If you’ve practiced Yoga for long enough you will have heard the teacher at some point say that Savasana is “the hardest pose.” After precariously perching yourself on your hands or head, I’m sure you may laugh at this idea, but as my own practice evolves I’ve experienced the profound resonance and challenges of this final pose. Savasana (corpse pose) has developed in many practices to resemble an exploding starfish for the body and a “check-out” time for the mind. This truly short-changes you and all the effort you put in before this fateful pose.
In the traditions of an Asana practice, Savasana is the final posture, yes, always. Even if you’ve practiced for years and decades, the end of your Asana practice is marked by laying on your back on the floor, and if getting down to the floor isn’t an option for you then there are variations available but the essence is the same.
What is that essence?
To rest the body in its optimal orientation so that physical, mental and spiritual integration can take place.
There are a plethora of benefits when you take the time to set your body up in a well-supported and aligned Savasana. Here are the three core experiences I’ve come to value from this final resting posture.
- The activity of your nervous system is diminished. Simply put, when you get comfortably still your nervous system has less outside data to register, analyze and respond to. Even if Supta Baddha Konasana would feel “good” at the end of your practice, Savasana will serve your nervous system better. Even though you may feel super fantastic after all those arm balances, back bends and twists, your nervous system seeks the rest of stillness and the opportunity to bring joints and bones into line.
- This leads to feelings of relaxation and an experience of trust in the energetic body. Trust lives as the antithesis to fear; it’s our response to being unrooted. Laying on the ground, in a rested state increases feelings of trust in the body. Trust with the world around you, trust with yourself, and trust with the practice.
- Once the physical body and the energetic body blend in an experience of balance and ease then the mind can settle. It is in the restful state of Savasana that the mind shifts to increase the amount of Alpha waves. Alpha waves are the brain’s state in meditation and deep relaxation. This state allows the mind to wander freely in ease. This wandering is a good thing as it allows for processing of events, emotions and ideas without intellectual resistance. Through this state you are more easily able to put life events into perspective and even experience spontaneous inspiration and flashes of brilliance.
So, next time you come to the end of your practice and contemplate laying in some alternate shape, honour what you have worked so hard for and lay your body down with conscious placement. Laying with your legs at a natural angle from the hips and your arms at an angle that is comfortable for the shoulders is ideal. Wide legs and arms, just like confined legs and arms, are not neutral experiences for the nervous system. The head is positioned so that the neck muscles are able to relax and are not straining to have the head on the floor. The more you practice with mindful alignment in Savasana the more you will begin to experience the subtleties of your body, mind and spirit.