The benefits of Savasana, or corpse pose, are endless: it allows your nervous system to balance out and calms your sympathetic nervous system (responsible for your body's "fight or flight" response); encourages your heart rate, blood flow and breath to normalize; helps to prevent injury, and gently settles the mind and body.
Savasana also gives you a chance to practice both ahimsa ("non-harming"), and aparigraha ("non-grasping) by offering the precious opportunity to let go of any judgment of your physical practice and not think about whether or not you nailed that headstand.
Savasana may seem like an easy pose, but like all poses, it takes much, much more than just following a set of alignment cues. It's a challenging pose to truly master, as many of us (myself included) find it difficult to fully relax and often hold tension in our bodies and minds without even realizing it.
The art of Savasana is to consciously surrender and remain aware whilst simultaneously being at ease: it is not simply a pose designed to fill the time until the end of class. So how exactly do you "do" Savasana and fully embrace and savor everything it has to offer?
1. First and foremost, make yourself comfortable.
If you're not comfortable, you're almost always guaranteed to fidget and be unable to still your body and mind. Many yogis may find that Savasana causes some strain in their lower back, in which case a rolled-up blanket or bolster under the knees can help.
If your neck or head is uncomfortable, place a blanket underneath, and move all props out of the way — there's nothing worse than lying in Savasana with a block grazing against your thigh.
If lying on your back is uncomfortable, embrace one of these many variations. Many pregnant women who are in their second or third trimesters find that lying on their backs places too much strain and pressure on the abdomen, in which case side-lying using a bolster for support can be pretty blissful.
2. Be aware of where you hold the most tension.
We all have a "go-to" spot for where we hold tension in our bodies. For me, it's in my neck and strangely enough, my forehead. I'm known for constantly furrowing my eyebrows and most of the time I don't even realize it.
In Savasana, being aware of this allows me to shift my focus to these areas and consciously allow these muscles to relax.
The same goes for the mind: if you can identify and be aware of the fact that something is weighing on your mind (like an upcoming task or meeting), isolate it and allow it to fade into the background just for a while. It can wait.
3. Let thoughts come and go, bring it back to the breath.
Quieting the mind in Savasana is not necessarily about removing all your thoughts so that the mind is blank. Rather, use the breath to guide your focus and awareness and detach from the inevitable wave of thoughts that come and go.
See what happens when you simply notice a thought without attaching any kind of label to it: say hello, and let it be on its way.
4. Conduct a body scan.
To consciously bring the awareness back to the body and identify (sometimes hidden) areas of tension, we can bring ourselves to experience one end of the spectrum before swinging back to experience its polar opposite.
In Savasana, we can do this by squeezing and then releasing different muscles to experience what full contraction feels like, followed by using the breath to carefully guide the muscle into a relaxed and resting state.
Start with the toes and move your way up the body; don't forget your facial muscles as the jaw area is a notorious tension-holding area.
5. Ease your way in, within and out of the pose.
There's no rule that says that Savasana should be held for X number of minutes. However, a minute-long Savasana can feel rushed and end up creating more stress — whereas a 5 to 10-minute-long Savasana can be really yummy.
The key is to not hurry your way through Savasana and take your time within the pose to settle the body and the fluctuations of the mind. Just as importantly, be gentle with yourself when you're getting out of it.
It can feel amazing to reach your arms overhead and stretch your body from head to toe and then hug your knees into your chest to release any tension from the lower back. Once you've rolled to one side, savor your time in the fetal position before supporting yourself back up, all the while paying attention to the quality and sound of the breath.
Savasana can be a truly therapeutic asana when it's allowed to work its magic. Do you have any other tips on practicing surrender in Savasana?