Have you ever noticed it seems like there are two types of people when it comes to savasana? There are those who love it and those who could do without it. Have you ever stopped to think about which category you fall into?
First mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika in the 15th Century, savasana is translated as corpse pose in Sanskrit. It is often said to be the most difficult posture, even the great B.K.S. Iyengar is quoted as saying this.
Some will also say it’s the most important posture. Whether you like it or not, it comes with its own challenges but also many benefits. It’s for these reasons that savasana should never, ever be skipped at the end of an asana practice.
However, savasana can also be used at the beginning, middle, or even an entire yoga practice such as yoga nidra.
How to Practice Savasana (corpse pose)
- Lie on your back.
- Bring your feet wide and your hands a few inches away from your body, palms facing up and fingers relaxed.
- Close your eyes and relax your whole body.
- Breathe while holding the pose.
- Pregnant yoginis must use a blanket or other yoga prop to elevate the back
The Benefits of Savasana
- Decrease stress.
- Clear the mind.
- Lower cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Activate rest and digest system.
- Slower respiration.
- Improved digestion.
- Less muscular tension.
Some days it may seem so easy to slip into a blissful, quiet, and serene savasana and other days a struggle to lie still at all. Even at the end of a practice, you may find your mind wanders still, full of chatter, or concerned about the day to come (or what happened yesterday.)
The beauty of a powerful savasana lies in the ability to be perfectly still. Savasana contains the power to transform the practitioner. Similar to the death card in the tarot, one can think of the symbolic meaning of death as one of change. When you step off the mat, you have the chance to step forward on a new foot.
A vinyasa practice, in particular, can be quite symbolic in regards to the structure of the class related to the cycle of life. You wake up and greet the sun with Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) and you then sleep in savasana where you symbolically die a little death or shed an old part of yourself.
The Virtues of Savasana
The challenge of lying still without thoughts in savasana is a practice in non-attachment and patience. These virtues have much to teach along the way toward achieving them. The requirement at times seems like a Catch-22 in the sense that you must remain completely conscious and aware of the present moment and yet completely detach from it.
So, while some people may avoid savasana because of the chatter in their minds, others may linger too long in savasana, in which case it could become a nap if it becomes quite extended!
The theory behind savasana according to Hatha yoga is that for every 30 minutes of yoga asana, savasana should be performed for 5 minutes. In some traditional Hatha classes, savasana is actually performed in the class at every half-hour mark. However, in other styles, it may mean that for 60 minutes of asana, 10 minutes is in savasana.
Stress and Savasana
One of the main purposes of savasana is to bring balance to the nervous system. The main benefit here is that it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the rest and digestive system where the body activates its natural healing state.
In the fast-paced modern world, stress is the silent killer, activating the hormone cortisol in addition to other destructive effects. The sympathetic nervous system, responsible for the "fight or flight" response, stimulates this particular hormone. It also causes the heart rate to accelerate and diverts energy from "non-essential" body functions like digestion so that if you were in a dangerous circumstance, you could run for survival.
The problems occur when it is secreted in excess, for a sustained amount of time and in unnecessary situations (like when there is no actual, physical danger present.) Your body's stress response serves a purpose, however, if it is an everyday occurrence and you’re not really living in danger, the body will actually begin to shut down and no longer function optimally.
The Gift of Savasana
The true gift and beauty of the pose is the meditative state of savasana. In this state of savasana, you may experience the closest thing you can call samadhi. Or perhaps you may experience the closest semblance of your anandamaya kosha, or innermost bliss body.
It is these moments, if you remember them, that you can bring off the mat and into the rest of your life. You can remember the moments of joy and peace you have experienced inside, even in the darkest of times.
During These Times of Stress and Uncertainty Your Doshas May Be Unbalanced.
To help you bring attention to your doshas and to identify what your predominant dosha is, we created the following quiz.
Try not to stress over every question, but simply answer based off your intuition. After all, you know yourself better than anyone else.