Some students share with me that they struggle greatly with final relaxation pose. As soon as they lay down and close their eyes their thoughts start bouncing around like a monkey going from tree to tree. The sanskrit term for the "monkey mind" is called citta vrtti (pronounced Chitti Vritti) and everyone has one. I tell my students what I learned from my teachers: to calm the mind one must give the mind something to do and that is where repeating a mantra or short phrase llike inhale/exhale comes into good use.
I also tell students to let go of trying to get rid of their thoughts. Instead, let the thoughts come and float through the mind because I have found that the more you try and not think, the more you think!!
Here is the thing about shavasana: after a while of going to yoga classes a student may very well start to enjoy shavasana. Dare I say, shavasana might become their favorite pose of all. The longer someone practices yoga and spends time in shavasana they may find that the mind becomes more willing to let go of thoughts and sink into deep relaxation.
A few more thoughts I'd like to share about shavasana. In order to facilitate a really good final relaxation pose a student must set themselves up well to allow the body to completely relax. Getting into the parasympathetic nervous system really requires that the body be comfortable so move around, fix any wrinkles in your clothes that may bother you and use some props like a bolster to slide under your knees, a blanket folded thinly under your head, a blanket over you if you feel chilled, and an eyepillow if they are available or invest in buying your own especially if you are dealing with a compromised immune system due to cancer treatments.
Another thing that is important for a good shavasana is time. In my first 200 hour yoga teacher training I learned that seven minutes is needed minimum for a person to be able to relax and let the heart rate and breathing return to a resting level. David Swenson, a longtime Ashtanga yoga teacher pointed out a common problem with group yoga classes. He said, "As a teacher, it isn't always easy to manage the timing of the class--but that is part of being an effective teacher. We must be aware of the flow and pace of the students in order to save a bit of time at the end to close the class properly. If students want to talk after class, they can always do that outside of the room."
If you go to a yoga class regularly and the teacher rarely saves time for a truly relaxing shavasana the speak up!!! We as teachers need to know and correct this common problem and trust me, when students talk to us we listen!
Alright, so now you are at the end of a class and it is time for shavasana. You get your props ready and lie down. Wiggle around and adjust any clothing that may disturb your rest and then place that eye pillow over your eyes and take a nice breath in through the nose and out the mouth with a sigh. Ahhhh....
So the thoughts start to flow in; the citti vrtti starts in so give your monkey mind a job to do. In your mind when you inhale say inhale and when you exhale say exhale and repeat. If you enjoy using a sanskrit mantra try the soham (pronounced so-hum) mantra which means " I am That" and see how you can trick the mind to control the mind.
My hope for all of my readers is that shavasana becomes one of your favorite parts of yoga and that maybe you too will go to classes sometimes just for the shavasana.