Shivasana and its Discontents

Via Lasara Allen
on Jun 20, 2010
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by guest contributor, Robert Allen

I love and I hate
what can I do
it aches me and
I hurt all over. –Catullus

So you’ve worked hard, stretched and meditated, and your asana yoga for the day is almost done; just a few more postures and your day will be better, your body stronger, your spirit calm. You feel pure, like light, sattvic.

Everyday you practice. You strengthen your moral and ethical life. You focus on postures and breath control. You dissolve the senses and fall into meditative absorption. You drift into contemplation and toward Samahdi, the (re) discovery of Self.

Whew, that’s a lot.

Let’s back up a little. Asana practice is an important piece of the 8 limbs of yoga. Should we practice all the poses? What if your forward bends are achey? What if you can’t touch your toes or twist your limbs into baddha padmasana? It doesn’t matter, it’s the doing of it that matters. Trying without trying. So you move forward to the last pose.

You’re almost finished, now comes The Last Surrender: Shivasana, the pose from Hell.

Corpse pose is integrative and you look dead while you do it. It is stillness in action.

Have you ever completed an intense yogic cycle with ease and art, only to come to shivasana and you begin to think? Patanjali warns against this “thinking” and suggests instead to dissolve our minds toward meditation.

So what do you do if you are lying on your back, muscles and systems open, and you begin to think? Lying there, your mind can easily switch back to fluctuating thought; the dishes need doing, kids need to be taken care of, an errand needs running, you’ve just had a disagreement with your mate, anything that activates the mind.

Shivasana is a necessary piece to your postural yoga. It is also the hardest because it requires complete stillness and openness of the body–and most importantly, stillness of being, of your soul, of your heart.

When we open in shivasana, we are opening to surrender, to the world, from evolution to involution, surpassing the continual process of prakriti (nature) toward Purusa (consciousness). So we lay there, dead in unattached openness to what comes next. Shivasana allows us to do so.

According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, dying to the world does not mean physically dying or reducing the self in any way. It is a dying away of things that harm us, like attachment, like karmic scars burned in the fire of controlled breath.

Yoga takes practice, experience, and guidance. Practice to quiet the mind and embody the spirit. Feel the freedom in your limbs, in your higher Self. Listen intently to your sangha, or your teacher. Discriminate between what’s helpful, and what’s not.

But what if shivasana still makes you crazy?

Just keep practicing. Mental and spiritual hygeine come at a cost, the cost of surrender and dying to the world as we find god within us. And don’t worry that you are “doing it wrong” as that’s ego and attachment talking at you.

So lay down on your back and stop thinking.

Just lay there…
Just lay there…
just be.

Robert Allen is a writer and teacher in the realm of relationships and the men’s movement. His articles have been distributed widely on the internet. He’s the author of the Integrity Pledge, a five part pledge for men who love women, and want to love them better.

Robert lives in northern California with his wife, elephant journal columnist Lasara Allen, and two daughters.


About Lasara Allen

Lasara is wife to her true love, and mother to two amazing young women. She’s also a best-selling author, an educator, and an activist. Lasara’s first book, the bestselling Sexy Witch (nonfiction, Llewellyn Worldwide), was published in 2005 under the name LaSara FireFox. As of 3/6/2012, after a coaching sabbatical, Lasara has openings for three three-week, individual, personally tailored coaching and mentoring programs. She also has slots in a cohort-model group coaching program available for a limited amount of time. Lasara is available for one-session commitments as well. Make whatever commitment feels best for you. Lasara offers individual coaching on topics such as; * Mental and Physical Health and Wellness - accepting your diagnosis (or that of a loved one) - learning to live with awareness of strengths and vulnerabilities - Learning to live gracefully within your spectrum of the possible * Mindful Relationships - self as primary partner - loving partnerships, friendships and connections - marriages - parenting - family * Spiritual Contemplation and Alignment - Entering into and committing to your spiritual inquiry - Learning to listen to listen for and hear the divine in your life - Inquiring into the role that faith may play in informing your path - The role of meditation, contemplation, and prayer in your practice For more information and endorsements, visit:


3 Responses to “Shivasana and its Discontents”

  1. Charlotte says:

    I'm not sure that mental agitation is necessarily more prevalent in Savasana than in the rest of practice. It's just that in the silence thinking just becomes more apparent, same as in meditation. One really helpful thing I've learned in three decades of practice is that it's not about stopping the thoughts so much as it is about being aware that the mind is thinking. The trick is to stay easy with thinking—neither getting caught up in the content of your thoughts nor trying to push them away.

  2. Robert Allen says:

    I believe shivasana is the hardest pose due to its simplicity. The action of laying still and meditating is quite difficult after a round of asana — and is closer to the ends of raj yoga. It's an easy postural hold that doesn't strain the mind or the spirit, and allows for meditation to happen (supposedly) with ease.

    But at the same time, "just lying there" can bring up thoughts as there's "nothing else happening." That's the tough time.

    Thanks for your points about practice. Practice makes practice happen more…

  3. Robert Allen says:

    Thinkthinkthink, Yoga makes it stop and takes practice. I'm pleased that you see shivasana in a different light. In this pose you are the unanimated shiva open to the descent of shakti. I love that, I just need to stay still more often. And not stay attached to "getting there" as a goal..

    Teach us to care and not to care
    Teach us to sit still –Eliot.

    Thanks for the comments.