The Art of Relaxation: How to Master Savasana

Annie Knapman
The Art of Relaxation: How to Master Savasana

If you find Savasana hard, you’re not alone. We’re either falling asleep, worrying about our bellies rumbling, or mentally running through our to-do list. While it might be tempting to focus on more "physical" asanas, Savasana is usually the pose we need to practice most in our hectic culture.

How often do you give yourself time to do nothing? We find it hard to do nothing because we constantly feel like we should be doing more. Whether it’s spending longer in the office, exercising more, or making time to meet up with friends and family, there’s always something more to do. Even when we allow ourselves time off, it tends to be in the form of some kind of stimulation like watching TV or scrolling through Facebook. We are terrible at doing nothing.

The emphasis on being busy is so strong that I’ve even seen people roll up their mats and leave a class before Savasana. Or, if we manage to squeeze in a mini session at home, it’s usually Savasana that gets axed when we run out of time.

If you think you don’t have time for savasana, you’re probably someone who needs it most. In savasana the heart rate slows, muscle tension decreases and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) kicks in. The PNS promotes relaxation and recovery as well as better digestion and a healthy sex drive. Studies on savasana have also shown its potential to reduce blood pressure and relieve tension headaches.

When we practice Savasana, we are learning to let go. We gain the ability to exist in the present moment rather than always looking ahead to what’s coming next. We learn to be enough.

5 Steps to Master Savasana

 1. Get Comfy

Finding a position that allows the body to physically relax as much as possible is vital. You’ll have a hard time letting the mind switch off if you have a dead leg.

Try lying face up, flat on your mat, with a bit space between the feet. Let the feet relax. Roll the shoulders down and back towards the spine so the chest is open. Make a bit of space between the arms and the body and place the back of the hands on the floor, palms up.

Cats are really good at savasana. Cats are really good at savasana.

Here I am in the traditional position for Savasana (yoga cat not required). However, you should feel free to modify the pose as you need.

If your lower back gets tight, you could try bending the knees, placing the feet flat on the floor – at least hip distance apart – and resting the knees on one another. Some people like a yoga block or a folded blanket under the head. If a modification helps you have a better Savasana, do it.

2. Stay Warm

Feeling chilly is another easy way to stop the body relaxing. While you might feel nice and toasty at the end of your physical practice, the body cools quickly once it’s still. Put on a layer or two: jumpers, socks, even a blanket if you like.

3. Focus on the Body

Think of Savasana as ‘mindful relaxation’ – we remain alert while giving ourselves permission to let go. To help you stay present, take a mental scan through the body, noticing sensations and releasing tension where possible – some teachers may even guide you through this process. After scanning the body, bring your focus to the breath or the feeling of the weight of the body supported by the floor.

4. Don’t Fight It

One of the biggest pitfalls in Savasana is trying to fight it. The more frustrated you get at your mind racing, the more it will race. In psychology it’s called ironic rebound – a concept which describes how the more you try not to think about something the more you will. When a thought pops up, rather than try to block it out or push it away, let it run its course. Watch it with curiosity and patience. Whenever you can, bring your focus back to the body or the breath.

5. Let Noises Be

It’s usually helpful if your Savasana space is quiet-ish, especially when you first start out. However, noise is part of life and it’s good to be able to chill out with sounds going on around us. If sounds pop up, let them be and try not to get frustrated at them. Just like thoughts, let them to roll by and run their course without attempting to block them out.

If you find your focus stuck on a particular sound, allow yourself to explore it. Notice the quality of the sound rather than labelling whatever it is. You could notice the pitch or the volume or explore if there are spaces of quiet in between the sound.

A Note on Snoozing

Hands up: who’s had a snooze in Savasana? When I first started yoga, I always fell asleep in Savasana. If I was lucky, I’d wake up before everyone else was rolling up their mats and walking out the door.

Ideally, you don’t want to fall asleep – it kind of takes away the mindful bit of ‘mindful relaxation’. However, it’s not the end of the world if you do. It probably just means you need more sleep. Other yogis may get cranky if you snore, but you could politely direct them to point number 5 above.

Do you find Savasana hard? Have you found it easier with practice? Share your Savasana stories in the comments below.

Image credit: Gordon Ogden