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The Art of Shavasana - when less is more

What do I do after yoga class? How many minutes more do I rest? who’s that snoring so loudly?


These are a few examples of the thoughts that distract our minds, most often than not, during Shavasana.


After active asana practice, many practitioners find it boring or optional to cool down and enjoy the stillness of Shavasana.


Let’s admit it; truth be told, it's hard to let go of the idea of being in complete stillness & quieting an overactive mind.


Underrated most often; this pose is popularly referred to as the corpse pose (‘Shava’ means ‘Dead’ in Sanskrit) & is the ultimate game changer in your yoga practice if done mindfully.


Read further to explore the finer nuances and the profound impact this challenging yet seemingly simple; resting pose has to offer.



What is Shavasana?

Shavasana is the gentle practice of gradually letting go & relaxing each part of the body. In Shavasana, you are both awake & wholly relaxed.


Shavasana is done with closed eyes, softening the entire body & naturally breathing in a supine position (lying down). It can be done for as little as 6 minutes & best recommended for 10-20 minutes.


When practised regularly, this pose conditions the body to release stress and improves your emotional & physical well-being, relaxing one body part at a time, one muscle at a time, and one thought at a time.


The key is to find a neutral, comfortable position as you lie on your mat. Take the time to recalibrate your mind and breath as you slowly dissolve into the mat.


When you do this practice day after day, it conditions the body to release stress. It also improves your sense of physical and emotional well-being.


But when you have allowed tightness and tension to build up in your body, relaxing—even when you lie down—feels impossible.


That’s why it’s essential to practice the other, active asanas before attempting Savasana because they stretch, open, and release muscle tension.


Gradually relaxing one muscle at a time, feeling the sensations in your body, you begin to experience the sweetness of being present and relishing each breath. Ironically it is one of the easiest & accessible poses to get into and one of the hardest to practice.


How to do Shavasana?

  1. Lie down on your back & loosen your arms and legs.

  2. Use blankets & props to ensure you are comfortable and warm as you prepare your body, breath & mind for Shavasana.

  3. Arms are away from the body (approximately 45-degree angle) with the fingers gently open and palms facing upwards.

  4. Close your eyes and take slow, natural breaths through your nose with no force whatsoever. Then gradually allow your entire body to sink into the mat, relax & soften your jaws and areas you experience stiffness.

  5. As you unwind, notice the rise and fall of the body with each breath.

  6. Try to do a self-body scan from the tips of your toes to the crown of your head.

  7. Consciously release any tension in any part of the body at this point.

  8. Try not to drift into sleep.

  9. To come out of the pose, slowly bring your awareness to the physical environment around you. Wiggles your toes & fingers, reach the arms over your head, interlace the fingers and stretch the entire body. Then place your right palm on your belly and slowly roll over to the right side in the fetal position.

  10. Use your left palm support to sit up in Sukhasana with your eyes still closed.

  11. Gently rub your palms and place them tenderly on your eyelids

  12. Blink open your eyes and place your palms in front of your face

  13. With a smile, open your eyes and look into your palms

The effects of Shavasana




Spending a few minutes in Shavasana offers many benefits and has a lasting effect on the mind, body & breath.


The primary purpose of this asana in your practice is deeply connected to the active asana sequence of stretching and releasing tension from the body.


It quietens the nervous system, shifting it from the sympathetic (fight & flight mode) to the parasympathetic (rest mode) side.


It restores the body, repairs the tissues & cells & encourages the practitioner to assimilate the goodness of the asana practice.


A deep sleep, quiet mind, lowered anxiety & insomnia & a feeling of rejuvenation are some of the many outcomes you will experience in due course.


During a guided Shavanasa, notice how you are encouraged with verbal cues like ‘soften your jaws’, ‘relax your shoulders, and ‘gently close your eyes’ these cues are meant to settle your body into active rest mode & quieten the mind.


That’s precisely why Shavasana is indicative of the end of your yoga practice.


It quietens a tired body and mind & is synonymous with complete surrender.


Summary


In today’s world, where productivity, multi-tasking & being busy are regarded as daily yardsticks for achievements, simply doing nothing is an art refined by practice and patience.


Appreciating those delicious moments of silence & bliss makes way for peace, contentment & joy. One that is experienced both within you and shared with those around you.

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