Could Savasana be the most important pose we do? Sava means Corpse. Savasana is also called Mrtasana. Mrta means death. Yoga itself means to yoke or unite. And the ultimate yoga is to yoke with God/Creation. And the ultimate union with God is death. It makes perfect sense that at the end of a yoga class we would practice death. But what is the value of that in life?
Why practice death pose?
The reason lies in the fact that death brings us face to face with total annihilation of the self. The practice of yoga is ultimately the transformation of the self. This transformation leads us to greater and greater states of aliveness and awakeness. This process entails a series of little identity deaths. We carry death with us wherever we go. It is our constant companion. We are the only creatures on Earth that know we are going to die. Every moment of every day we are one day closer to death. And how we normally deal with death is by avoiding it in ourselves and in others.
The true yogi takes the opposite path. To be a yogi is to stare death in the face and let the layers of fear and desire that binds us to our ego dissolve or be routed out through discipline. That takes a lot of courage.
When one really faces the fact that death may take you at any moment, one is faced with the big questions in life. What is my life about? Did I waste my life? Did I give the world what I know I could give it? Did I love and live fully? We have all heard the stories or know people who have nearly died or been clinically dead and came back 100x’s more alive! Why is that? It is because they have mastered death. They looked death in the face and experienced the pain of not living life to its fullest and came back bigger then their petty fears and desires. They are now tuned into who they really are which is a million times larger than a momentary fear or desire. Mastery over death is the true lesson of Savasana.
The more we master death, the more alive we become. Now when I say death, I don’t mean literal death. When I say death, I mean the death of one’s identity. The way of spiritual warrior is to face total identity annihilation again and again. It is really very simple to do. You simply let go of what you hold to be true about yourself and life and choose to not know who or what you are or what life is. In a nutshell, to not think. Simple, yes. Easy, no.
Giving up our beliefs is the single most terrifying thing that a human can face. And if you think you are doing it and you are not afraid, you are fooling yourself. Fear is a necessary stage in self-discovery. The experience of yoga in a sense feels like physical death. The only way you can unite with the whole is to die to the separate self. Now I am going to say something controversial. We cannot truly practice Savasana until we let go of a belief in reincarnation or an afterlife.
If we entertain that belief when we practice Savasana/death we don’t face annihilation of the self. Practicing death when attaching it to an afterlife belief is practicing form change not death. It is not practicing the essence of Savasana and the essence of yoga, namely total annihilation of separateness and unification with the whole. Annihilation of the self is the access to the experience of yoga.
And the access to the true Self. One cannot unite with the whole while staying in the known self. Every time we surrender to total annihilation, at first we are terrified then we experience a new level of bliss, liberation, aliveness and enlightenment. Practicing Savasana is practicing the art of dying which gives you access to the art of living. One who masters Savasana or Death pose is a master of life.