And What the Bleep Does the Yoga Teacher Do During Savasana?

Via Yaisa Nio
on Jul 7, 2014
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Graffiti Buddha Boring

I started teaching yoga about six months ago and ever since my first class, this one question has been haunting my thoughts.

It’s an issue that never crossed my mind before because when it comes to my own yoga practice, I am the prototype Savasana nerd.

From experience I know now that certainly not everybody in Corpse Pose actually has their eyes shut all the time. But when it’s me enjoying the final relaxation, I actually try to practice sensory withdrawal. While not listening to the loud truck thundering by or ignoring the mosquito that is sucking blood through my sweaty skin may not always be 100% successful, there is one thing I always manage: I keep my eyes closed and I try to focus on myself.

As a result, I have never during the hundreds of savasanas I’ve enjoyed, wondered nor known what the teacher does during those final moments of total peace and quiet. Except of course for the ones that give massages, wave around with bottles of fragrant oil or talk you through total relaxation.

What does the teacher do that you cannot hear nor feel?

Perhaps she sits there picking her nose, finally able to get rid of that booger she felt tickling in her nostril with each inhale.

Or maybe she does some comparative boob analysis, scanning all the breasts lolling to the left and right. Alternatively he may be taking sneaky silent pictures of his students to post on Instagram. Or he’s just sitting there, bored, waiting for the ticking clock to bring deliverance.

But this is all in my imagination.

I only know for sure what I do when my students are restoring their energies after I’ve finally whispered they can lie down and let it all go.

So here is what I, the new eager beaver teacher, does during Savasana. May this little list be of help to other beginning instructors.

1)   Verbal guidance

Especially when I have a class with beginners or when I feel that there is still a lot of scattered energy around, I talk them down. Either by doing a body scan and reminding them to relax each and every body part or by inviting them to visualise and focus on something, such as their breath flowing in and out.

Sometimes however, I feel I’ve talked enough already and I simply shut up and leave them alone.

2)   Hands-on

Depending on the vibrations in the room and my own level of energy, I give my students a little “alignment massage” as I like to call it. I gently pull their legs (literally) and sway them from side to side, straighten their arms and pull their shoulders down, rub their neck and align their head. Sometimes, I add a little head and third eye massage. This of course, is not my own invention but simply an application of what some wonderful teachers have given me during Savasana.

I do not feel that it’s always appropriate though, sometimes for lack of time, occasionally because it feels better to leave the students in control of their own body.

3)   Meditation

It happens, especially after a physically or mentally heavy class, that I feel I need my moment of relaxation too. I don’t however, find it fitting to collapse next to my students and play dead with them. So I sit in Lotus or Half-Lotus in front of the class, facing the students, my hands in Jnana Mudra, drishti at the tip of my nose. This way, I can still sense and see if anything is happening among my students, yet I have the opportunity to center myself and let my mind and body integrate all the energy that is swirling around.

On some occasions, especially after a yoga therapy class, I feel the urge to send some extra positive energy towards my client, so I meditate and focus on him or her.

4)   Observation

It happens that I have nothing to give anymore to my students, nor that I have the need for personal attention. In those cases, I simply observe the beautiful people resting in front of me.

I notice how the girl who was so restless and unfocussed at the beginning, is now utterly still and breathing smoothly, her body grateful after a dynamic and flowing session. I see how the fingers and toes of the otherwise immobile older lady are twitching, telling me her energy meridians are not yet in balance, even though she may feel relaxed after her private yoga therapy session.

I hear the thoughts of the stressed manager who barged into the class five minutes late and is anxiously waiting for me to signal the end of the class because her phone has vibrated three times already during the Yin class. I feel the uneven breathing of the guy who was struggling and sweating profusely throughout the practice, confirming that his choice to take up yoga for beginners was a wise decision.

I look and I learn.

Yet whatever I choose to do during my students’ Savasana, I always end up wishing that I could let them lie there for another endless moment as I breathe with them and share in their gratitude, relief and dedication.

And still, I wonder what all the other teachers out there do.  So maybe, just maybe, I’ll take a sneaky peak next time I’m taking rest.

 

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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Flickr / Strevo


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About Yaisa Nio

Yaisa Nio is an ex-banker, ex-diving instructor, yoga teacher, amateur blogger, columnist at elephant journal, foodie, white wine lover, flexitarian and has been a global nomad for many years. After seven years without a permanent address, she emigrated to Australia where she is now trying to find a compromise between eternal travels and blissful routine. You can find her latest blogs here or follow her random Yoga and other (non)-spiritual contemplations on the page Yoga Here & There.

Comments

20 Responses to “And What the Bleep Does the Yoga Teacher Do During Savasana?”

  1. I teach beginners, and I also talk them down into their Savasana – reminders to relax different parts of the body, deep breath in, exhale completely… and then, once they're down, I observe. I feel such love for them in those minutes. 🙂 They've pushed themselves out of their own comfort zones and I'm so proud. When it's time to come back, it is like a zombie apocalypse, groaning and twitching, but I wouldn't miss a moment.

  2. chelseynicolemusic says:

    Haha! I was JUST talking to someone about how I wanted to know what teachers do during savasana.

  3. Seth Williams says:

    I take a drink of water and start to unwind. As a student I consider this "my time" and would prefer my instructors do nothing.

  4. SireneB says:

    As a Kundalini instructor, I play the gong during the relaxation period. If I didn't have a gong available, I'd play mantras and sit quietly and hold the space. The teacher needs to hold the space to the end of the class.

  5. Ambassador says:

    Last week, saw a local yoga teacher having a 'FB' conversation during the time of her class – glad it wasn't at my studio!

  6. yogibattle says:

    Great post! Savasana is probably the closest thing to Pratyahara experienced by our students. For teachers who respect this aspect of yoga, the best thing to do is sit in silence. I like to set my students up in the pose and make any adjustments that need to be made early. Once everyone is settled, I shut up and sit in Vajrasana, Virasana, Bhadrasana, or Gomukhasana for 10 minutes. I have been in classes where the teacher talks incessantly in Savasana. That usually cues me that the teacher is not comfortable with silence which says VOLUMES about their own ability to teach this art.

  7. Yaisa says:

    Yep, I love those spaced out smiles when they come out of it too!

  8. Yaisa says:

    Hope this satisfied your curiosity… 😉

  9. Yaisa says:

    Wow… so it was not just my imagination!

  10. Yaisa says:

    Totally agree… Thanks for reading and for your comment!

  11. Absolutely. The Master Teacher talked without letup during a savasana body scan SO much and with such technical detail, that I'd felt that I was back in a seminar during the '70s era Human Potential Movement, detailing in practice, the Jacobsen Progressive Relaxation Method.

    Later, with download podcasts, there had been that technical talk, and very, very nearly THAT level of detail; BUT, I made allowances for that (nearly in all cases distance instruction, intended for recording) medium of transmission.

    And I'm a New Yorker, so beyond that, I make allowances for verbosity.

    But, despite so many allowances: in a word: Overkill!

  12. Nice article! Once I've guided students into shavasana, I sit quietly and offer them thoughts of total relaxation, peace, painlessness, and love; a sort of mental reiki.

  13. bea says:

    Savasana adjustments are my favorite thing. My teacher also comes around and tucks us in if we want it, and pushes our shoulders or hips down. I have been in another class where the teacher would put a little rock on our third eye and spritz us with orange water. Serious heaven. All of these were done with permission, of course. I did have one teacher who used to leave and go to the bathroom, which I found abandoning (I was sometimes the only person in class) and distracting. I cannot stand teachers who talk through it.

  14. Truthfully says:

    This article had a nice ending, butt what was the purpose of guessing the teacher was picking his nose or taking photos of people? It really kind of ruined the article and I almost didn't read it. As far as I can see the article was complete with the truth; why put some defiled image of any teacher there?

  15. Yaisa says:

    Nice Julie, I like the idea of "mental reiki" !

  16. Yaisa says:

    Hi Bea! The pushing of the shoulders and hips is great, isn't it? I know it can feel abandoning when the teacher leaves the class during Savasana, but remember that with some kinds of yoga (such as Ashtanga Mysore style), the teacher doesn't interfere at all with the Savasana except perhaps for some small adjustments in the beginning. It is not uncommon for the teacher to leave the space once all the students are in Savasana and don't need adjustments anymore. That gives you (the practitioners) total liberty to stay in Savasana for as long as you want, which is great too! But since I don't teach Ashtanga Mysore style, I do stay with my students and guide them "out" of Savasana at the end of the class.

  17. Yaisa says:

    Dear Truthfully, thanks for pulling through and reading the whole article. I think "defiled image" is perhaps stating it a bit strong, I do believe we all need to pick our nose every now and then, don't we? Sorry if my Dutch sense of humour did not strike a cord with you. I'm very grateful for your honest feedback and for your compliment about the article ending well.

  18. Tanja says:

    Agreed about Mysore style classes – and sometimes the teacher just HAS to go to the bathroom and Mysore classes are usually 2+ hours long 😉

    I actually don't mind when the teachers walk out… but maybe all of that is because Shavasana is perceived a little differently by Ashtangis. 1) everyone is in Shavasana at a different time while there's other movement in the shala anyway, Guruji said it's 2) not called Shavasana, but final rest and 3) it's not meditation or anything, it's more like a cool-down for the body after the hard work…

  19. Michelle Marchildon says:

    I've seen my teachers checking their phones.

  20. Uli says:

    A practitioner's perspective: I've been practicing Iyengar yoga for some time now and changed the studio two months ago because it's closer to my new apartment. I like my new teacher, the only problem I have is that she keeps lecturing about Yoga philosophy during Savasana! My former teacher used to guide us into relaxation (which was helpful) and then keep his mouth shut (not sure what else he did, but I didn't care 🙂 ), and I enjoyed that a lot and usually felt deeply relaxed afterwards. Whereas with my new teacher, I first listened to and lately have been trying to ignore her lecture but both options are not relaxing for me. I came upon your post because I researched this issue, trying to find out what others say about it. Withdrawing your senses and relaxing/silencing your mind seems essential, which was exactly my experience, and it's hard to do that when you are being lectured, so I'll talk to her about it next time. Thanks for the post!