It is often said that Savasana is the easiest pose to do and the hardest to master. I know I’m often tempted to skip it altogether, especially after my morning practice, when my rejuvenated body and active mind are anxious to move to the next task. “Oh,” I tell myself, “I’ll do Savasana later, and make my WHOLE DAY my yoga practice”. Yeah right. Of course it’s a wonderful idea to work towards an entire day as conscious, mindful practice—and is one of my goals to make through the days without berating myself, or judging others, maintaining equanimity, and paying mindful attention to each moment. But I’ll be honest: I’m not there yet, and count myself lucky for every conscious breath and moment I experience. In my case, no matter what lovely lofty things I tell myself, saving Savasana for later is just an excuse, a paradoxically lazy attempt to avoid the work of lying down and letting go.
How human of me to skip the “easiest” pose because it’s too much work. At least I know I’m not the only one. The Ashtanga classes at my local gym don’t include it. Sure, they offer 5 minutes to lie down at the end of class, but since it’s not explicitly taught, none of the students take it, each rolling their mats and rushing off to the next task. I’ve heard some friends complain about Savasana, too, questioning why it’s necessary and speculating that it’s wasted time.
So, why do we practice Savasana, anyway?
Savasana helps tie loose ends. With asana we bring new blood and fresh breath to our organs, our nervous, lymphatic and digestive systems, and muscles. Lying in Savasana offers the opportunity to incorporate these elements. Jumping immediately from asana to the tasks of the day can leave us with loose energetic ends, allowing our new energy to fly out in all directions. Savasana helps to gently incorporate that energy .It also helps us to practice surrender, acceptance and deep relaxation.
Savasana translates as “corpse pose”, a term that can invoke macabre images of blue bodies (at least for me, anyway). That was until the day I had a teacher describe it as the “death of your day, the death of thoughts and feelings that do not serve you, and the release of all you do not need”. This reevaluation helped remind me that death is too complex to be considered as only a dark and sad event: it is also a necessity for life. As a fallen leaf disintegrates, so does it nourish the earth. Likewise, as I let my thoughts dissolve, so do they nourish peace within me.
Like many people, I find it difficult to simply do nothing, and appreciate teachers who offer a guided Savasana, allowing me to focus on voices or visualizations, gradually dropping me into the relaxed state where I can be quiet and calm.
It’s not surprising that when I teach I’m fond of leading my students through a guided Savasana. I have found that through the process of guiding others, I’ve learned a script that I can use to direct myself to deep relaxation during my own practice.
I’ve outlined the process below, and included a link to an audio version.
A Template for Guided Savasana
It might be a good idea to practice the following words aloud a few times, perhaps guiding a friend to relaxation. Simply speaking the words helps to lodge them in your memory, providing a pattern that can also be spoken internally.
Here’s how to do it:
First, relax your body piece by piece. Start by bringing attention to your toes, gradually moving your focus up the body to the soles and tops of feet, ankles, calves, shins, thighs and hamstrings, hips, abdomen, chest, shoulders, triceps and biceps, forearms, wrists, back of palms, front of palms, fingers, neck, head, forehead, jaws, eyes and brain. With each body part tell yourself that that part is heavy and relaxed. Use words like sinking, releasing and surrendering. For instance “My toes are relaxed. They are sinking deeply into the earth. My ankles are heavy and relaxed. They are releasing to the earth. My calves are heavy, surrendering to the earth.” Move up the body piece by piece, finally allowing your brain to feel heavy and sink into the back of the skull. When you have relaxed each part of your body, tell yourself “My whole body is completely relaxed. My whole body is completely relaxed.” Allow your relaxed body to remain in this state for a few minutes longer, enjoying the peace and calm of deep relaxation.
If you’d prefer to be guided by an outside force, I highly recommend The Meditation Podcast’s “Calming the Body”. The meditation “uses sound technology known as “binaural beats” to help the listener enter a deep state of meditation and relaxation.” A calm feminine voice takes you through your entire body, directing you to release tension in each part, while birdsong and nature sounds play in the background. It’s a great way to close your practice.