If you have ever practiced yoga either to a video or at a live class, you are probably familiar with Savasana or Corpse Pose. This is always done at the end of your practice in order to relax and renew. Many teachers say this is the most important part of your yoga practice. Yet many people are not able to do it properly and that is the corpse pose challenge in yogic practice.
This article will give you some more information on this vital part of your practice, and explain how to do the pose correctly (including variations).
The corpse pose challenge
What is Corpse pose or Savasana?
Savasana (also spelled Shavasana) is Sankrit for “corpse” (sava) and posture (asana). But it’s more than just a pose. It’s intended to be held for a long period of time (5-60 minutes) while completely relaxing the body and mind. This pose is crucial for regeneration of cells and both physical and mental healing.
I like to call Savasana “active relaxation. Why? It takes effort to make ourselves relax. Especially after a long and stressful day. As a result, we must actively let ourselves relax.
What is the challenge in doing the corpse pose correctly?
The pose itself is simple. You lie on your back with your hands a little bit away from your body, palms facing up. Your feet are turned out and relaxed.
That’s all there is to the pose.
However, what makes Savasana important isn’t the pose itself, but what you are doing while in the pose. So please follow these step by step instructions to get the most out of Savasana.
1. Get Really Comfortable
Get into the pose and make sure you are very, very comfortable. The unmodified pose may be uncomfortable for some people. If you are one of those people: modify it! Use pillows or bolsters under your knees and head. If one pillow isn’t enough, use more! If you are cold, place a blanket over your body. The point here is to be comfortable enough to forget your body. You should not be distracted by pain, discomfort, heat, cold, etc…
2. Actively and Consciously Relax Your Body
Go through each limb, each muscle in your body and check to be sure it’s relaxed. If it’s not relaxed, consciously relax it. Although any area of the body can be tense, pay special attention to the following high tension areas:
- Muscles around the eyes
- Abdominal muscles
- Fingers and hands
- Toes and feet
If you are having trouble relaxing certain muscles, try this trick: squeeze that muscle tight and tense it up. Next, let the tension go completely. Do this tensing and relaxing a few times until your muscle is more relaxed.
Finally, once you have relaxed all the muscles in your body, make sure they stay relaxed until you are finished with Savasana. You’ll have to continually revisit each muscle throughout the body to make sure it hasn’t tensed up again. Continue this “active relaxation” until you’ve completed the pose.
3. Actively and Consciously Relax The Mind
As difficult as it may be to keep your body relaxed, relaxing the mind can be even harder. You may have a thousand thoughts racing through your mind – thoughts of dinner, work, your to-do list, money, etc… But in order to do Savasana correctly, you must actively and consciously quite these thoughts. There are several methods for doing this, but let me talk about one that works particularly well in Savasana.
The key to this method is paying close attention to the breathing. As you inhale, feel the air as it moves into your nose, down your nasal passage, into your lungs, and finally, as it fills the belly. As you exhale, feel the air as it leaves the belly, then the chest, and travels up the nasal passage and out the nose.
As you pay close attention to the breath, thoughts will enter into your mind. But think of each thought as a shadow and think of your attention as a flashlight. As soon as you turn your attention, or the flashlight of your mind, onto the thought or shadow, it will quickly disappear. In this way, stay consciousness of your thoughts. Don’t force them to go away, but don’t follow them either. Simply shine the light of your consciousnesses on the thought and watch as they disappear one by one. And always return your mind to the breath – keep following the slow exhale and inhale.
As you can see, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes when practicing Savasana. But as you practice this “active realization” more and more, you’ll see that it will get easier over time. And don’t save active realaxation only for Savasana. Feel free to practice this relaxation method while in a waiting room, on your work break, before bed, or any other time you are feeling stressed!