There is a common misconception amongst those new to Yoga that movement is the most important aspect of the practice. It is easy to fall into that mindset, I know that I felt that way when first I began my Yoga journey. I think this belief is rooted in traditional, western forms of exercise. We tend to equate motion with hard work and results. There is this idea that if you are not moving, you are not working very hard. This is certainly true in sports such as running or cycling. It does not however have much relevance to Yoga.
In Yoga, the lack of movement is equally important as its counterpart if not more so. Maintaining a posture is just as significant as the movement that brought you into that posture. There is a sense of duality to everything in Yoga. The inhalation of the breath is held for the same amount of time as the exhalation. After we complete one side of the body we complement that by doing the opposite side. The word “Yoga” itself means to unify. I like the fact that this term is so incredibly vague, it allows us to draw our own interpretations of what exactly is being unified. Is it the mind and body? Movement and stillness? Our spiritual being and our physical being?
This theme of equal emphasis between movement and stillness is perhaps best illustrated through the final resting posture known as Savasana. Also known as corpse pose, this posture involves lying on one’s back like a dead person while the body absorbs the effects of the practice. It can be argued that Savasana is the most important pose in Yoga, which might seem counterintuitive given that it involves no effort or movement. Yet anyone who is experienced with Yoga will attest to the vital role that Savasana plays in the practice. For most Yogis, this is the most rewarding and relaxing 5 minutes of their day.
If you are new to Yoga, I cannot stress the importance of following proper Savasana protocol. There are some unwritten rules to this pose that should be adhered to. Basically it goes like this - if you need to leave class before Savasana is over, leave before it starts. Your instructor will totally understand and respect your choice. Never under any circumstances should you pack up your things and leave in the middle of it. Doing so will engender lots of resentment amongst your fellow Yogis. Just duck out early and there will be no hard feelings. If you do have the time however, I highly recommend staying for the full Savasana. It provides a natural conclusion to the process and it allows the body to integrate all of the benefits of the Yoga practice.