savasana is so beneficial? What exactly is going on within that amazing, complex body of yours to make you feel so good? As is so often the case with yoga, there is a reason. Nothing is random. Here's the science bit, as I understand it...
Savasana is more than just relaxing the muscles, it involves the nervous system too. The sympathetic nervous system is stimulated by stress and prepares us for 'flight or fight', which is a helpful response when there really is a threat or danger to avoid. However, in our busy modern lives we can often be more stressed than is good for us and spend rather too much time in 'flight or fight' mode and not enough in 'rest and digest' (aka the parasympathetic nervous system).
The muscular system and the nervous system are linked by motor neurons. The brain sends nerve impulses to the motor neurons and the motor neurons fire up and contract the muscles. If our systems are stressed and overstimulated the constant contraction of the muscles leads to tension within the body. In Savasana the motor neurons become inactive and the body can relax. The longer you relax, the quieter the motor neurons become. However, if you move during Savasana, the motor neurons fire up again and you move out of deep relaxation. And if you lose consciousness and drop off to sleep the motor neurons will again become active and, once again, you are no longer in deep relaxation. To go into that delicious deep relaxation and feel refreshed and energised afterwards you need to be still and quiet, but conscious and awake at the same time.
In the video below Tom Myers, author of Anatomy Trains and co-author of Fascial Release for Structural Balance, explains a bit more about why rest after movement is so important.
This Weeks Recipe... Celery, Spinach and Apple Juice
I've been drinking a lot more green juices recently. They're such a good way to get my 5-a-day hit in one go. And they look so fresh and bright and clean and yummy too. Medicine in a glass!
I don't love celery and wouldn't choose to eat it in a salad but in a juice it becomes much more acceptable - adding an apple gives it a little, but not too much, sweetness. It has so many health benefits - it is an excellent source of antioxidants and beneficial enzymes, and it contains many vitamins and minerals such as vitamin K, vitamin C, potassium, folate and vitamin B6. It has anti-inflammatory properties, is good for the heart and the digestion and improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you'd like to know more about the nutritional benefits of celery click here for an article by Medical News Today. However, for a small amount of people celery can apparently cause a severe allergic reaction - just so you know!
Here's what you need:
2 sticks of celery
1 large or 2 small apples
A handful of spinach
And here's how to make it:
Put all the ingredients in your juicer and drink asap. If you don't have a juicer why not consider putting one on your Christmas list? Some of them can be expensive and some of them are fiddly to clean but there are lots of reasonably priced ones available and my Philips one just needs a scrub under the hot tap to clean it. Cheers and good health!!
This Week's Musical Offering... is called Durga Pahimam and it's by Jai Uttal, who is a world-reknown Kirtan leader. Kirtan is the singing of mantras in a call-and-response form. The leader sings a line of the mantra and the participants sing it back. I love a mantra. The repetition is soothing and calming and singing in a group is really uplifting. It's great for your breathing and it releases stress. It doesn't matter what your singing voice is like - it's not a performance - it just full-on makes you feel good! If you ever get a chance to attend a Kirtan class do go for the experience. They hold them at Triyoga in London each month - click here to take a look.
This Week's Video... some wise words from Albert Einstein via Prince Ea about how to be happy...