My favorite yoga pose is śavāsana, aka corpse pose.  I love the intention behind it, I love the way it feels and I even love the way it sounds when you say it: SAA-VAA-SAA-NAA

However, in the beginning of my yoga journey I did NOT like it at all.  I felt anxiety with just being still and doing nothing---and if I couldn’t find stillness in my body there was no way my mind would settle down!  Both were very fidgety!  I didn’t like the way I felt during śavāsana and just wanted it over so I could get on with my day.  I even disliked that the translation of śavāsana was “corpse pose.”  Why would anyone want to imitate a corpse?!  Clearly, I was naïve about the true intention of this pose. 

Over the years, as I began to deepen my practice through a consistent physical practice (āsana), studying yoga texts and private instruction, I’ve developed my love for this pose.  Now that I understand the beautiful and graceful intention behind this pose, it’s my favorite!  Plus, I have experienced the many benefits this practice cultivates.  Here’s what I’ve learned:   

The Intention Behind Śavāsana

Śava = a corpse

Āsana = pose

The intent of this pose is to imitate a corpse.  More specifically, it is to practice dying so that we can learn to live our lives more fully and freely.  To truly “play dead” requires you to let go of all tension, thoughts, ideas, and burdens in your body and your mind.  It’s about letting go of all activity in the body and the mind---essentially letting go of all the things that make us alive.  It’s a conscious resting practice that enables us to relax on a deep level.  This is challenging for many people (including me) and is why this is considered one of the most challenging yoga poses to master.  It’s hard to let go of doing and thinking.  That’s why it is called a practice.  But when all the tension has been released we are able to experience peace and bliss.  This gives us an example of what it’s like to let all this baggage go in hopes that we can practice this same feeling in our everyday lives.

The Benefits of Śavāsana

First of all, it makes me feel sooooo good!  Now I understand why it made me so uncomfortable early on in my yoga practice---it was because it was a new experience for me.  I had never known how to truly relax.  Śavāsana teaches us how to do that.  I feel refreshed!  One of the main benefits is that it calms the central nervous system which helps reduce stress.  In addition, it allows our bodies time to process the benefits of our practice and gives the body, mind, and spirit a chance to rest and rejuvenate. 

How to Practice Śavāsana

Lie flat on your back onto your mat

Close your eyes and breathe normally

Begin to quiet the body:

Extend your legs straight out in front of you and spread them about hips width apart

Let your feet fall naturally open, toes facing to the sides

Elongate your spine onto your mat

Lay your shoulder blades flat on the ground

Place your arms down by your sides away from your body

Turn your palms up to face the sky

Relax your head and neck and allow the natural curvature of your neck to raise slightly

Soften your face, release the jaw, and gently remove the tongue from the roof of your mouth

Allow the entire body to sink into the earth

Scan the body to ensure all tension is released and you are comfortable

Modifications to help create an even more tranquil experience:

To ground you and keep you warm, place a blanket on top of you

To relieve any lower back pain or strain, roll up a blanket into a tubular shape and place it under your knees

To support your neck, lay a blanket under your head and scrunch the sides of the blanket towards your ears until you feel supported

Then quiet your mind:

Let go of your thoughts

Settle your attention on your breath

Allow yourself to surrender to nothingness

When thoughts arise, gently release them and return your focus to your breath

Appreciate the power of your breath

Enjoy this time you cultivated for yourself for 5-10 minutes

Instructions to come out of śavāsana:

Begin to deepen your breath 

Slowly begin to awaken your body by wiggling your fingers and toes 

Take a deep inhale as you reach your arms overhead and take a full body stretch

Lift your knees up and place your feet on the mat

Slowly roll onto your right side into a fetal position

Take a few breaths

Press your left hand into the mat and gently lift your torso up and sit with your legs crossed facing the front of the room

Place your hands in a prayer position at your heart

Keep your eyes closed and take a few deep breaths

Thank yourself for your practice

Softly open your eyes to reawaken with a fresh perspective


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