Discover the benefits of savasana, the corpse pose. The easiest pose to perform and the most difficult to master
“Oh! Life is beautiful!”. One of the yogis exclaimed at the end of my yoga class when I announced: “ Today we are going to end the practice with a long Savasana”.
There and then, I didn’t pay much attention to the sentence but, on my way back home, I was contemplating about the class and realized that those words had a deep meaning.
Lost in our busy lives, we handle so many things at one time that we almost forget to breathe, and more than human beings we feel humans doing. The reality is that we don’t have the time to be.
In the modern world, the damage done by daily stress has given rise to mental health problems. Depression, anxiety, sleeping issues are only a few of the illnesses caused by lack of relaxation.
How often have you got up in the morning feeling grumpy and irritable,
despite the eight hours of sleep don’t you, on occasion, still want to sleep some more and hate the alarm telling you to get up? The reason for it is tension.
Very often, as an escape from tension, we rely on tranquilisers and the like, but they don’t offer real help, because they don’t change attitudes, nor will they change the world. There’s another way to resolve it, and it is called Savasana.
What is Savasana?
In Light on Pranayama, B.K.S. Iyengar writes: “Sava in Sanskrit means a corpse and asana posture. Thus Savasana is a posture that simulates a dead body and evokes the experience of remaining in a state as in death and of ending the heart-aches and the shocks that flesh is heir to. It means relaxation, and therefore recuperation. It is not simply lying on one’s back with a vacant mind and gazing, nor does it end in snoring. It is the most difficult of yogic asanas to perfect, but it is also the most refreshing and rewarding.”
Savasana is a yogic method of deep relaxation, with wonderful benefits on the whole body. When we are tense, the flow of the blood decreases, the muscles contract, soon the nerves which control the muscles also become tense. Hence, we reach a stage where the muscle cannot relax because the nerves are tense and the nerve can’t relax because the muscles are tense. Savasana helps to improve the blood flow in the entire body and relieve tension in the muscles.
Also, during Savasana the “breathing becomes deep and slow, allowing a higher intake of oxygen, and removing stress from the body and the mind.” (Path to Holistic Health, B.K.S. Iyengar).
How to practice Savasana
- Lie flat on the back full length, like a corpse. Keep the hands away from your body, palms facing up. Legs are relaxed, feet falling apart. Shoulders away from the ears.
- Close the eyes. If possible place an eye pillow.
- Start to breathe deeply. Later the breathing should be long and slow, with no sudden movements to disturb the spine or the body.
- Concentrate on deep and fine exhalations, in which the nostrils do not feel the warmth of the breath.
- The lower jaw should hang loose and not be clenched. The tongue should not be tense, resting on the palate. The pupils of the eyes should be kept completely passive.
- Relax completely and breathe out slowly.
- If the mind wanders, pause without any strain after each slow exhalation.
- Stay in the pose for 15 to 20 minutes.
You might fall asleep at the beginning. Gradually, when the nerves become passive, you’ll feel completely relaxed and refreshed. Feeling the energy flow from the back of the head towards the heels.
To come out of the pose:
Start to deepen your breath. Gently move hands and feet. Stretch your arms above the head.
Roll into one side and make a pillow with your arms, to support your head. Staying in this pose for a few more breaths before coming up.
Savasana prepares the mind to pranayama and meditation, the other limbs of yoga. According to yoga philosophy, in order to relax our mind, Yamas and Niyamas should become a part of us. When the mind is kept under strict discipline, with proper conduct and attitude, its restlessness is lost and the tensions and worries caused by a restless mind decrease; one becomes more integrated and, consequently, relaxation becomes part of one’s being.
After yoga practice, always take time to rest in savasana, even if you feel you want/must rush to your daily schedule. Savasana removes the fatigue caused by other asanas, helps to feel the benefits of the practice and induces calmness of mind.
My guru told me “The more perfect the effort, the more perfect is the relaxation”. I couldn’t agree more.
Are you able to relax and completely letting go during savasana? Can you relax your mind whenever you desire?
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