Let’s talk Savasana ….
Written by RJ Lisander
For those of you have been to any of my yoga classes at Empower Personalized Fitness you will know that Savasana (also known as Mrtasana and corpse pose) is absolutely my favorite yoga pose of all time. Why, you ask?
The answer is simple … it allows me to completely and totally relax. More specifically, it calms my brain, relaxes my entire body and helps to relieve physical and emotional stress, while reducing the feel of overall fatigue. (I even credit Savasana with curing me of insomnia!) And, I’m sure, just as all yoga texts state, I am also benefiting from lower blood pressure.
The pose itself is rather straightforward. The practitioner is asked to lie flat on the back. Close the eyes. Become aware of every part of the body that comes in contact with the mat beneath them. Start to breath slow, steady inhales and exhales.The practitioner is then asked to loosen the lower jaw and then, with each breath allow the body to more completely relax by letting the muscles of the body loosen, let go. In private practices this is done for 10 to 15 minutes following a traditional yoga practice. However, in most group classes Savasana will last anywhere between 2 minutes and 7 minutes (closer to 7 minutes if you take my classes!).
For me, there was instant connection to this pose, but as I’ve worked with others I have come to realize just how difficult this pose can be and I thought it might be helpful to share some tips to help others relax into this pose.
First and foremost, know that your mind is always working and in Savasana we ask it to do the opposite. This is something that takes practice. So, allow your conversation with yourself in moments of Savasana when the brain won’t turn off to be gentle. Don’t get frustrated. Allow the thought to occur, then let it go by remembering your breath. Count to four on the inhale and six on the exhale, and repeat. You will be shocked by just how quickly the mind lets go of the worries and pressures of the day and starts to … settle, is the word I use to describe it.
Second, know your body. Accept that bodies in motion will sometimes have difficulty laying still for extended periods of time, especially if they are feeling any kind of discomfort. While patience with your body is called for and breath helps here, especially with advanced practices, yoga props are Savasana lifesavers! Empower has them, so don’t be afraid to use them.
Here are some tips on how:
When your mind just won’t calm, even with breath cues, try an eye pillow. They are usually filled with flax seed and rice (some are even scented with calming lavender). When placed just over the eye there is a greater sense of darkness which helps the practitioner to move their focus inward.
For those new to yoga, especially, it is sometimes difficult to release the heads of the thigh bones and relax the groin in Savasana. This state of tension causes tension throughout the whole body and restricts breath. I always recommend, that people try to take two 10-pound sand bags to lay across the top of the hip to gently encourage the hip to let go.
Although Savasana is usually performed with the legs turned out this can be difficult for some so I ask practitioners to try using a yoga strap. By making a small loop at the end of a yoga strap, sitting on the floor with your knees slightly bent and slipping the loop over your big toes, lying back and turning your thighs inward, sliding your heels apart a slight inward turn of the legs can be achieved. Many times this makes a huge difference in the comfort of Savasana.
If you have a back injury or discomfort, you will feel much better bending your knees, with your feet on the floor, hip distance apart. Or, you can use a bolster under your knees. To help keep the knees in place as you move into a more relaxed state with either of these options you can use a strap, mid-thigh, to bind the thighs in a parallel position.
If you are pregnant, you will want to use a bolster to raise your head and chest. You can also lay on your side.
I hope these tips help enhance your Savasana practice. If you would like more tips, feel free to join any one of Empower’s highly trained yoga instructors for an in class assessment.
RJ is a member of International Association of Yoga Therapists, Yoga Alliance and is CPR AED certified. RJ holds a 200-hour Prana Flow® teacher certification from Evolve Movement, Raleigh, NC and is working toward her 1000-hour certification in yoga therapy through a combination of intensive study with Joseph and Lillian LaPage at Kripalu and internship. Additionally, RJ holds a Bachelors of Arts in English with a minor in Creative Writing from West Virginia University.