Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2020 issue.
This last pose of most asana classes is total bliss for some, while for others, it can be misery. All yoga poses offer benefits to the physical, energetic and emotional body, yet too often we cut this last pose short. Taking time to rest in savasana, even for five minutes, can make a big difference. In fact, you might find it to be the most important pose you practice.
Most yoga asana practices are spent in movement, offering a wide range of benefits such as strengthening muscles, increasing blood flow, moving energy and creating healthy stress in the body. Savasana is the counterbalance to movement, giving the whole body a chance to rest and find harmony.
On a physical level, savasana allows the body to settle, the heart rate to drop and the breath to regulate. Additionally, it engages the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), our “rest and digest” system, which triggers a relaxation response in the body. So many of us are highly activated in our daily lives and rarely take time to “train” our PNS to engage, an invaluable tool for combatting stress and the antidote to life’s intense pace. Restful practices, like savasana, create a PNS response allowing for restoration, reduced anxiety, increased metabolism, slower heart rate and even increased sexual function.
In the energetic body, savasana is a pose of renewal. Translated as “corpse pose,” savasana allows us to shed thoughts, patterns or behaviors that no longer serve us and to integrate all the benefits of the practice. It also offers a moment to ground the body, a metaphorical returning to the earth, that is inherently healing, comforting and nourishing. It brings us back to center, so we can connect with our true nature of divine light.
However, savasana can be challenging. Quieting the mind and becoming still might feel more agitating than calming. Here are a few tips to find savasana bliss.
In traditional savasana, the body is laying on the back, but that may not work for all bodies. Consider using props like a bolster under the knees, a low-folded blanket under the head or simply lay on your side. The point is to get comfortable, so find the version that works for you.
Take up Space
Allow the body to feel unrestricted and take up space. Consider letting the legs relax as wide as the mat and allow the arms to drift to a 45-degree angle away from the body. Give yourself the space to drop in.
While eye covers aren’t always available, consider purchasing your own. Covering the eyes is like an express lane for the PNS to come online more quickly. Light pressure on the eyes is proved to stimulate the vagus nerve, our main communicator with the PNS.
Let the breath happen naturally. If outside distractions or internal mind chatter are pulling you away from finding rest, a gentle focus on the breath, or even a mantra with the breath, can bring you back to the practice.
Next time you feel the urge to skip or shorten this last pose, consider embracing savasana as a gift to your whole being.
Photo by McLeod9 Creative.