What is Savasana and How to Practice it
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Anyone who’s taken a yoga class, either online or in-person, will likely have practiced savasana, or corpse pose. Savasana is arguably the most simple yoga posture, while also being one of the hardest poses to master!
While many experienced yogis can stand on their heads, balance on one leg or hold themselves in complex arm balances, they often come unstuck when it comes to savasana!
What is Savasana?
Savasana, or corpse pose, is a posture often practiced at the very end of a yoga session.
The aim is total mind and body stillness, and the practitioner lies flat on their backs with their legs extended and arms by their sides.
Savasana is a pose that requires complete physical and mental relaxation. It is the final resting posture after a yoga practice. The practitioner lies on the floor with their arms either by their sides or on their belly, legs extended. One of the most interesting things about savasana is that it looks very easy. But to master fully, savasana requires a very specific type of concentration and relaxation.
While the actual posture is relatively simple, savasana can be exceedingly challenging, both physically and mentally. The aim of savasana is to immerse yourself in the present and simply be. There’s no challenging movements or flow to distract you from your thoughts or body, and often those with suppressed pain or anguish find savasana a particularly emotive posture.
Savasana requires us to be completely still, both physically and mentally – it’s not called corpse pose for nothing! We are encouraged to observe our thoughts without judgment and let go of any built-up emotions.
If you attend a yoga class, you’ll usually be encouraged to stay in savasana for as long as is needed at the end of the session. Sadly, this pose is often neglected, and even experienced yogis are guilty of spending just a few seconds in savasana before rolling up their mat.
Lying still at the end of a practice is a wonderful way to end a session, and the benefits of savasana can be carried with you into the day.
How to Practice Savasana
Practising savasana can be done at any time of the day. Before yoga, after yoga, before bed, or even before an afternoon work meeting (although the relaxation benefits may be lost if you practice savasana on the office floor!).
- Lie on your back on your yoga mat, a blanket, or even your bed, with your legs extended and your arms by your sides. Try to get as comfortable as you can, but bear in mind there will be some niggles that are hard to get rid of.
- Place a blanket over yourself if you are cold.
- Close your eyes and take in one deep, cleansing breath.
- Bring attention to your body, starting at the bottom and working your way up. Consciously relax each toe, your feet, your ankles, your calves and knees, working up to the very top of your head.
- Spend a little more time on any areas of your body that feel especially sore or tense. If you feel an itch or ache, try not to wriggle to relieve it. Instead, focus on it and try to sit with the sensation.
- Once your body is fully relaxed, spend time simply lying in the stillness you have created. If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to the present. It can be helpful to focus on the sounds you can hear, or the rise and fall of your chest.
- Rest in savasana for at least 10 minutes for maximum benefits.
What are the Benefits of Savasana?
Savasana is extremely beneficial, especially when practised at the end of a yoga session. It can lead to total mind and body calm, reducing the stress and anxiety that builds throughout the day.
Physical benefits include better digestion, a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure.
Savasana offers a huge range of both physical and mental benefits. It can help calm the central nervous system, while aiding the digestive and immune systems. After a tough practice, savasana can help to ground your body and mind, bringing you into the present. After your body has been stimulated from tougher postures, savasana offers the perfect opportunity to unwind.
Savasana can also help to reduce stress and anxiety that builds throughout the day. Our breathing may slow, and we may find that worries start to feel less significant. The mental chatter will quieten and our bodies will become heavier. This intense calmness will ease any stress that has built up.
Finally, savasana provides us with an opportunity to be grateful for our bodies and what they have achieved. You may feel physically supported by the ground underneath you, which can be very comforting.
Often, yoga teachers invite students to take a moment to thank their bodies for what they have done. Savasana is where the healing happens, and many people experience increased self-esteem and appreciation.
Why Savasana can be Difficult
Savasana offers a challenge both mentally and physically. Lying very still for a long period of time can be extremely difficult, especially when the urge to fight an itch or discomfort arises!
Mentally, savasana also poses a challenge. Staying focused can be tricky, while sitting observing your thoughts can be uncomfortable and emotional for those going through difficult times.
Although it looks easy, savasana can be very tricky. Savasana provides us with no choice but to be with ourselves – with no distractions. While other postures can offer us a distraction in the form of a tightened muscle or the focus required in trying to balance, savasana invites total stillness, and there’s no option but to listen to your thoughts and feelings.
Physically, savasana can also be tricky. As the aim is total stillness, any small areas of tension can be extremely frustrating. You may feel achy, itchy or cold. In fact, it is often only when we attempt to lie completely still that we notice the little things going on in our bodies. Your mind and body may try to resist deep relaxation, and it can be tricky to push through.
Another reason savasana is hard is because it is usually practiced at the end of a yoga class or session. You may find your mind starts to switch off from the practice as soon as you enter savasana, thinking about other things such as what to have for dinner or your to-do list for the day.
On the other hand, some people find savasana very boring, as they are faced with more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
While it can be tempting to practice savasana for the bare minimum amount of time, staying in this position for at least 10 minutes offers the most benefits. Although your body and mind will fight against it at first, eventually your breathing will slow and your body will become heavy. You’ll leave your mat feeling cleansed, recharged and refocused.
- Spiritual meditation is comparable to prayer and connects oneself to a higher power.
- Mindfulness meditation is the practice of observing thoughts and feeling free from judgement.
- Focused awareness uses an internal or external stimulus to focus the mind.
- Chakra meditation aims at opening all 7 chakras to create harmony within the body.
- Mantra meditation is a form of focused awareness meditation that uses a mantra either repeated out loud or internally to create focus.
- Loving Kindness meditation uses a set of phrases to generate feeling love, kindness, empathy and happiness toward one’s self and others.
- Body scan meditation uses the sensations to create a greater connection to the body.