Savasana can be thought of as the most important pose in yoga, yet some people skip it or shorten its duration. If you practice asana (postures), then this last pose of the sequence is very significant and bolsters the effects of all the postures that come before it. Savasana allows you to be in a deep and profound state of awareness, as the body relaxes and integrates your practice and your life.
Why Practice Savasana
Savasana, translated as “corpse pose,” is practiced as the last asana in a yoga practice or on its own for deep relaxation and to rest our awareness in the more subtle essence of our being. This pose is called “corpse pose” because it is practiced by lying down on one’s back in stillness and silence.
As we move through our day, we are reacting to what our senses perceive. The sights, the conversations, and the emails all cause us to have reactions and responses in order to navigate life. Similarly, the movements in asana practice give us the opportunity to witness the mind’s reactions as we move the body into different shapes and hold postures. Therefore, when we finally lie down in stillness and close the eyes, we can pause to integrate the benefits of what we have experienced while also relaxing into another state of being between waking and sleep. This is restorative.
“Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all.” ---- attributed to the Buddha
Relaxation serves many purposes, and our culture does not prioritize it. In the book Asana, Pranayama, Mudra, Bandha by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, he writes:
“This asana relaxes the whole psycho-physiological system […] It develops body awareness. When the body is completely relaxed, awareness of the mind increases, developing Pratyahara [introspection, withdrawing from sense perception].”
How to Practice Savasana
- Lie down on the back.
- Keep the spine in a straight line, body aligned head to toe.
- A thin pillow or small cloth may be placed under the head, but do not prop the head up with a pillow as that alters the natural curve of the spine.
- Allow arms to rest at the sides, a foot or so away from the body, with palms facing up and fingers relaxed.
- Separate feet so legs can relax comfortably.
- Close the eyes.
- Lie in silence and stillness, do not move the body.
- Allow the breath to become slow and rhythmic.
- Focus on the breath as in meditation and let the mind completely relax.
- The longer you stay in this posture, the better.
- After some time, become aware again of your body and surroundings.
- Make small movements in the body.
- When you are ready, slowly get up and move into your day.
- As always with any practice, listen to your own body’s needs and do not do anything that causes pain.
Asana practice including Savasana can be an effective antidote to the stressors of modern life. Vasant Lad, M.A.Sc., in his book Ayurveda: The Science of Self-Healing says:
“Yogic practices help to bring natural order and balance to the neurohormones and the metabolism and improve the endocrine metabolism and thus provide fortification against stress. Yogic practices for the treatment of stress and stress-related disorders (such as hypertension, diabetes, asthma, and obesity) are remarkably effective.”*
When to Practice Savasana
Savasana is an incredibly restorative posture with benefits in the short-term to restore us as we continue with the day, and we notice long-term benefits as this pose that incorporates relaxation and silence helps us become more familiar with who we are beyond our interactions with the stimuli all around us.
Of Savasana, Saraswati writes, “For maximum benefit this technique should be performed after a hard day’s work, before evening activities, or to refresh the body and mind before sitting before meditation, or just before sleep.”
Just like one pauses between repetitions when working out, Savasana can be a pause between psychological or physical heavy lifting during the day.
This posture can also be practiced throughout an asana practice after exertion from a challenging pose or a long hold. In between postures, it is typical to practice Savasana for only a couple of moments, saving longer Savasana for the end.
If you are able, perhaps schedule yourself blocks of time to be able to lie in Savasana daily before bed. Commit to the practice, if you are able, whether every day or once a week, and over time see what you notice has shifted.
A reduction in the myriad effects of stress could be a benefit, and this could mean you are more focused and intentional in life, you feel a greater sense of well-being, you feel more available to those you love, and so much more.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.