in savasana

Mantra plays softly in the background as I lay myself down on my mat, slowly preparing for Savasana, the Corpse pose. The mantra is like a warm covering, its sound gently wrapping around me. I adjust the two sides of my body to bring myself into alignment, thinking, is this the laying out of the corpse? Is this it, the final act? No chance to correct errors, to make amends, to speak the unspoken words. What have I left undone, what needs resolution in my life?

I have reached the age of seventy-seven. I feel that through the last twenty years spent living the teachings of yoga, I have gained in strength and wisdom. When I go back over the main events of my life, I feel a completion has taken place, old issues resolved. I am grateful for my life path. I am grateful for this healthy body, a symbol of my personal temple.

But the corpse has no awareness of the body. It just is. Lying here, I am drawn to a sensation of discomfort in my lower back and realize tension causes pain and discomfort, keeping my mind involved where I don't want it to be. If I can release that area, I am not focused on it. If I am not focused on it, I am not attached to it. In deeper levels of relaxation, I have experienced a separation from my physical form. I know that I am not the body. This is important to remember, not holding onto the physical form, not resisting the gradual separation from my body at the time of physical death.

This careful preparation for the death pose needs just as much awareness as the preparation for death in my daily life. The left side of my body feels larger than the right as I begin to go through the process of asking each part to relax. Relaxing is the first stage of surrender, not a weak kind of giving up, but a conscious letting go. By surrendering small things in my daily life, I am preparing for the final surrender into a peaceful transition at the end.

I am aware now that the right and left sides are even. The relaxation has allowed a softening of the muscles. Going through my body brings more awareness and the desire to cooperate with it, not forcing or pushing it, but being gentle and compassionate. I depend on my body in this earthly existence and am grateful for its wisdom.

I observe the effect of the gentle rhythm of my breath and enjoy the sensation of it flowing in and out. Breath is life force, power and energy. The breath brings in the element of new life; without it death follows. My breath brings in nourishment I need for life and sends out unwanted toxins from my body. Many cells in my body are renewed, yet at the same time other cells are dying. The in-breath creates the feeling of more space inside and the out-breath releases tension, letting go of attachments to old concepts and attitudes that hold me bound. The death of these attachments is a welcome relief, but it doesn't happen all at once. The breath is a way to start.

Swami Durgananda has been practising yoga for 25 years. A student of Swami Radha, she lives and teaches at Yasodhara Ashram ( in British Columbia, Canada.

Copyright ©2007 ascent magazine, first Canadian yoga magazine, yoga for an inspired life