You’ve seen it on Instagram. You’ve seen it on tank tops. I’m just here for the savasana. Yes!
Although my students rarely leave before savasana, I’ve heard it’s common. When I talk about this phenomenon with other teachers or long-term yogis, they look quizzical and say something like, “but it’s the best bit!”
The best AND the most important bit.
What is savasana?
Savasana (literally, corpse pose) is the final resting pose and, in my opinion, the ultimate destination in any physical yoga practice. After all, the reason we move the body through asana is to be more at ease when we come to stillness and silence in meditation.
It is where the magic happens but it is also, arguably, the hardest pose you will ever do… because there is no effort required. None. No striving, no pushing, no reaching. Just stillness. And THAT, makes most of us deeply uncomfortable. From the front of the room, I see the person unable to close their eyes. I see the person, hands clenched into fists. I see the person who lifts the corner of the eye pillow to check if the torture is nearing its end. I see the restlessness, the squirming and fidgeting. I see all of this and know that savasana is exactly what the doctor ordered!
Savasana is exactly what the doctor ordered
Truly, the physical and mental benefits of deep relaxation are astounding. In fact, studies show that 10 minutes of deep relaxation is equivalent to one hour of sleep.
When you come to stillness in savasana, your body begins to transition from ‘flight or fight’ to ‘rest and digest’ mode. This is an opportunity for your physical body to rest, heal and be restored. And, the more quickly and thoroughly you can do this, the sooner you can get back to doing what you love.
More than that, savasana is an opportunity to release mental tension. Free from external stimuli, and demands on your time and attention, you can begin to process the chaos of thoughts, feelings and emotions swirling around inside of you. If I had to guess, this is why people resist savasana; being alone with the contents of your mind can feel confronting. Fortunately, the mind is a bit like a glass of muddy water; if you set it down on a stable surface the sediment will, eventually, settle. Practising stillness and silence in savasana will, eventually, bring mental clarity and focus, creating the space required for creativity and insight. You will emerge, ready to embrace the demands of daily life with a greater sense of productivity and purpose.
Conscious rest provides a training ground for keeping us calm in all of life’s stressful situations – Beth Spindler
If savasana is your only genuine experience of stillness in an entire day (or week), I urge you not to skip it, even if you’re short on time! Your responsibilities and obligations will wait a few moments longer.
How do I know if I’m doing savasana ‘right’?
Traditionally practised laying flat, legs slightly away from the mid-line and palms facing upwards, I urge you to break with convention and do what feels right for your body. Whatever you do, make sure you’re comfortable.
When it comes to comfort, props can be really helpful. You could try:
- a thin pillow or rolled blanket to support the natural curve of the neck
- a bolster under your knees to reduce compression in the lower back and allow the hip flexors to relax
- an eye pillow over your eyes or forehead to block out the light and promote deeper relaxation
- a heavy blanket over your chest and abdomen to provide comfort and warmth.
There are loads of options. Experiment. See what works for you.
When you’re all propped up and ready to go, close your eyes and spend the first few moments settling into stillness. Relax every part of your body, surrendering the tension and nervous energy accumulated in your bones, muscles, connective tissues. Give yourself permission to stop so all the good stuff from your yoga practice can sink in.
There is nothing you need to do during savasana. You don’t need to move or breathe or think a certain way. Try to release any judgment about whether you’re doing the practice correctly. Even if you don’t feel like you’re doing it “right” you will experience benefits.
The actual experience of savasana is often nothing like stillness. It is more like a dance, an inner swirl of movement. Breath flows, blood flows, emotions flow, thoughts flow. Every atom and molecule which makes up your being vibrates continuously. Stillness is an illusion and chasing it only leads to disappointment. But that doesn’t mean the experience isn’t immensely pleasurable or relaxing.
Let yourself just be, without effort or expectation.