You won't see a picture of a person in savasana, or "corpse pose," going viral anytime soon on Instagram of Facebook, but this often neglected pose is the most important as well as the most challenging posture one can practice in all of yoga asanas.
Mr. Iyengar said that for every 30 minutes of asana you perform, you should take 5 minutes of savasana. I myself is a savasana lover, and since my personal practice is between 1 to 1.5 hours, I take 10-15 minutes! And that was why, at the conclusion of my first and only Bikram class I ever took, I was surprised how 95% of the students in the classroom got up from savasana within 1 minute.
If you sometimes skip out savasana because you "couldn't stay still," "aren't feeling it," or "need to get to work/go home/run errands," I don't blame you. Our mind is constantly under the effects of external stimulation. When we take those external stimulations away, we are suddenly forced to face the internal terrains of our mind, which, I can attest, is HELLA scary. It takes a brave soul to listen to the voices in her head, to the rights and wrongs that she has done, and the questions of who the heck am I and what am I here on this earth to do?
For most of our lives, we haven't been taught or trained to pause and take time for ourselves, to really feel the space and emptiness without being afraid of it. We are now bombarded constantly with social media and the internet; we carry them with us in our pockets or purses everywhere we go. Before heading out of the house it's become: "Keys? Check. Wallet? Check. Phone? Check." Information is everywhere, from the bill boards to the touch of your fingers. We have been trained to think that being "busy" is good, regardless of the nature of the "busyness," whether it might be productive or not.
Savasana is the antidote to that "busyness" of our minds. So, for my savasana skippers, savasana lovers, and everyone else in between, here are some of my reasons why I embrace the corpse pose.
1. Resets the nervous system: This is important if you've just attended a particularly vigorous class, but also essential even if you've just finished a Restorative class. Just as we always take a few minutes before class in seated meditation to come fully present and to set our intentions on the practice, it is recommended to take a few minutes at the end of a practice to allow us to transition from the practice back to our daily routines. Whether you are starting or ending your day with asana practice, savasana is the time period to "reboot" your system.
2. Creates space within your day: As mentioned above, we have been accustomed to squeezing every second of our day with something as if we are trying to run for our lives from the saber tooth tiger of time. Even when we're "relaxing," we are watching TV, scrolling through Facebook, and the such. We are constantly being stimulated. By practicing savasana, even just 5 minutes, we are actively practicing to create more space in our mind and in our body. The simple practice itself makes us remember that we do have time. Sometimes we need to stop running frantically so that we can strategize our time more effectively.
3. Observes the effects - what worked and didn't work: If you're like me and have been guilty of "checking out" during yoga class, savasana is the opportunity to reclaim those time! Instead of "checking out" during savasana too, take the time to take an inventory of your body sensations post asana practice. Do you feel sore in the arms, or maybe a sense of being "lengthened?" Perhaps you feel a wave of calmness washing over you, or you observe some agitation in your mind? Whatever it is, acknowledge that.
4. Forces us to be still: Yes, stillness can be scary, especially stillness in the mind. The mind naturally likes to grasp onto these threads of thoughts that later become a tangle of web. If you're the type that gets fidgety when you lie/sit in stillness, this is especially important for you. For the most part, the fidgeting comes from restlessness in the nervous system. If that's the case, practice a 20-30 min yoga sequence or go for a walk to drive that restlessness out, then come back for savasana, even for just 5 minutes.
You don't have to wait for your next yoga practice to practice savasana. I incorporate a little savasana once or twice a day, usually during mid-afternoon or if I had just taught a few classes back-to-back, or even right before bedtime! You don't need your yoga mat either--lie down on your bed, the couch, whatever suits you, as long as you have space to spread your limbs out without feeling cramped. You can even sneak a little savasana in before bedtime to ease you into deeper sleep.
Try it out following the simple steps below.
What you need:
A mat or blanket (if doing this on the bed or couch, you won't need it)
A quiet space
An extra blanket (optional)
An eye pillow (optional)
- Find a quiet place in your home or office. Turn off any electronics--cell phone, laptops, TV--so that they won't be a distraction. Turn off or dim the lights.
- Spread a mat or blanket on the floor and lie down.
- Spread the legs slightly wider than your hips, and wiggle the legs and hips so that your lower back feels long. Clasp your hands together at the base of your skull and pull upwards to give more length to the back of your neck. Wiggle the neck and head free from the shoulders, and draw the shoulder blades down away from your ears. Release the arms slightly away from your body with the palms turned up.
- Take a few deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth, then let the breathing become softer, in and out through the nose. Feel free to cover yourself with another blanket or put an eye pillow over your eyes. Explore your feet, ankles, legs, hips, back, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, jaws, and eyebrows--release any tension you are holding. Feel as if you are sinking into the embrace of the earth beneath you. Stay 5-15 minutes.
- When you are ready, start by deepening the breath and wiggling your toes and fingers. Bend the knees and roll to your right side. Slowly, gradually, press up to a seated position. Take a few more deep breaths there before resuming your day.