“Lie down, close your eyes and relax” – the words we all look forward to hearing at the end of the class, meaning we’ve worked through some sun salutations, practiced asanas and are ready to rest. After getting into a comfortable position, taking a cleansing breath or maybe an audible exhale, we find ourselves in savasana, also known as corpse pose.
I think savasana is perhaps the easiest asana to perform but one of the most difficult to master, a form of conscious surrender. In today’s fast-paced society, people are so used to instant gratification and efficiency, where we want effects of our actions to be nearly immediate, thus find it hard to take a moment to slow down. I know I definitely do, where I used to really struggle just lying still for a few minutes and always had the urge to fidget. Even when I did self-practice, I often left out savasana because I wanted to get back to my day instead of lying around. On the other side of the spectrum, some find themselves falling asleep, where they let go and lose focus, enjoying the pose a little too much.
However, savasana has many benefits both physiologically and psychologically. It is an opportunity for us to physically and mentally relax each part of the body, usually starting from the feet up. By taking time in savasana, we can absorb the energy from the physical asanas and dissolve any tension in our muscles, letting our body recover and rest, as well as taking a mental inventory and checking in with how our body feels. Besides that, we can allow our parasympathetic system to take over, where we can slow down our respiratory rate and heart rate, and give our bodies time for them both to return to resting rate. Although the autonomic system usually works unconsciously, in savasana we can consciously notice and register how our breath and heartbeat is slowing down, and in that way, feel more relaxed.
I never really knew much about yoga throughout school, I partook in netball, athletics (short distance running) and modern Bollywood dance, and I was always competitive and never took the time to properly relax – something which I am glad to say I can do now. I started practising yoga in my last year of school, because of stress from A-levels and a need to eliminate my frequent panic attacks.
I began having panic attacks at the age of ten, I went on a family holiday to a resort in Malaysia and had an accident on a jet ski, where it capsized and a lack of lifeguards meant my father, sister and I were swimming in the ocean for about 40 minutes until anyone noticed we were missing. This traumatic event left me with reoccurring nightmares of different outcomes of that event, and if I ever thought about it I would end up in tears, short of breath and shaking uncontrollably. These panic attacks evolved into a fear of dying, and at such a young age I had no idea why this was all happening to me, and it took me just under a year to admit that I had this fear to my parents. They were very supportive and helped me the best they could – the frequency of my panic attacks reduced dramatically.
Then, in 2009 I was involved in a car accident with a pick-up truck. This left me with severe whiplash and superficial facial and arm injuries from broken glass. This second traumatic event set off my panic attacks again, this time more frequent and I couldn’t stop the mind games inside my head. Any little thing would set off the panic attacks, maybe a song, a quiet night at home or seeing myself in the mirror. I tried, and failed, to stop the panic attacks by myself. This time my mother suggested a set of CDs to help me overcome them. It helped me a lot with understanding that my mind was playing games with me and that I could control it – the frequency of my panic attacks decreased again.
Coming to my final year in school, I was applying to university and sitting my final A-level exams, naturally like any other I wanted to do well and secure my place at university – but I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. The stress in this last year took a toll on both my health and triggered panic attacks once more. This time I decided that I would start yoga, as by chance I had met an old friends’ mother who had been teaching yoga for a number of years, she said that yoga would help calm me down and keep me in control of my life. I couldn’t lose anything by trying, so off I went for my first one-to-one session of yoga.
The first thing that she taught me was to allow all my thoughts to flow out of my head and forget about them and anything else that was happening in my life when I did yoga. My favourite part of the lesson was the pranayama as it demanded all of my attention, letting all my thoughts and worries flow out of my body. Ujjayi (victorious breath) allowed me to channel my energy in the lesson and the sound it produced had such a calming effect on the mind, I would do it if I ever felt panicked at home. I also enjoyed doing Kapalabhati, I got the hang of it straight away – it felt like I had been doing it all my life!
I loved yoga from the moment I started it, because of both the concepts and my teacher. Every time I walked into the room for my lesson, I left everything else outside and it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I would drive home at the end of every lesson feeling contented with what I had achieved and like positive energy was reverberating from me. I started doing my pranayama and Surya Namaskara A every morning, this was the best start for me and gave me the chance to calm myself and prepare for the day ahead. Thanks to this introduction to yoga I am now partaking in the 200hr TTC – a decision which is proving to be a valuable experience to me. Through the aching muscles and early mornings, I have met some wonderful people and had the opportunity to be taught by the best yoga masters in Singapore! I am only half way through yet I have learned to do postures I didn’t think possible and have learned new pranayama techniques to add to my daily practice – at nineteen years old I am so glad I have been exposed to yoga now as I will give me the foundations I need to live a joyous life!