While the most widely used name for this pose is Savasana (Sava is the Sanskrit term for corpse and asana the Sanskrit term for posture), it’s also known as Mritasana, or death posture. How fitting for a weekend of delights and frights!
While this "alter ego" isn’t used as often in yoga classes, it provides an alternate perspective to work with while mastering this pose. Simple as it may look to the eye, for many, it's still considered the most difficult pose to master because it requires corpse-like stillness not just in the body, but also in the mind.
Benefits of Corpse Pose
Savasana is a pose that instantly calms nerves, releases anxiety, expels tension in the body and can lower blood pressure. It can even help with mild depression or help you recognize and process grief.
And, not to mention, it downright feels amazing at the end of class to collapse into it and soak up all the beautiful feelings and sensations of your yoga practice. So how do you (trick or) treat yo’ self to this awesome posture?
Step-by-Step Guide to Corpse Pose
- Start by resting flat on your back.
- Bring your heels close together and let your toes fall apart, conscious of the angle of your feet in relation to the middle of your body.
- Rest your arms flat on the mat by your sides, palms facing up to release your shoulders.
- Find balance between the right and left side of your body, from top to toe.
- Imagine your body is like chocolate melting in the sun, and start to let go as you melt into your mat.
- Relax the space between your eyebrows.
- Remove your tongue from the roof of your mouth.
- Part your lips to relax the muscles of your jaw.
- Rest your shoulder blades flat on the mat.
- Draw your awareness to your collarbones and lengthen, or spread, them.
- Softly close your eyes, relax your eye sockets and turn your gaze inward.
And finally, you’ve released your entire physical body, so try to do the same with your mind. Relax that very active muscle between your ears! If thoughts begin to float in, say hello to them and simply allow them to pass through without stopping to dwell on any of them.
Contraindications (& Tips and Tricks)
Pregnancy: Because the guidelines on this change frequently, and based on how far along you are, please check first with your doctor or midwife if you can lay flat on your back. In both my pregnancies, I practiced it on my side with a bolster between my legs for support and a bolster as a pillow.
This enabled my physical body to relax enough, that my mind could too. Another option so that you aren’t flat on your back, which is also just as safe, is to elevate your head, neck, and shoulders with a bolster. Try both options and see what feels best for your body, so you can quiet the mind and maybe use this time to connect with the soul inside of you.
Back Injuries/Surgery: If you’ve recently had surgery or if you have a chronic back injury, speak to your doctor to make sure spending time flat on your back on a firm surface (studio floor, hardwood) is safe.
One of my teachers is a firm believer in using small sandbags over the eyes to release the eye muscles and quiet the mind. You can also place the sandbag on your forehead if that area needs extra attention as well. If you don’t have a sandbag, you can use a sleeping mask or a towel. We have props in yoga for a reason, so use them to get the most out of your practice.
Remember, this is YOUR practice and only YOU know what is best for YOUR body (and mind). -Jacqueline Buchanan
Sandbags are also useful to help release the hips. Place one on each side at the top of the thigh, just below your hips, parallel to the crease.
Whatever you call it — Corpse Pose, Death Pose, or Savasana — it is a boo-tiful way to end your practice...some might even say it’s a yoga ghoul's best friend :)