When I first started practicing yoga, I had some serious problems with savasana.
I understood why I was moving through downward dogs, chaturangas, and forward folds: Yoga was about gaining strength and flexibility. Yogis had strong arms, solid cores, flexible limbs, and impressive Instagram photos.
When the class started winding down and it came time to lie on my back to just breathe, exist, and clear my mind in savasana, though, I was immediately hit with a wave of anxiety.
How could this possibly be worth my precious early 20-something time? I had wine to drink, work to get ahead on, new friends to meet. Wasn't what I was doing basically sleeping? I was already dedicating eight hours of my day to this very activity!
So, I started doing something awful. I started leaving class before savasana. Trust me, putting that in writing makes me feel embarrassed. But despite the disservice I was doing to myself—not to mention how rude it was—I simply couldn't bring myself to lie there, alone with my thoughts, for even five minutes.
When yoga teachers tell you that savasana is the hardest part of class, they're right. When they tell you it's the most important part of class, they're also right.
Two yoga teacher trainings and six years as a New York City resident later, I wouldn't skip savasana in a million years. Here's why:
Savasana helps you absorb the benefits of every pose you just moved through.
So you just spent an hour or more opening up your hamstrings and back and moving through sun salutations that got your heart rate up and your body sweating. You're feeling strong and flexible and ready to take on the world.
Want to get even more out of it? Spend those five minutes lying on your back with eyes closed and your palms turned up. It helps you "set" the benefits of your practice.
Mentally, those five minutes help you absorb both the energizing and relaxing benefits of your practice.
Physically, your body has a chance to reflect on all the beneficial postures it has just moved through before moving on to movement that's a little more mindless, like walking or typing.
Savasana is so, so good for you.
On top of sealing the benefits of your practice, savasana also ranks high on the list of great things you can do for your overall health and well-being.
According to research, savasana has a calming, stress-relieving effect on the body and brain. It may also help treat mild depression and insomnia, raise energy levels, get rid of headaches, and even lower blood pressure.
With health benefits like that, who would ever want to skip savasana? (Yes, I'm still hanging my head in shame).
Savasana is a fantastic way to kick-start your meditation journey.
As someone who has a difficult time meditating, I find that savasana is a way to get a mini meditation in when you can't actually force yourself to sit down on your cushion and clear your mind.
When I did sometimes force myself to stay for savasana in my early yoga days, I had to admit to myself that I found it beneficial. Often I was so tired from all that flowing and twisting that my mind didn't have any room left to think, so I found myself just focusing on my breath.
Although I thought I wanted to rush off to my next three activities, my body and mind were extremely thankful every time I granted them an extra few minutes to just be.
Later, I found out that I was meditating. How crazy is that?
Whether you dread savasana or actually walk out of class before it can start, take it from me: Stick with it. Now, it's my favorite part of class—and skipping it seems just as sad as skipping a slice of delicious chocolate cake.