Savasana or the state of deep standby
“Yoga chitta vritti nirodahah - Yoga is the ending of the fluctuations of the mind”
(Yoga Sutras 1.2)
Can you imagine a yoga class without the final relaxation?
The importance of Savasana
Savasana or corpse pose has become an essential part of a modern yoga class, but why?
In India, death is not a taboo issue and to meditate on this subject is a part of life because being conscious of it allows you to live every moment completely and with joy. Thus, savasana “represents the surrender of all things that are foreign to our soul” (Alanna Kaivalya, Shiva Rea & Arjuna Van der Kooik, Myths of the Asanas). This is a moment of letting go to reset yourself in order to enjoy life even better.
Indeed, after having practiced a various kind of poses, our attention is turned inward and our mind is less distracted by the outside world (also helped by a certain tiredness!). Due to that, we are ready to come into a deep standby state that will open the doors to meditative practices.
Savasana is the best pose to enjoy this deep state of relaxation. When in savasana, the yoga practitioner integrates the benefits of the previous poses and she/he becomes aware of her/his breath. This consciousness allows her/him to give a break to the fluctuations of her/his mind.
Savasana, the most difficult pose?
The goal of savasana is to be relaxed while being conscious. This is not a nap.
With our frenetic lives, after a sequence of poses, we can face the first difficulty of savasana: to stay awake. Our body and our mind can be so tired that it can be difficult not to fall asleep.
(Little note: even if you normally have to stay conscious during the final relaxation to benefit from it completely regarding the principles of yoga, I think that it is not necessary to fight to stay awake. At least, if you fall asleep, you will recharge your batteries!).
The second difficulty with corpse pose is that you have to stay motionless. Yogis don’t really have issues twisting, bending or balancing. However, when it comes to stay flat on the floor, eyes closed, without moving but just observing the breath, this is an other story.
In our society, we are always in movement and our mind is always flitting from thought to thought. Being in a state of relaxation has nearly become something anti-natural.
So we have to train to be able to relax. That is why savasana is one of the most difficult poses but at the same time the most precious one!
How to savasana?
To practice savasana you have to lie down flat on the floor in a neutral position, arms and legs straight, and you have to withdraw your senses. So it is very important to be comfortable because the slightest discomfort will cause some distraction.
Take your time to enter the pose. Here are some tips for more comfort:
If you are easily cold (don’t forget that you have warmed up your body during one hour or more before!) put a scarf on you, some socks, a sweater etc.
If it is too uncomfortable for you to lie down flat on the floor you can place a cushion or a bolster under your knees or under your head.
Your lower back can be a little tensed after the sequence. In that case don’t hesitate to bend your knees, feet flat on the floor and wider than the hips. The knees will lean against each other. It relieves the lower back.
If you are pregnant it is not recommended to have your back flat on the floor because it can cause nausea or dizziness. So elevate your back or lie on your side.
If you lie down flat, your arms should be separated from your body, palms facing the sky to allow the shoulders to relax more easily. The feet are also far from each other with tiptoes pointing outwards.
Once you are comfortably settled, close your eyes (if this is too much, let them open but try to close them each time a little bit longer). Why do you have to close the eyes? Because it is easier to stay focus on your breath.
Take 3 deep breaths. The air is filling you from your tiptoes to your head. When you exhale, the air goes down towards your toes. You will feel that your breath is like a wave. These 3 big breaths are a signal for your body and your mind that you are getting into your state of relaxation.
After that, savasana requires to relax every part of the body, one muscle after one. You can begin from your head to your toes or from your toes to your head. In both cases, take your time to relax your forehead, your eyes, your chicks, your jaws, your neck, your shoulders, your arms until the fingertips, your pelvis, your legs until the tips of your toes, your stomach and your diaphragm.
The muscles relaxation comes with each exhalation. The more you release, the more you will feel your body becoming heavy and sinking into the earth.
Once your body is well relaxed, it is time to ease your mind.
To do that let your breath becomes natural. You don’t have to control it anymore. You will then observe its rhythm, where it is going into your body. This observation allows the mind to ease because it stays focus on something.
If your thoughts begin to flit, come back to your breath. If it is really too difficult to stay focus you can count each breath until 10. Once you are at 10 count back until 1 etc.
What can you expect with a regular practice of savasana?
The most immediate benefits of savasana are the relaxation of the muscles and of the mind that will help you to recharge your vital energy. Step by step it will improve your sleep and your mental concentration.
Later, the more you will practice the more you will become aware of your body and your breath. Thus, it will be easier for you to control the fluctuations of your mind and you will be more and more able to live the present moment while letting go, which will reduce your stress and even some anxiety or a mild depression.