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Make Sure You Put Relaxation In Its Proper Place. By Vixie Tonkin
My personal yoga practice has spanned years, continents, time zones. It’s held me together through drastic changes in my career, home and personal life. It’s slowed or sped my pace, depending on my situation. The sound of my breath has provided the soundtrack; hard and fast, or shallow and slow, it’s always familiar. But it wasn’t until I signed-up for a life-changing teacher training course at Rishikesh Yog Peeth that I decided I should stop skipping my most challenging pose: savasana.
Savasana, or corpse pose, was described by my teacher Roshan Singh as the most difficult pose to master. And despite my own struggles with the pose (lying still and counting 30 breaths is just as good as the recommended 20 minutes, right?) I was aghast to hear other students recounting tales of teachers in the West practically begging participants to stay for savasana and settle into this relaxation pose, rather than up and leave the studio. Surely that’s just rude? And, if you’ve paid for the full 90 minutes…
And here’s the crux, we value our time and money so much that we don’t realise we’re abusing them. If money is energy and time is relative, how much more benefit will we reap by stopping, relaxing and relishing the pause, the absence of both? It’s so easy to become enslaved by these two false gods. Little do we realise that – in the true spirit of democracy – it was us who placed them on their respective thrones, and it’s us who can gently lift them off again. Of course it’s easier said than done, but this is where the yogic path – one of perseverance – can help us to bring our lives back into balance. And with all that ‘doing’, we could all use some time to ‘be’.
Type of pose: Supine, resting
Also known as: Final relaxation
Benefits: No yoga session is complete without a final relaxation posture. Savasana allows your body and mind time to process what has happened during a yoga class. It provides a necessary counterpoint to the effort you put forth during asana practice.
Teachers often say that savasana is the most difficult yoga pose, which is really a way of saying that it's really hard for some people to do nothing for ten minutes. If you find it challenging, try scanning your body from toe to head, saying the name of each body part and then releasing it. Your body needs this time to absorb the new information it has received through the physical practice.
Often, the mind wants to stay active even when the body is relaxed. When your body is still, your mind has an opportunity to figure out how to maintain the same state of calmness when the body is at rest that existed during the intense physicality of asana. If your mind won't stop chattering, try the basic meditation techniques of noticing your thoughts, labeling them as thinking, and then letting them go. Just like other types of yoga, this takes practice. Eventually, you will notice that when your body goes into savasana, your mind also assumes a relaxed state.
Even though savasana is a resting pose, it’s not the same a sleeping! You should try to stay present and aware during the five to ten minutes you spend in final relaxation.
1. Lie down on your back.
2. Separate your legs. Let go of holding your legs straight so that your feet can fall open to either side.
3. Bring your arms alongside your body, but slightly separated from your torso. Turn your palms to face upwards but don't try to keep them open. Let the fingers curl in.
4. Tuck your shoulder blades onto your back for support. This is a similar movement to tucking the shoulders under in bridge pose, but less intense.
5. Once you have set up your limbs, release any effort from holding them in position. Relax your whole body, including your face. Let your body feel heavy.
6. Let your breathing occur naturally. If your mind wanders, you can bring your attention to your breath but try to just notice it, not deepen it.
7. Stay for a minimum of five minutes. Ten minutes is better. If you are practicing at home, set an alarm so that you are not compelled to keep checking the time.
8. To come out, first begin to the deepen your breath. Then begin to wiggle your fingers and toes, slowly reawakening your body.
9. Stretch your arms overhead for a full body stretch from hands to feet.
10. Bring your knees into your chest and roll over to one side, keeping your eyes closed. Use your bottom arm as a pillow while you rest in a fetal position for a few breaths.
11. Using your hands for support, bring yourself back up into a sitting position.
Tips: Using props during savasana can make the pose more comfortable and relaxing.
1. If you have low back tenderness or stiffness, a rolled blanket or bolster under your knees helps bring the pelvis into a more comfortable position.
2. To emphasize the feeling that the body is rooted to the earth, place a folded blanket over your thighs. A block just under your navel has a similar effect, as does an eye pillow.
3. If it's at all chilly in the room, cover up before coming into savasana. Use an unfolded yoga blanket or put on your sweater and socks. It's very difficult to relax when you are cold.
It's easy to have a love-hate relationship with Savasana. On the one hand, it's a much-needed time to relax (or even meditate) after a successful yoga class—something we crave. On the other, right when the instructor cues you to lie on your back, it's only natural to start thinking about all the things you should be doing besides lying on the mat doing nothing (and then spend the next 10 minutes stressing about said things).
Fortunately, there are ways to make the most of the last few minutes of class, keep your brain from wandering, and make the time both invigorating and relaxing. Whether you want to chill out or slip into a meditative state, here's what top yoga instructors suggest.
If You Want a Meditative Session…All kinds of thoughts and emotions (some wanted, others not so much) can bubble up during a yoga practice. The good news: "Savasana is a wonderful time to be fully present with welcoming these sensations," says Allison English, a Chicago-based yoga instructor. For a mindful few minutes on the mat, try these techniques.
Practice progressive relaxation.
This practice involves relaxing and contracting various areas of your body, which helps you feel the sensations of engagement and relaxation from your practice, explains English. How to do it: After your inhale, you might hold your breath and contract all the muscles of your face tightly. On your slow exhale, you'd release the contraction. This helps you be more present with your body at the end of your practice, and it also cultivates a deeper relaxation of the nervous system and tissues, English notes.
Do some breath counting (Sama Vritti).
You know connecting with your breath matters when it comes to being meditative, but this strategy is all about feeling the movement of your inhalations and exhalations and matching their lengths. (Inhale for a long count of three, then as you exhale, count it to match your inhalation.) Says English: "When exhalation is balanced to inhalation, energy, mind, and body feel balanced and even slightly invigorated."
Grab a block.
The light pressure of a yoga block on your tummy can help you recognize the rise and fall of your breath, says Sarah Girard, a yoga instructor at various Equinox locations in New York City. "This is a great time to get really specific about the way in which the breath feels cool upon entry and warm upon exiting the body." Doing this can help you begin a breath-focused meditation, such as Vipassana meditation practice, she says, which anchors your mind deeply to follow your breath.
If You Want to Totally Chill and Relax…If you've looked forward to a few minutes of "me" time to do absolutely nothing (because when else can you do that?), a chill Savasana—where you can let go and let be—is for you. Set yourself up for relaxation with these calming strategies.
To fully relax, you want to do everything that'll help you feel as relaxed as possible, says English. So prop your legs over some bolsters, wrap yourself in blankets, pull on your cozy hoodie, and cover your eyes, too. You'll eliminate any visual stimulation that can keep you too alert. "Dialing down the fight-or-flight response and dialing up the rest-and-digest nervous system is a very important skill in modern society," says Heather Peterson, of CorePower Yoga. Plus, helping the physical body relax also helps your nervous system and brain reach a calm state, she notes.
For some serious chill out time, English suggests trying out the practice of witnessing—or seeing everything you experience as if you are at some distance from it and not directly involved with it. "This detachment practice is not dissociative but does give you some assistance in letting go of whatever happens to pass your way during Savasana," she says.
Let your body feel heavy.
To truly relax, with every exhale, notice a different part of your body sinking into the floor, suggests Girard. "At a certain point, awareness of your body will soften as you completely relax and are able to let go of everything." This practice might take some time to master, so don't freak if it doesn't come naturally, she notes. If you're having a hard time, try visualizing your body being softly absorbed into the ground, she suggests. This gives your mind something to focus on so you can stay relaxed.
Breathe out for longer than you breathe in.
There's actually a breathing trick that can help you zen out. Rather than making your breaths even in count (which helps with the meditative Savasana), count your exhalation to be twice as long as your inhalation. "When exhalation is longer than inhalation there is a natural downregulation in nervous system functioning and a deeply relaxed state," says English.
Savasanahhhh. Or the slightly more creepy English translation, Corpse Pose. That 5 or so minutes at the end of a yoga practice where you just let go. Lying down long on the mat, covered and cosy, arms and legs spread out, eyes closed, totally relaxed. Or sometimes maybe thinking about what you’re going to make for dinner when you get home. Hey, we’ve all been there.
Sometimes Savasana is the pose in which we experience the most impatience or frustration. When we can’t stop thinking about the to-do list awaiting us off the mat, spending 5 whole minutes doing nothing can’t help but feel like, well, a bit of a waste of time. But I promise you, Savasana is the furthest thing from a waste of time. It’s actually possibly the most important yoga pose out there. Here are 5 reasons why it’s okay – or actually, necessary – to let the to-do list aside and let yourself let go in this beautiful, nourishing posture.
1. Balance is important. After a fiery vinyasa class, we need some yin to our yang to help us cool down. Savasana marks the end of our physical yoga practice, allowing our heart rate and our breath to return to normal, our body temperature to cool before we return to our day off the yoga mat. (Note – this is also why it’s really nice to have some cosy socks and a blanket covering you for Savasana. Cool is good, but you don’t want to be cold).
2. It is a well-deserved rest. In Savasana, you can’t buy your groceries. You can’t scroll through Instagram. You can’t check your email. We live in a world where we are constantly over-stimulated and being ‘busy’ is glorified beyond belief. You not only deserve, but need, some time away from that constant stimulation and just rest. Just be. A lot of us – myself included – often feel guilty when we let ourselves rest, when we’re not being constantly ‘productive’. In Savasana, we don’t have a choice. Rest is not optional. It’s kind of like being in an airplane. You have zero control over what’s going to happen, so you might as well just lay back and enjoy the ride.
3.You have time to notice what’s changed. Savasana is the time when we can really let the nutrients of our practice soak in. All of that energy we’ve cultivated and released in our practice gets a chance to flow through our body and our bloodstream. Here you have time to notice all that your yoga practice has done for you. What has changed for you physically, mentally, and emotionally? If we walk out of a practice without having that vital time to notice and reflect, we’re missing out on something really special.
4. It can be really dang difficult…And while not necessarily fun, it’s so important to do things we find difficult. If we are always running around, keeping busy, rarely even taking a walk without a podcast in our ears (I’m so guilty of this!) then the silence and vulnerability of Savasana will be HARD. Way harder than any headstand out there. But it’s so worth sticking with that difficulty and that discomfort, to come out on the other side. Learning to be able to sit with yourself in silence is one of the most valuable things yoga has taught me.
5. You get to start fresh. Savasana, or Corpse Pose, is so called because it gives us a space to practice death. A place where we can come to accept our mortality without fear. A little morbid I know, but bear with me! In death, everything ceases to matter. How many pairs of fancy yoga pants we own. How many likes that last Instagram post got. What your job title is. We’re not attached to anything. And unlike in death, we get to roll out of Savasana and on with our lives. Maybe with a renewed sense of gratitude and knowing what’s really important to us
So next time Savasana rolls around in your yoga class, try to approach it with the same respect, love, and curiosity you would any other yoga pose. Understand that you deserve this time to rest, rejuvenate, and let all of the benefits of your yoga practice soak in and do their thing. You’ll never regret a Savasana.
Savasana, sometimes referred to as Corpse Pose or Death Pose (mrtasana), is considered the easiest pose to perform and the most difficult to master. While the asana requires less physical strength and flexibility, it challenges the mind and body in so many different ways.
Emphasizing awareness and curiosity of the body’s natural breathing pattern, Savasana is a great place to practice engaging in mindful awareness without effort or exertion.
In Savasana, sensory stimulation and external distractions are ultimately minimized to help the body completely relax. With a grounded body, mental energy can be channeled inward and the mind can start to explore the body from the inside. Practice will increase body awareness and interoception. Interoception is insight on the physiological condition of the body and is associated with the autonomic nervous system and autonomic motor control. The autonomic nervous system is in control of the normally unconscious and automatic bodily functions like breathing, the heartbeat, and the digestive processes.
Interoception is also linked to the formation of subjective feeling states. In summary, practicing Savasana may increase the ability to notice things like the body’s breathing and heartbeat as well as form calmer and more relaxed feeling states. For this reason, increased interoception has been linked to decreased signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, savasana is known as a great way to calm the mind, reduce stress and fatigue, lower blood pressure, relieve headache pain, and improve sleep.
Lastly, the meditative state of yoga in Savasana has been shown the help slow the active beta brainwaves in favor of the slower states of alpha and theta brainwaves (which are linked to creativity).
While asana flows help the body unwind, Savasana is the time to reap in all the benefits of the physical practice. Muscular and skeletal tension is consciously relaxed in this pose. Over a longer savasana, surface tightness melts away and exposes deeper layers of stress in the muscles.
There is a range in suggested Savasana length, some suggest a minimum of six minutes for every hour of practice, and some suggest mid-practice breaks Savasana breaks every 30 minutes of asana practice. Regardless of length and frequency, we can all agree that Savasana is an essential part of every yoga practice.
To help you ground better in Savasana, you can practice it in combination with pranayama and mantra practice. For example, counting down from 10, “I am breathing in 10, I am breathing out 10, I am breathing in 9, I am breathing out 9…,” or reciting a mantra, “I am grounded, I am relaxed, I am grounded, I am relaxed…,” can help ground and center a Savasana practice.
Savasana is often the closing and final asana in practice, and it is a great time to channel energy inward to restore and revitalize the hardworking mind and body. Expanding upon the mental benefits, Savasana provides an opportunity to explore the fifth limb of yoga: pratyahara. Very simplified, pratyahara is withdrawing from the senses and gaining mastery over external influences. However, the practice of pratyahara is very complex, a contributing reason to why Savasana is considered one of the hardest poses to master.
Although it looks easy, Savasana (Corpse Pose) has been called the most difficult of the asanas. Indeed, many yoga students who can happily balance, bend, and twist through the rest of class struggle with just lying on the floor. The reason is that the art of relaxation is harder than it looks. It doesn't happen on demand: You can't just say, "OK, I'm going to relax, right now!" (Just ask the millions of Americans who have trouble falling asleep at night.) That's why Savasana is such a gift. The pose sets up the conditions that allow you to gradually enter a truly relaxed state, one that is deeply refreshing in itself and that also can serve as a starting point for meditation.
When you first start practicing Savasana, it can be a struggle to relax in the pose; you may lie there feeling tense and staring at the ceiling. Or, like some students, you might fall asleep the moment you lie down. The essence of Savasana is to relax with attention, that is, to remain conscious and alert while still being at ease. Remaining aware while relaxing can help you begin to notice and release long-held tensions in your body and mind.
Savasana is a practice of gradually relaxing one body part at a time, one muscle at a time, and one thought at a time.When you do this practice day after day, it conditions the body to release stress and can improve your sense of physical and emotional well-being. But when you have allowed tightness and tension to build up in your body, relaxing—even when you lie down—feels impossible. That's why it's important to practice the other, active asanas before attempting Savasana because they stretch, open, and release tension in the muscles. They also help relax the diaphragm, so the breath can move freely.
Working with props to support one part of the body at a time can help you learn to consciously relax and refine your practice of Savasana. Elevating the calves on a support (see Step 1) relaxes the legs, which can become fatigued from yoga practice, exercise, standing long hours, or even from sitting too long. This variation also improves circulation and releases tension in the back muscles, allowing you to rest more deeply in your Savasana. Elevating the back and supporting the head, on the other hand (see Step 2), helps to open your chest, release the shoulders, and enhance the natural flow of the breath. If your energy or mood is low or if you hold a lot of tension in your upper back and shoulders, this variation will be good for you. Observe the breath as you practice. Spend several minutes here taking long and even breaths. You may notice that your brain becomes quiet and your thoughts slow down, allowing your mind to become clear and focused.
In the full version of the pose, you will rest your entire body on the floor. Extend your arms and legs outward from the torso evenly and symmetrically. Mentally scan the body from head to feet, gradually releasing each body part and each muscle group; take time to notice all the places where the body is making contact with the floor. With each exhalation, imagine each limb getting a little heavier and spreading out a little more.
If you feel uncomfortable in any part of your body, you may need further support. Use props to relieve any pressure and release tension so you can fully relax. Lying flat on the floor is an unusual experience and can feel strange at first, so be patient with yourself. Over time, you'll enjoy it more. Even if you feel like moving, try to stay there for a few minutes until it becomes easier. Gradually notice that a feeling of complete stillness draws you inside. You may notice that the breath has become quiet and almost invisible.
When coming out of Savasana, first take a few deep breaths. Give yourself a few moments to regain physical awareness of your arms and legs, and then slowly move your body with gentle attention.
A regular practice of Savasana will train you again and again in the art of relaxation, an essential quality for meditation and a true experience of yoga. As you release your physical body, you may even discover another part of yourself that is light and free.
Practicing Savasana before sleeping can promote deep, quality sleep. Position yourself in bed using the same points of alignment and supports you use for Savasana on your mat. Spend several minutes in the pose relaxing your mind.
Support Your Legs on a Chair
1. Place your mat in front of a chair or couch.
2. Lie in the center of your mat with your knees bent.
3. Lift your legs, and place the back of your calves on the chair or couch.
4. Rest the back of the arms on the floor with the palms facing upward.
Refine: Adjust your support if necessary to be sure the entire calf, supported equally. Place a blanket under your head and neck (all the way to your shoulders) so that you can drop your chin and direct your gaze downward toward your heart. If you wear glasses, remove them. Place a cloth over your eyes. Turn the upper arm so that skin rolls away from the chest, and gently tuck the shoulder blades in toward your back so the center of the chest is broad and lifted. Be sure no part of the ;arm is touching the torso.
Finish: Relax the back muscles by allowing them to spread from the center out to the sides. Bring your attention to the whole back, feeling the back ribs in contact with the floor. With each inhalation, notice the back ribs spreading and the lungs filling. With each exhalation, notice them contracting. See if you can feel the floor with all parts of your back, from the pelvis to the head.
Support Your Back and Head with Folded BlanketsOpen your chest and observe your breath.
1. Place a bolster or a stack of folded blankets vertically on your mat and another folded blanket where your head will rest.
2. Lie back on the bolster or blankets with your knees bent.
3. Place the folded blanket under your head and neck.
4. Extend your legs one at a time.
5. Check that each leg is equal distance from the midline of your body.
Refine: Be sure the blanket is under the entire neck, all the way to your shoulders. If you wear glasses, remove them now. Place a cloth over your eyes before adjusting your arms. Extend the arms at the sides. The arms should be far enough away from the torso to allow the upper inner arm to roll away from the chest. Keep your armpit area open and the shoulders releasing down toward the floor. Spread and open the palms and fingers, and then allow the back of the hand to soften and rest on the floor.
Finish: Bring your attention to your breath. Simply notice the natural flow of your breath coming in and going out. For several minutes, observe the breath and focus on filling the lungs evenly, right and left. Consciously expand the chest both upward and outward as you inhale; release the breath slowly and smoothly. The practice of breathing consciously, using this support, will have a soothing and calming effect on your nervous system.
Final Pose: Savasana
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent.
2. Keep your head centered, not allowing it to fall to either side.
3. Extend your arms to the sides.
Refine: If you'd like to use a blanket under your head or something over your eyes, prepare that before adjusting the arms. Turn the upper inner arms away from the trunk, and gently tuck the shoulder blades in, bringing a little lift to the chest. Do this without overarching the lower back. Maintain the arm position, and then stretch the legs out one by one. Allow the inner legs to roll outward and relax completely.
Finish:Allow your breath to flow smoothly in and out. Close your eyes and relax the facial muscles, beginning with the forehead and eyelids. Then relax the cheeks, lips, and tongue. (Relaxing your tongue will release tension in the face, which has a direct effect on the brain and mind.) Relax the throat and neck. Continue to bring attention to each part of the body, consciously relaxing each part, starting with the head and traveling all the way down to your feet. When the physical body is still and at rest, the breath naturally draws you inward toward the essence of yourself. Rest with a spacious feeling of light in your heart.
Optimize Your Pose
Explore these modifications of Savasana:
We are used to engaging our muscles and our brains to achieve our goals, yet in Savasana, we must become equally skilled at letting all that activity go in order for the pose's beneficial effects to arise. It's hard to let go of the idea that everything important happens when you are moving and taking action. Yet a deeper part of yourself waits for those moments when you are completely relaxed to reveal its truth. A feeling of connection, clarity, all-knowingness, love, or joy may arise from this state of ease and relaxation—a taste of what meditation offers.
“Every pose is designed to prepare the body for savasana,” I remarked near the end of a weekly yoga class I teach in Estes Park, Colorado. The words were hardly out of my mouth when a student turned his head to me, lowered his eyebrows, and drew them together to form an impressive peak over his third eye chakra.
“What in the hell is this lady talking about?” his eyebrows said.
Savasana, or corpse pose, is a peak pose. It isn’t just filler time or time to grab a quick nap before hustling back to our busy lives. The purpose of savasana is to learn to just be, a colossal challenge. Savasana can be practiced in many ways, including focusing awareness on the breath or guided muscle relaxation. The mind has a tendency to wander or check out and go to sleep, but the practice of savasana trains our minds to observe and be aware of the stillness inherent in each and every moment. In savasana, we relax into the room, the mat, and ourselves and then try to let go of everything surrounding us. We release internal thoughts and move into a place of non-judgmental acceptance and awareness. This time of mindfulness is beneficial to every part of our being.
Finding Stillness with SavasanaPracticing mindfulness, as we do while trying to stay present and aware in savasana, creates distance between reflexive thoughts and the totality of who we really are. Repeated thoughts wear pathways in our brains, and these thought patterns—sometimes stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and our lives—become conditioned. When we create space through mindful movement and stillness practice, we are able to view our thought patterns more objectively and create new paths in our minds. We come to see the stories we’ve created about ourselves for the misconceptions they are and are able to reframe them in new, more useful ways.
But practicing mindfulness is not always easy. Some people have hyperactive minds (for a variety of reasons, including cultural conditioning, PTSD, anxiety, and chronic overstimulation), and for these folks, poses like savasana and seated meditation are extra challenging. The climb up Stillness Mountain is a few steps longer and a little steeper.
So, how do people with busy minds develop an awareness practice like savasana? Researchsuggests that a mindful movement practice can lay the foundation. Using mindful movement, the kind we engage in throughout an asana practice as a way to access the quiet mind of savasana, is comparable to learning to do handstand by kicking your legs to the wall. As you learn to be mindful and non-judgmental in asana practice, the mental muscles necessary for a stillness practice such as savasana are strengthened. Most of us don’t nail handstand on our first try. Savasana requires practice too.
Benefits of SavasanaAre the benefits of savasana really worth it? Maybe even more than we thought! New research suggests that the practice of mindfulness can actually transform your brain. A recent study measured the amygdala, the part of the brain that stimulates fear, and the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain related to concentration and decision-making, in people taking a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course. After just eight weeks, the amygdalae of study participants shrank and their prefrontal cortexes grew thicker. Let me rephrase that for clarity: After just two months, the more complex decision-making area of the brain grew while the more basic reactive area shrank.
Or, as journalist Tom Ireland wrote for Scientific American regarding the results of this study, “Our more primal responses to stress seem to be superseded by more thoughtful ones.”
Considering the possible implications of these studies, I encourage you to embrace savasana as a way of life, not just as something you do on your mat at the end of every yoga class. Krishna Das said, “You can’t think your way out of a prison of thoughts.” But it seems that you can meditate your way out. Mindfulness will put you in touch with your body and spirit in ways you might not imagine. So calm your squirrely eyebrows and see savasana for the peak pose that it is.
Savasana might look like a nap at the end of your yoga practice. But it’s actually a fully conscious pose aimed at being awake, yet completely relaxed. In Savasana—also known as corpse pose— you lie down on your back and relax your body and mind so you may fully assimilate the benefits of your asana practice.
During this pose, you close your eyes, breathe naturally, and practice eliminating tension from the body. Ideally, this posture lasts for 10 to 20 minutes. However, even a few minutes of Savasana is said to have powerful benefits.
Savasana helps relieve mild depression, high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, and insomnia, according to Yoga Journal. Savasana can calm the nervous system and promote equanimity in your entire body. Fatigued muscles get to relax, tense shoulders and jaws soften, and the eyes quiet down to reflect a quieter state of mind.
Common Challenges of Savasana
This simple-sounding pose is more difficult than you might realize. The body can cause distractions that make it a challenge. Your body might feel cold, itchy, or unsettled. Savasana occurs at the end of the yoga practice to remedy this obstacle.
By the time you’ve completed asanas, or postures, your body and mind should be tired enough to be able to relax sufficiently for Savasana. Think of it like taking your dog to the park or your kid to Disneyland—the drive home is often the quietest and calmest of the day.
Even if your body is amenable to the rest, your mind can get in the way. Some common thoughts that pop up during Savasana:
It’s normal for the mind to try to resist this deep relaxation. Savasana is the ultimate act of conscious surrender. It takes practice and patience to surrender easily. With the world moving so quickly, cultivating the art of Savasana is more valuable than ever. Our society tends to place greater value on speed and productivity; learning how to do nothing is a skill that can help you become more productive when you need to be.
Savasana helps us learn how to completely surrender, stop fighting the clock, and make space for peace and harmony to fill the soul. Savasana is like turning off your computer when it’s acting up. Once you reboot it, the computer often has greater functionality.
5 Steps to a Successful Savasana
1. Set yourself up for success. Stretch out on your mat and be sure you’re completely comfortable. Use bolsters, pillows, blankets, and cover your eyes with an eye pillow or towel. The more comfortable you are, the more you can relax. The more relaxed you are, the more easily you can surrender. The more open you are to surrendering, the more benefits you’ll receive.
2. Take one final cleansing breath. Your teacher will likely prompt you to take one audible exhale, signaling to your body to release into the pose. This cleansing breath also sends a message to your parasympathetic nervous system that it is safe to relax and be just as you are.
3. Scan for tension. Mentally run through all the parts of your body and try to make them heavier. Be on the lookout for tension hiding in the jaw, temples, shoulders, and hips because stress likes to accumulate in these areas.
4. Then, just notice. Some days will be easier than others, and that’s part of the practice. See if you can be still, at ease, and simply trust that the breath will carry you to the next moment. Watch for those peaceful moments of quiet between the thoughts. Over time, they’ll get longer, and you’ll find more inner quiet.
5. Set an intention.Before you come out of Savasana, take a mental snapshot of how you feel on every level. Ask yourself what you’d like to take with you from your practice, and what you might like to leave behind. Seal these observations into your psyche with an inner smile, and then enjoy a deep inhale to awaken and emerge into your day. Now take a moment to notice that you feel more rested, awake, and alive than you did before.
Savasana is a time of rest, but not a time to sleep. If you have a tendency to fall asleep, the first step is to be compassionate with yourself, and acknowledge that your body needed some rest. Over time, you can train yourself to achieve the rest you need while remaining awake. Give your Savasana the same attention you give to your Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Downward Dog) and your Virabhadrasana (Warrior II) poses, and notice the effects. If you consistently practice calm and surrender on the mat, it will become easier when you’re no longer on it, which is ultimately why we all practice yoga in the first place.
Once we recognize how much control our minds and thoughts have over our entire existence, we can begin to work toward finding inner peace. Savasana is a resting pose. It is the final pose of the physical practice of yoga– sealing in the work that was done linking the body to the mind and maybe even the mind to the soul.
In savasana we lay still and focus on meditation. We try our best to place our attention on the breath instead of on wandering thoughts. It is our opportunity to detach from anything that is plaguing us or occupying our thinking. It is our chance to let it go. And it is hard! I am constantly chasing my thoughts and reigning them back in to focus on the breath. But when I do it successfully, even if for a few seconds, I feel peace.
They attach meaning and feeling to every single thing we experience. The joy and pain we face in this life is less about what happens to us, and more about our perception of what happens to us. We live in a reality that exists in our heads, compiled with a lifetime of associations and automatic thought patterns. Each time we experience something, we file it away as either meeting or not meeting the pre-existing framework we have designed for the world. We do not even realize we are doing it.
Imagine if we could break those thinking patterns. Imagine if you could catch yourself thinking in an unhealthy way and change it or remove it. Would you even know where to start? So we end our physical practice of yoga by attempting to clear our minds. When we try this, I mean really devote energy to it, we start to realize the typical thoughts that creep in and disrupt our inner peace. Those thoughts are incredibly personal in nature, but potentially universal in theme.
That is where you start. Notice what those thoughts are and how they impact your emotions and take that realization with you through the rest of the day. Pay attention to what is bringing you down and what is lifting you up. Can you detach from those thoughts and re-center yourself?
Our thoughts become things. They have a direct impact on our emotions, which quickly influences our behavior. If we can catch our thoughts — if we can learn to either fill our minds with positivity or clear them completely, we can begin to work toward finding inner peace.
Practice this enough and find that you don’t need to look for a sanctuary in anything but yourself. You hold the key to your own happiness. You can be your own best friend. You might learn to greatly enjoy your own company.
Happiness comes from within. It is energized by the things we tell ourselves on a daily basis. So be kind to yourself and be kind in your thoughts about others and about the world. Notice when those thoughts are changing, and let them go. There is no room for them in your happy heart.
This is a profound goal to work toward, and one that doesn’t come easily. Be patient as you lay in your resting pose. Forgive yourself when your thoughts run astray. Place no judgment on where they wander to. Simply observe, become aware of how they are impacting you, and come back to the breath. With time, it will become easier.
While it may appear to others that you are just taking a nap, there are many things you can learn during your time in Savasana.
1. How to Relax: Every day we are confronted with long to-do lists and stressors. For most of us, our brain is constantly churning and processing everything that we need to get done during the day, and even the days beyond. Having to lie in complete silence for a few minutes trains you to leave your thoughts alone and simply enjoy a few minutes of peace.
2. How to Answer Your Own Questions: While Savasana is your time to turn off your brain, it can also be the time to help answer a question you may be asking yourself. And surprisingly, you can do this by turning off your brain. Before settling into Savasana, ask yourself the question you need, and when you take that deep breath, as you let the air out, let your body tell you the answer.
3. What Your Body Needs: Between the dark space and the quiet air around you, it can be easy to fall asleep during Savasana. If you find yourself about to nap, it’s an obvious indication that you are exhausted! Take note of this and make sure you get a good night’s sleep that night.
4. How to Do Nothing: The world moves so quickly and, at times, it can feel difficult to keep up. Between work and life, it’s challenging to get everything done. During Savasana, you surrender yourself to the world’s clock and allow yourself a few minutes to do absolutely nothing except breathe and be.
5. You Are Only Human: Lying in a room with other people who are also taking a few minutes to simply relax, you realize that you – along with everyone else – are only human. You are not the only one who is trying to turn your mind off from your endless to-do list, or the only one who may have had a bad day at work.
6. How to Better Your Yoga Practice: While Savasana is your time to turn off your thoughts, let’s face it – this won’t happen every time. If you find your mind is still racing, use this time to reflect on how your yoga practice was. Did you notice that you had difficulty balancing in Dancer’s Pose? Were you unable to support yourself in Crow? Make mental notes about what was off during this practice, and what you need to work on next time.
7. The Power of Independence: Whether you just had a solo yoga practice in the comfort of your own home, or you were in a class with dozens of people, only you possessed the power you needed to get yourself through. Only you could push yourself harder and longer – or accept when you needed to back off. While your eyes are shut and you have your hands open to receiving during Savasana, remind yourself that you – and only you – have the power to make your own choices and decisions in life.
8. How to Meditate: Savasana can last from a few brief minutes to as long as your body needs. During this time, however, you are turning off your brain and focusing on relaxation and breathing techniques, which is also known as meditation. You can use the same techniques that you use during Savasana to meditate at other times throughout the day.
9. How to Appreciate Yourself: A lot of the time, we don’t give ourselves enough credit. You are strong. You are beautiful. You are smart. While lying there, you can fully appreciate yourself for what you just accomplished in your yoga practice. You were strong, and flexible, and mindful. During Savasana you can physically bask in feeling how amazing you really are.
10. Life Is Short: Regardless of how long you just practiced, one thing you know for sure is that while your yoga sesh was only a brief period of your 24-hour day, life itself is short. So make the most of it! If something isn’t making you happy, change it. If you are being taken advantage of, remove yourself from the situation. If you want to try something new, go ahead and do it. A minute may seem like just a brief moment in your life, but it can make all the difference.
Next time you approach Savasana, take an extra deep breath. When you are finished with this final pose, reflect on the lessons you learned this time, even if it may not be one on this list. As long as you pay attention, you’ll learn something new each time you find yourself in your final resting pose.
10 Day Savasana Challenge
Every day for 10 days, set a timer for just 10 minutes and rest into Savasana. Notice how this simple practice can be a challenge. Do you think it will help you slow down? Share your journey on our Private Facebook page.