Shavasana, Savasana, शवासन or Corpse pose.
I have read a lot of different yoga books from well-known and reputable yoga masters. Whatever style of yoga they teach, they all have one thing in common: a huge respect for and veneration of Savasana or Corpse pose.
Some describe it as the easiest yoga posture but some others, like B.K.S Iyengar or Sri K. Pattabhi Joi, say it is the most difficult. I would agree with the latter.
How do we practice Savasana traditionally?
During the pose, the importance is to let go at the body onto the floor, legs and arms out, like a corpse. Hinduism and traditional Yoga use Savasana as a celebration for death and ‘’being born’’ in the same time. It is stopping and experiencing a little ‘’death’’ at each time when we are lying down on our back and completely surrender. In this little death, the mind moves away from any unwanted mental activities and observes or witness what is really happening to our body in this quiet and relaxed moment, it is experiencing pure awareness. Michael Stone, a Yoga teacher in Toronto says: ‘’..there is something profound just here. We are not trying to create an experience; we are making room for experience to happen. Experience, like the present moment, is always waiting for a place to happen. ‘’
To stop the mind to wander around during Savasana or to become busy again, tools like breathing exercises, body scanning or guided visualisations are used to help to stay still, quiet and focused. Only then the breath, the mind and the body is then released and experience complete peace. The duration of the ideal practice can vary from 20 to 30 minutes. Although or I would personally add, unfortunately, during the western Yoga practices, it is has been reduced to just a few minutes at the end of a class.
However, It is not an easy pose to tackle: after many years of teaching Savasana, meditation, relaxation techniques and yoga Nidra, I have seen so much happening during the corpse pose. From panic attacks and crying to giggling and fidgeting. I’ve seen people having a cosy conversation with a neighbour and I even saw someone doing their nails once! I have also watched people get up and walk out.
I can understand why someone might leave and skip Savasana because it is not a posture for everyone and is especially difficult for highly stressed, overworked, busy, physically or emotionally intense students or those with sleep disorders who have never practiced concentration, relaxation, mindfulness, awareness or meditation. They are possibly the individuals who need it the most.
However, stressed or not, we all need to give ourselves some periods of peace and quiet on a daily basis to function properly but we still will find Savasana very hard for many reasons:
- It might be extremely daunting to stop, close the eyes and start focusing into ourselves. There might be the fear of facing our demons, our problems, our doubts and questions.
- It might be extremely boring to lie down on the floor for 20 minutes and do nothing and be completely still. We are a civilisation of non-stop, go-go-go! We might waste our valuable time (and time is money!) in Savasana!
- It might be physically painful to rest on our back for all that time and notice new challenges in our bodies. The old pain in the spine or shoulders might awaken and start bothering us again!
- It might be challenging to keep the mind aware and focused on the voice of the teacher guiding us with the body visualisations or the breathing exercises and rather think of what is going to happen after the class or what shall I make for dinner?
- It might be nearly impossible to stop the brain planning, analysing, judging, getting frustrated or excited, thinking about the past and the future. Our permanently stimulated modern minds never stop.
So, for most of us, Savasana is the hardest and the most advanced yoga posture, no doubt!
Savasana needs to be taken seriously and we, the teachers, have a responsibility to bring the students safely through this journey. During a 1 to 1 session or with a small group, we need to take each individual for where they are physically and mentally in that moment in time and adapt Savasana in a different way for each student.
Of course in a room with 40 yogis, it is very hard so the script has to be carefully designed and written to fit everyone. We will keep an attentive eye and walk around the yoga room to notice of any sign of distress and if we notice anything wrong we need to immediately adjust the position of the person or change the text to avoid any upset during the practice.
As teachers, we need to be constantly evolving in the teaching of this asana and create the right atmosphere and guidance for the students to have a deeper and safe experience. We also need to study and teach this pose with as much passion as we teach any other asana.
If delivered safely and correctly the benefits of Savasana are numerous:
- Reduction of anxiety, blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate.
- Decrease fatigue, stress and help ease sleep disorders.
- Increase concentration, focus and memory.
- Increase energy levels, productivity and self-confidence
- Helps to prepare for further practice with meditation and work with mindfulness and awareness.
At the end of the day, our yoga practice should be as easy and effortless as possible and especially in Savasana. Yoga speaks of ‘’Ananda’’ which is bliss, self-awareness, control of energy and joy so lets take it easy and do a Savasana!
If you like to experience and enjoy 20-minute Savasana guided deep relaxation recorded by myself, please subscribe to my newsletter and I will email you back a link to download the mp3 on any of your devices.