Sometimes yoga can feel intimidating, especially when you’re new to it. All the lingo definitely doesn’t help either, as getting to with poses when they called things like savasana, pigeon pose and ashtanga feels impossible when you start out.
Thankfully, Activewear USA is here to help you in your journey to become fit, flexible, and maybe even feel more spiritually enlightened.
A Quick Breakdown of the Lingo in this Article for Yoga Newcomers
- Yoga is an umbrella term for an ancient form of exercise that involves physical practices to increase strength and flexibility, as well as breathing practices to improve physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. Yoga originated in India, with strong ties to the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in the North. Due to yoga’s Indian heritage, many of the names for poses (or asanas) remain in their original Sanskrit. It is integral that we, as western yoga practitioners, still use these original names in order to acknowledge the importance of its history in the east.
- Savasana / shavasana is the pose we will be discussing today. The word itself comes from the Sanskrit words ‘sava’, meaning corpse or dead, and asana, meaning pose or seat.
- Hatha yoga is a branch of yoga that focuses on physical techniques and breathing patterns. Hatha yoga aims to balance the body and mind, through practices like yoga poses, breathing exercises, chanting, gestures, cleansing techniques and visualization. Hatha translates to force in Sanskrit, alluding to the physical nature of the practice.
What is Savasana Pose?
Savasana (or shavasana / corpse pose) is the final resting pose within a hatha or restorative yoga practice. During savasana, you are supposed to be able to reach a state called ‘yoga nidra’, a meditative state of consciousness between waking and sleeping, much like the hypnagogic state of consciousness that you experience whilst going to sleep.
Savasana is performed lying on the back, with the legs apart and each heel touching a corner of the yoga mat. Arms will be relaxed and down to the side, with palms facing up towards the ceiling.
The aim of the pose is to fully relax all muscles in the body, which is done so by scanning down the body, from crown to toes, checking for any muscular tension, and consciously releasing it.
The conscious mind is then released from all control of the breath, thoughts and the body. Typically, savasana is practiced for five to ten minutes at the end of a yoga practice or lesson but can be practiced for longer periods if you are wanting a deeper meditative state.
How Do I Perform Savasana Pose?
To perform savasana, first wrap up warm, as you will cool quickly after exercise. Lay down on your mat, flat on your back. Let your arms fall by your sides and feel how the back of your hand touches the floor.
Move your feet so that your legs naturally fall open and are slightly spread apart. Now focus on your awareness of your breathing, feeling how you can breathe both into the front and the back of your lungs.
Starting at your scalp, scan for any tension you’re holding in your body. Move down to the face, neck, shoulders, chest, all the way until you reach your toes. Stay aware of how it feels in the locations where your body touches the floor.
To release this pose, slowly reclaim consciousness over your breathing, deepen your breaths, flex muscles, and start to move again. Stretch your arms above the head, and extend your whole body. From here, bring your knees up to your chest, roll into your side in a fetal pose, and then begin sitting up.
Variations on Savasana Pose
- If you are prone to sciatic nerve pain, it might be helpful to add a pillow, yoga block or bolster cushion under the knees (not the calves or ankles!) to take any pressure off of your lower back.
- If you’re going to practice full yoga nidra (which lasts around 40 minutes), it is a good idea to put a pillow or rolled-up blanket under the head, to cushion you slightly from the hard flooring, and to bring your neck into a neutral position.
- If you’re pregnant, side-lying savasana will be a beneficial variation. Lay down on your left side, bend your knees and bring them in line with your hip joints. Rest your top leg on a cushion so that your joints are well-supported. Reach your left arm out, so it’s at a 90-degree angle with your shoulder, and place a pillow under your head to keep it in a neutral position.
How To Prevent Falling Asleep in Savasana Pose?
Though the savasana pose encourages a state of yoga nidra, it is important to not actually fall asleep during the pose. Not only would it be a little embarrassing to wake yourself up snoring in the middle of your yoga class, but it may also prevent you from getting the full benefits of the asana.
Regular practice of savasana pose, using some sort of guide (whether this is a yoga teacher or yoga mediation course/CD) will naturally increase your capability to stay awake. If you feel yourself drifting off, though, try to prevent it by breathing deeper and faster, as this will make your body feel naturally more alert.
Overall, the most important thing is to not beat yourself up if you do end up drifting away to dreamland during savasana. Savasana, and yoga as a whole, is focussed on appreciating, restoring and strengthening, and this is all just part of the process.
Why is Savasana Pose Important?
Yoga is not simply stretching, but a myriad of practices designed to boost wellbeing. Savasana, often called the most important pose and the most difficult pose, helps to regulate your nervous system by letting you carve out a chunk of time within your busy day purely for relaxation and bodily awareness.
After practicing savasana for a while, you’ll be able to recognize where you repeatedly hold tension in your body and alter this for better muscular, bone, and mental health.