Greetings from beautiful Sri Lanka! Sri Lanka is the Sanskrit for “resplendent island” and this truly is just that! Being the cancerian water sign that I am, it feels so good to be back so close to the elements in their rawest forms – sand, sea, sun and fresh air!
Last December I only intended on visiting India for a month or two, but somehow Mother India charmed me into staying for the majority of 2014. I ended my year with a ten day sādhanā (disciplined and dedicated practice and learning) at the Sivananda ashram in Kerala. I was looking for a place where I could retreat to, give gratitude and reflect upon the amazing time I have had this past year. Surrounded by the beauty of the Sahyadri Hills and Agastya peak and lake, this abode of peace and shelter provided ample nourishment to my body, mind and soul.
Our days commenced with a 90 minute satsang of meditation and devotional chanting, followed by a two hour asana and pranayama practice. The day also concluded with a late afternoon two hour asana and pranayama practice (the same sequence as the morning practice), followed by light supper and another 90 minute satsang.
While I love the strong asana practices I undertook as part of my daily sādhanā in Mysore for the past year, I really embraced the Sivananda sequence which is a slower, less agressive and more graceful practice.
So in this blog post, I am trying to share with you the benefits and importance of yoga and in particular savasana, which were highlighted to me during my time at Sivananda.
Why is yoga better than other exercises?
According to Sivananda, the fundamental difference between yoga exercises and other exercises is that physical culture usually emphasises violent movement of the muscles. This tends to produce large quantities of lactic acid in the muscle fibres causing fatigue. Asanas are practiced slowly reducing the production of lactic acid. Whatever is produced is neutralised by the increased oxygen that is taken in during the accompanying deep breathing.
Sivananda’s five points of yoga:
- Proper exercise (asana)
- Proper breathing (pranayama)
- Proper relaxation (savasana)
- Proper diet (sattvic – pure)
- Positive thinking (meditation).
Would you believe?
With Sivananda it takes two hours to complete two pranayama exercises and 12 asanas?!
This sequence (practiced both morning and afternoon at the ashram) takes a full two hours, primarily because they embrace sivasana (corpse pose) so much. The practice starts and ends with savasana and there is savasana between each asana.
Benefits of savasana
- Relaxes the body, breath and mind.
- Improves memory and concentration power.
- Helps to reduce nervous and muscular tension.
- Aids in lowering blood pressure and reduce heart rate.
- Assists in reducing headache occurrence, and provides relief from fatigue and insomnia.
- Sivananda promotes savasana as a good way to absorb and digest the benefits of the previous asana.
“When prana [life force] and manas [mind] have been absorbed, an undefinable joy ensues”
Hatha Yoga Pradipika (chapter IV)
“The stresses of modern civilisation are a strain on the nerves for which savasana is the best antidote.”
B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga
I will leave you with a quote from Swami Vishnu-devanada-ji, that is in sync with Sukhinaḥ Yoga’s outlook and philosophy:
“Health is wealth. Peace of mind is happiness. Yoga shows the way!”
Oṁ Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ