Savasana, sometimes called by its English name, corpse pose, is known to be one of the most challenging yoga poses. But this is not because you need to contort your body into an odd shape or overstretch yourself into asanas that feel like you might pop a joint, but because it requires you to clear the mind, and that can be much more difficult than any of the physical asanas.
Several yoga teachers would suggest that you should do corpse pose for five minutes for every thirty minutes of your practice. For example, if you did an hour yoga class, then you would need to perform savasana for ten minutes. That being said, if you wanted to remain here for longer, there is nothing wrong with that.
In this article, we will be exploring this final relaxation pose in a little more detail and find out why it is so important after your yoga classes or your home asana practice.
How Long Should You Do Savasana?
In short, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. You may feel as though you do not have much spare time in your life to be staying in savasana for hours, in this case, a few minutes can still provide you with several benefits.
Conversely, there is nothing wrong with spending longer in the pose, if you feel that it will benefit you. You may even like to spend the time meditating which might take upwards of half an hour.
While most would suggest 5 minutes for every half an hour of yoga, you are free to alter the pose to your liking.
Why Is Savasana The Hardest Pose?
The idea of savasana or corpse pose is to totally let go after your yoga practice. This final relaxation asana is related more to the mind which a person might find a lot more difficult to calm than getting the physical body into a challenging pose like an arm balance.
When you practice savasana, you cannot just expect to experience deep relaxation. Sure, the pose will set up something that is designed to be relaxing but it is then up to you to calm that monkey mind and reap the benefits of corpse pose.
There are two main problems with lying in savasana; you may find that you simply cannot calm your mind at all, or it may go the other way and you could end up falling to sleep. You would not be alone, many yoga students find that this level of stillness is tricky to master.
However, as with anything, savasana simply takes a degree of patience and including it in your home practice or when working with yoga teachers can help you to master this part of your practice. Many yoga students will use this time to perform a meditation which can help to keep the mind focused.
Once you are able to stay in savasana for 15 minutes or so, you will begin to notice the advantages of the pose and see why your yoga teacher has been raving about it so much.
What Happens During Savasana?
According to Geeta Iyengar, a renowned yoga teacher, savasana is a link between the body and mind, and savasana allows you to connect asana practice with pranayama, or the breath to create a spiritual experience quite unlike anything else.
One of the main benefits of savasana is that you will give your body a well-earned rest after your class and this is one of the reasons that such a large number of teachers are keen to include it in their classes. After all, yoga can be hard work. Resting in savasana will allow the heart rate and blood pressure to return to normal.
What’s more, this pose can help to control our stress levels. This is a little complex, but let us explain it in simple terms.
In our day to day lives, it is hard to find a sense of relaxation, the stress of work and trying to please everyone around us can leave us drained. We live in a demanding culture and certain aspects of this can be detrimental to our mental health.
It is good to have a certain degree of stress as this is our body’s way of helping us function optimally throughout life. However, chronic stress is a different matter and this can happen when our nervous system is out of whack.
The autonomic nervous system is what helps to control our natural functions, things like breathing, and our heart beat. There are two main sub-divisions of this system and these are known as the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. Together, these work to keep us balanced.
However, if the sympathetic nervous system stays on for too long, we get fired up and often run on adrenalin. Practicing savasana, particularly alongside meditation can help to lower this level of adrenalin and bring the body and mind back to a more balanced state.
But what is really interesting is that this is not just some claim from the ancient Eastern teaching of yoga, the advantages of savasana have been noted in modern, Western science. There are several webpages detailing this, but one page that expresses it very well can be found here.
Can We Sleep In Savasana?
It is not uncommon for students to fall to sleep when in savasana. After all, we all experience busy lives, and when you put your life on hold for a few minutes to rest in the stillness of savasana, it isn’t difficult to totally let go.
If your body needs it, you will fall asleep no matter how hard you try but this is not such a bad thing if it only happens from time to time. However, in order to get the most out of the savasana practice, it is a good idea to try to stay awake to make the most of this pose.
One of the reasons that savasana works so well is because it gives the body a chance to release tension while in a wakeful state. The more we can practice this, the better our bodies get at coming back into this state of relaxation.
If you find that you continually drift off to sleep when doing savasana, it can be a little embarrassing at the end of the class but there are things you can do to avoid falling to sleep.
Begin by relaxing the body entirely. You might perform a body scan. This is where you focus on each body part and imagine the tension drifting out of it, each bit of the body relaxing in turn, from the toes, to the knees, to the hips and so on. You can link this in with the breath for the best effect.
Once you are totally relaxed, try to let any thoughts calm but find a focus. It can be helpful to play some music or use a guided meditation. If you are in a class, try to choose one where the teacher guides you through savasana as this approach will help you avoid dropping off to sleep.
In most cases, we do savasana with the eyes closed but this will make it more difficult to stay awake, especially if you are very tired. Keeping the eyes open is a viable way to do savasana, just find a spot to focus on and soften your gaze. You might also quietly chant a mantra to yourself which could be related to staying awake.
You might also notice that you are more likely to sleep when you are practicing on a full stomach so try to avoid doing yoga or savasana for at least two hours after eating.
Props For Savasana
Lying on the floor, even if you are on your yoga mat might not be comfortable for everyone but there are many yoga props that you can use to make your savasana a truly delightful experience.
You might use a yoga block or a bolster to raise the knees off the ground. This can alleviate much pressure in the lower back making it easier to stay in savasana for as long as you need to.
Other people like to place an eye pillow over the eyes as this is known to help in lowering the rate of the heart which is something that savasana aims to do.
Savasana is the Sanskrit name for the final resting pose that is done in yoga. This pose aims to calm the mind and relax the body by basking in stillness. There is no right or wrong when it comes to savasana but most people would agree that five minutes for every half an hour of yoga is a good place to start.
If you feel as though you need more, there is nothing wrong with staying here a little longer. Similarly, there is little point pushing yourself to remain in the pose if you feel uncomfortable. It is better to build up and do a little at the end of each yoga session.