Yoga Definitions: Savasana


Ah. Savasana (Sha-vahs-ana). Savasana also known as corpse pose. We lie back on the mat, hands by the hips with the thumbs facing up, we shut our eyes and relax. Seems easy doesn’t it? You just lie down and shut your eyes… Except we want to stay awake and we want to stay aware. We aren’t just losing consciousness like we do when we are going to sleep. we are trying to relax the body, trying to release tension in the muscles, in the face in; in the jaw; in the neck; in the legs; in the feet… Anyway you get the idea! So the act of lying on the mat with the eyes closed might seem simple (and aren’t the simple things often the most difficult?) but there is a lot more going on behind those closed eyes.

As our bodies slow down that’s when the mind becomes most active. You have nothing to distract yourself from the thoughts, or feelings, or tasks you’ve been trying to distract yourself from. You have no choice but to sit with them. Suddenly the brain is buzzing and all sorts of things pop into the head. Who am I? Did I leave the straighteners on? What just happened to me in that yoga class? I don’t think I deserve that? This feels nice? I;m hungry!

Rest assured that this is completely normal and just like our bodies protest when we exercise them in a new way, the mind does the same thing. And don’t be fooled – Savasana is very much an exercise.

Credit: Chopra
Credit: Chopra

Why would we torture ourselves like this?!

The benefits. The benefits of Savasana are enormous and especially pertinent in our modern day lives where our brains are constantly bombarded with stimulus. Screens and more screens, ever growing responsibilities, societal pressures, busy home lives, depression, illness and anxiety disorders, work and more work, global warming! There is always something to worry about and our caveman brains are excellent and devising life threatening scenarios that we simply must save ourselves from. This sets that nervous system on kill, rather than stun, and results in cortisol (stress hormone) flowing round the body for extended periods of time. This sets us on edge, even if we don’t think we are on edge.

Savasana is an excellent way to counter these effects. Savasana is a time for rest, not sleep. Savasana helps us hit the reset button, Control, alt, delete. The physical benefits include:

  • reduced heart rate
  • reduction in blood pressure
  • regulating breath
  • calm the nervous system
  • reduce cortisol in the body
  • develop respiratory system
  • relaxed muscles
  • quieter state of mind

It takes practice, and it can take a lot of practice, so be patient, be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself. Think of surrendering the body to the mat, perhaps you can surrender in your other postures as well. Perhaps you can surrender some of those extra duties in life that make you unhappy…