Raise your hand if there’s nothing stopping you from getting out of a class or taking a break from your workout video faster than a yoga instructor saying, “Time to get comfortable. ”
For some, savasana is the best type of calm. But when you’ve sandwiched a sweaty vinyasa session in a busy schedule, stopping to put on socks and a sweater, turn off the lights, and find a corner can seem shocking. It’s hard to find the time for a yoga pose which, to the uninitiated, can feel like it’s doing nothing. Usually done at the end of the class, in savasana, you lie on your back in almost total stillness, with your feet and hands stretched out a few inches from the body, palms facing up.
But you know what? Maybe we just need this time lying on the mat. We spoke with experts to find out why the core pose is such an important part of yoga, and how even the most impatient of us can incorporate it into our future workouts.
What exactly is savasana?
“The word savasana in Sanskrit comes from two words: ‘shava’ which means corpse and ‘asana’ which means seat or posture,” explains Shruti Srivastava, yoga teacher and founder of Yoga Mapp, who has practiced yoga since childhood.
First used in the famous 15th century yoga text Hatha Yoga Pradipika, “it is said that lying like a corpse” takes away the fatigue caused by other asanas and induces calm of the mind “,” Srivastava says, adding “BKS Iyengar [a world-famous Indian yoga instructor] could not have said it better in his seminal book, Light on yoga, when he explained: ‘The stress of modern civilization puts a strain on the nerves for which Savasana is the best antidote.’ ”
In the pose, your jaw, tongue, eyelids, fingers, and toes – your entire body, in fact – should all be relaxed as you focus on the breath in an effort to foster a meditative state. Alice Chadwick, Iyengar instructor at London-based Live Yoga, explains that within five to 10 minutes of maintaining the reclining pose, “the body should be consciously relaxed – skin, muscles and bones – but the mind remains alert. , observing the breath ”.
Savasana benefits both body and mind – here’s how
From calming the nervous system, which experts say helps dampen your fight-or-flight response, to stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which they tout as aiding digestion and immunity, to release of lactic acid build-up after strenuous yoga class, practitioners say savasana has both short and long term benefits.
“Most importantly, in savasana we allow the breath to flow without obstruction or restraint,” says Chadwick. “Expelling old, depleted oxygen and sucking in new sources of revitalizing breath, known as prana or life force, is the best way to re-energize ourselves. ”
Savasana’s proximity to the ground, she adds, is no accident either. “When large areas of the body are in contact with the earth or the ground, there is calm. The body literally becomes anchored. This, she says, helps us let go of the things that bother us. And it’s this body-mind connection that the teachers say makes the pose so meaningful.
“The goal of all training is not only to train the body, but also to train the mind,” explains Leila Sadeghee, a yoga teacher with over 25 years of experience as a spiritual practitioner. It is a thought that echoes throughout the discipline; instructors advocate long-term benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety, or even, as Srivastava discovered, management of emotional trauma.
“After the death of my mother, savasana unwittingly became a space for emotional liberation,” she explains. “At my first yoga retreat in Spain, I closed my eyes at the end of each class and cried uncontrollably.”
The name of the pose took on a whole new meaning for Srivastava, who said, “As morbid as it may sound, in the first year or so of mourning I often thought of my mother taking her last breath while I was in mourning. was lying in the pose. . I learned that not only did I release emotional trauma, but that was another important characteristic of savasana. This allows us to deal with our own mortality, if only for a few minutes at the end of class. ”
Running out of time or impatient? How to make room for savasana
Once it’s part of your routine, Chadwick explains, savasana easily becomes as easy as cleaning your teeth. “You’ll start to feel the benefits, and after a while you’ll want to reap the benefits before the rest of your day continues. In the meantime, she says, “Set a timer a few minutes before the end of your practice and gradually increase it.” “
Sadeghee says that attending a class can help you stick to savasana, especially classes with more restful components, like yin or yoga nidra. “Ask your teachers for advice; the instructions can be useful for this pose, as with any other yogic practice.
If you have the budget, individual yoga classes could turn savasana into a treat, Srivastava adds: “Students love a gentle, nourishing massage in the corpse pose. It could be for the scalp, temples, or soles of the feet – or the whole body if they can stay in the pose longer!
Covering your eyes can also make the experience more calming, she adds. “The slight pressure on the third eye [the space in the centre of your forehead] helps keep the mind focused on the feeling, ”she says.
Other tips from the experts include keeping your eyes open and gazing gently at the ceiling if that feels easier, or reframing the savasana as a luxury you allow yourself. Ask yourself, “What can’t I let go of that keeps me from staying on my mat?” What am I running from by not spending a few moments resting comfortably with myself? “
It doesn’t matter if Savasana doesn’t feel “good”
If savasana really isn’t your thing, you don’t need to feel guilty. “Try sitting meditation as an alternative,” says Sadeghee. It could be a transition to savasana – or not. “At the end of the day, you are a free and sovereign being, so use your time as you see fit,” she says.
“If you skip the savasana because of the weather, and you feel that you are growing in your practice and your understanding of yourself, and that your life is deepening in resonance and presence, there is no problem. . If you notice a lack of integration or start to see schisms in the way you present yourself in your life off the mat, maybe adding savasana can help.