“Do I have enough time to pick up the kids?”
“What am I going to make for dinner?”
“Do these pants make my butt look big?”
“Is the teacher looking at me… no really, is he?”
Does this sound your mind during the final pose of a yoga class? Savasana, also known as “corpse pose” is usually the final posture in hatha yoga and is meant for deep relaxation. However, as I have noticed with the students in many of my classes and also experienced personally, it can be really tough to quiet the mind during this sometimes 20-30 minute posture. Now I know that when practicing outdoors, like out on the yoga deck here at Anamaya , the occasional (or not so occasional) ant or fly may interrupt relaxation, but isn’t part of true relaxation letting go of small annoyances and just “being”?
My goal with this blog is to talk about the “how” and “why” of Savasana and also to provide some tips on how to achieve the relaxation and healing that is meant to result from this ancient pose.
The picture above demonstrates the body positioning for savasana. It is important that the body be able to fully relax in this posture. Proper relaxation is essential for the health of our mind and body and for clarity of thought for making good choices.
To place your body in the correct position lie down on your back. It’s nice to use some props to help you be more comfortable which will allow further relaxation of the body. As a minimum, use a small pillow or rolled towel under your head, and perhaps some support behind your knees. If you are prone to catch a chill, cover up with a small blanket and put on some socks. Sometimes it’s also nice, and in my opinion, very luxurious, to cover your eyes with an eye pillow. Your arms should be beside your torso and spread fairly wide, your upper arms should not be touching your rib cage. Your legs should also be spread wide, at about hip width distance, feet rotating out if comfortable.
When I’m teaching, I often use guided visualizations at the beginning of savasana to help with the relaxation of the entire body. By working through the parts of the body and calling attention to any tension being held, it is easier to find a release. Let’s try something right now, bring your attention to the muscles in your face, focus on your forehead and relax, your eyes, relax, your cheeks, relax, your jaw, your tongue, your ears, all relaxed. Go through your whole head and notice how much tension you were holding there. Now take in a deep breath, hold for a moment, then release all of the air fully from your lungs. How do you feel? Did you become more aware of stress that you hold onto without even being aware of it?
This process is done throughout the entire body during savasana, helping the tension wash away. Once your body is relaxed into the position it’s good to follow your breath for around ten breath cycles, just being aware of your breath and it’s movement through your body. At this point you can just let go. Any thoughts that pop into your mind are simply observed without reaction. Your brainwaves will slow down and your awareness will be disconnected from the outside world and your body can begin to repair and restore itself.
Once it’s time to come out of savasana, any time between 15-30 minutes is beneficial, I instruct my students to give the fingers and toes a little wiggle, bringing awareness back to the present moment and the physical body, then stretch the arms up over head and legs down away from the body. From here we roll onto the right side into the fetal position and rest for a moment before slowly pushing up into a seated position.
Many people think that savasana is not important or that it’s a waste of time in our busy lives. But truly when we are relaxed we react better to daily life and are generally in a better mood. Taking the time to relax in savasana not only does us a favor, but also everyone else around us. If you have been “to busy” for a proper savasana, I challange you to try it today! You are sure to feel great afterwards!