I vividly remember my first yoga class. Before our final Namaste, our instructor asked us to outstretch our arms and legs on the mat at the end of class. There was complete silence and no one moved or fidgeted. I remember thinking: "How long do I have to stay here? What is the purpose?" It seemed like an eternity and my mind kept wandering to what I had to check off on my to-do list. What I didn't know at the time was how rejuvenating this ever-important asana is if you can achieve it in its fullness.
One of the most powerful asanas in yoga practice is savasana, also referred to as corpse pose. Savasana may not be as physically demanding as yoganidrasana or eka hasta vrksasana, but don't underestimate this seemingly simple pose. It is perhaps one of the most challenging asanas to master because it urges us to be both physically and mentally still, and free of stress and other distractions.
As yogis, we can help our bodies fully recharge after an intense yoga practice by investing the time to rest and rejuvenate in savasana. If you do, you will soon see the benefits it has for body, mind and soul. Here are three aspects of this pose to keep in mind next time you find yourself stretched out across your mat at the end of practice.
Breathing in oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide is the essence of life, which is why we are taught to be mindful of the breath in our practice. The breath is at the heart of all forms of yoga, whether we are stretching deeper into a pose or spreading our bodies out like a starfish on our yoga mat.
The difference between the breath before savasana and the breath while in savasana, is that it is deeper and slower. Full complete breaths are a sign you have entered into a relaxed state. In the absence of more physically-demanding asanas, it can sometimes be a challenge to maintain the flow of breath in savasana, but remember, being still in savasana is what helps our bodies recover from any discomfort or stress. (Learn more about how Conscious Breathing Will Boost Your Yoga Practice.)
Stilling the Mind
In a world where we are constantly bombarded with endless to-do lists, phone calls and meetings, maintaining a mind that is free of distraction can be hard. Savasana helps physically cement our practice as we surrender ourselves to our mat.
Some yogis experience an increase in brain activity during savasana. If you find yourself running through your day’s to-do lists or thinking about what to make for dinner, you’re not alone. It is very common to experience a never-ending stream of thoughts and quieting the mind can highlight just how many thoughts we have. This can sometimes bring us out of savasana prematurely. Ideally, we stay in savasana for 10 to 15 minutes to reap the full rejuvenating benefits of the pose. Be mindful of toxic, stressful or negative thoughts and emotions that drift into your mind. Learn to witness these instead, allowing them to arise and melt away without getting attached to the stories they tell. (Here are some more tips on Quieting the Commentary of Your Mind.)
In savasana, our body should be as still as a corpse so that our muscles are able to fully relax. As our muscles release, they signal our mind to relax. If this is a challenge for you, bringing your focus back to your breath can help, as it does in standing asanas and meditation.
Another technique that is useful for dispelling negative emotions is to remind yourself of the intention you set at the beginning of your practice. Repeat it inwardly to yourself. It can also help to incorporate one of the principles from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, such as svadhyaya, or self-study. Repeating a mantra or doing a silent meditation while in savasana can lead to a more enlightened practice.
Savasana and Chill
The mind, body and soul are intimately connected in savasana: it seals in our efforts. So, take the time to reap it's many benefits. The next time you find yourself in corpse pose, use it as a way to honor yourself and replenish your soul so that you feel fully rejuvenated the next time you step onto your mat. (Continue reading in Learn How to Relax Naturally.)