Yoga - Pause after a pose
by Shameem Akthar
There are sound reasons for sticking to the classical tradition of taking prescribed rest between asanas
Shameem Akthar has trained as yoga Acharya with
the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Kerala, and
is a master-trainer in neuro-linguistic psychology.
Classical yoga prescribes a period of rest between intense holds in each pose. The reason for the rest breaks is that after any intense physical activity there is a build-up of lactic acid in the blood. It is a natural byproduct of the release of glucose for muscular effort.
It has been found that apart from making the muscles stiff, blood lactate levels can also cause the ‘burn’ effect that can fatigue the muscles. This is the body’s way of inviting rest after intense activity. Plus it has been found that blood lactate levels also trigger adrenal glands into activity.
The adrenal glands are stress glands that make one flee or fight in extreme situations. When these are tweaked, it means other mechanisms in your body have also gone into a fight-or-flight mode. If you leave the yoga mat with a huge build-up of lactic acid in your blood, you are going to feel more stressed or angry or irritated or whatever extreme emotion that is part of your pattern of reaction to stress.
For an hour-long practice, you need a rest in the corpse pose (shavasana) for at least 10 minutes. For longer practice, you may even need a 15-minute break. Also, if your pranayama (breathing exercises) practice follows the classical sequence you have to give a five-minute break at least between the asana practice and breathing exercise. This is to ensure you are not hyperventilating when you do your breathing practice since the latter has a direct effect on your nervous system. Otherwise, you can do the pranayama first, if you do not have sufficient time for a break. For the prone poses you can use the crocodile pose (makarasana) as an effective rest break pose.
The beauty of these meditative poses like shavasana and makarasana is that they are complete in themselves. The first one, if you lie long enough in it, will slowly release tensions all over the body. The hips will become more relaxed, the shoulders will become more settled. It is wonderful to experience the slow release. Makarasana also takes this further by promoting belly-breathing, ensuring deep relaxation and releasing tension in the lower back and the legs.
Lie on your back, with feet apart. The legs should be apart, wider than is normal. The hands should be away from the body, palms facing up. Eyes should be shut. Once you settle into the pose, all movements must stop. Fidgeting is a sign of a restless mind and also indicates a deeper malaise inside the system that does not fully allow you to relax once you have decided to relax. Stay in this pose for five minutes to feel the muscles slowly release their tensions. When finished, roll over to your right and sit up.
Benefits: Shavasana releases tensions very subtly but surely. It is also a good pose in which to meditate. It kicks in the healing and repairing parasympathetic nervous system. It is a healing pose in most ailments. It is the best way to cool down after a hectic asana practice or offers a great way to cool off between intense poses.
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