Savasana, not a dead pose…
Article first published in Yoga Magazine
In probably 99% of yoga classes, we practice Savasana (corpse pose) at the end of the class. As enjoyable as it is, you may still wonder why we practice it? Savasana is an important part of our yoga practice for many reasons.
Firstly, we mustn’t forget that Savasana is an asana or posture the same as any other asana we may practice during a class. We often associate it with relaxation at the end of a class or practice when in fact the end the class is the end of Savasana. It’s easy for us to think of Savasana at the end of a yoga practice as the point at which we switch off but in fact it is more of a switching on – we are continuing to tune in.
Savasana is an opportunity to assimilate all we have practiced throughout the class, to maintain our awareness, even deepen our awareness now we no longer have to focus on physically moving our body. It also allows our prana (energy/life-force) flow that we have stimulated to settle evenly within the body.
In corpse pose, we let go of the past, including even the yoga we have just practiced, and we let go of the future, letting go of expectations of the pose, we just settle our minds into the present moment. It can often be easier to really settle our minds in Savasana because we are no longer manipulating the body into a position, and we’re in a familiar shape of lying down; all we have to do is be.
Savasana gives us the opportunity to really connect with our practice and with ourselves. We can feel the effect that our yoga practice has had, that our body, breath and mind are probably in a very different state from when we arrived on the mat.
We have to take care however not to use Savasana as an opportunity to drift off into a dream state or even to sleep. Remember, we are still practicing yoga.
Savasana should really be practiced for at least 10 minutes to feel the full benefit of the practice. If you find it difficult to stay in the pose for a reasonable length of time in your own practice, read the simple tips below which may help. Having a focus within your practice can also help, for example surrender, or integration. Or even having a recording of someone talking you through Savasana can help to stay with the practice.
Remember, Savasana is a real opportunity to really let go and surrender to yoga.
Tips for a more absorbed Savasana:
Remove distractions: shut the door, turn your mobile off, close the curtains or dim the lights or even cover your eyes (lavender eye pillows can work wonders!). You will move into a deeper practice if there is nothing to disturb you.
Be comfortable: support your head, tuck your pelvis under away from your upper body and tuck your shoulders under moving your shoulder blades down your back and opening your chest. Have a blanket or warmer clothing if needed (socks can be essential at this time of year).
Let go: allow your mind and body to relax, let go of holding, tension, let go of thoughts, and let go of giving yourself a hard time if you do find it difficult to relax.
Don’t rush it: to really move into a deep Savasana, you will almost certainly need to stay in the posture more than a couple of minutes. If you are worried you will get carried away with time, then set an alarm (a nice quiet soothing one if you can find one so you’re not shocked out of the practice!). Savasana is a meditative posture which takes time to move into.
Stay aware: don’t drift off. It is certainly not the time to catch up on sleep! Focus on your breath to keep your mind engaged. You can even bring to mind the practice of dharana (complete integrated attention). You might think that falling asleep sounds like a good idea but it can often leave you feeling groggy or disorientated, as corpse also acts as a bridge for your nervous system from practice to everyday life. This requires a deeply relaxed but conscious transition.
Remember yoga: don’t forget that this pose is still part of your practice. It is still yoga so treat Savasana as a practice. You can evoke the meaning of yoga (union) within your practice to keep yourself connected.