This move isn’t really a move at all. It’s motionless, yet so much is going on while remaining still in this pose. The main purpose of this asana is to restore and assimilate. A reboot for our bodies, minds and spirits.
The name corpse pose used to be a source of discomfort for me because of its connection with death. After all, death is the thing we fear the most -- perhaps because it’s one of the things we understand the least. This phenomenon is true for everything that makes us afraid. We do so because we lack enough knowledge about that which we find frightening.
Different cultural and religious groups have different theories about what happens when we die. Yet, there are also many similarities.
Some believe we are reborn as another person or perhaps an animal, depending on your karma. The ultimate goal is to escape this cycle and reach Nirvana (Hinduism and Buddhism).
Some believe you die to wait for a second resurrection. After the resurrection, you are then judged by the almighty. You will either live in heaven or hell according to the judgment received (Christianity).
Others believe the soul continues to live on after death. There will be a judgment day based on how you shaped your soul in life; you will go to either heaven or hell (Islam).
Sikhs believe in reincarnation. They also believe that the soul can find an ultimate resting place residing with God.
The common theme here through them all is that the body is a physical form that dies and decays. The true essence of us, which is the spirit or the soul (depending on your belief), lives on, returning to the all.
There are many stories about near death experiences. These occurrences are different for everyone; however, they have similarities. Research on near-death experiences (NDE) has recorded 10 characteristics associated with them.
A feeling of overwhelming love
Afterlife levels- traveling through and experiencing different realms
Decide - To stay or come back?
Shown the future
Entering a tunnel
Convinced of the truth they just experienced
How does this connect to Savasana? Let us take a look at that now.
From the theories of death we just looked at, it is a process of assimilating what we have done in life. It is restoring and returning to the all. The true essence.
In Mrtasana, you lie flat on your back and remain still for a few minutes. You are not encouraged to move, but you should not fall asleep either. It is the pose that requires you to remain relaxed and fully conscious at the same time. The purpose of this process is to assimilate all the work done during your yoga practice. Beginning to sound like the concepts of death yet?
The mind is often resistant to this process of assimilation. It does not flow with ease into conscious surrender. Thoughts get in the way. Thoughts of what you have to do after practice. Perhaps you rehash the day’s events in your mind. You feel itchy, unsettled. You need to pay the bills, pick up the kids. You’re making your grocery lists.
This is a result of the effects of our modern ‘developed’ society. It rewards speed and quantity and balks at stillness. Who has time to be still? There are so many things going on, so much to do, and so much to see. It’s sensory and information overload like we’ve never seen before in human history.
We make fun of those in stillness and rush ourselves to a frazzle. We do not take the time to service the vehicle transporting our soul to the next step. Whatever that step is.
Savasana is recharging the phone after running it to its last bar. It is the final asana in any sequence or yoga class.
Just as our minds refuse to surrender during mtrasana pose; it begs to wonder, is our mind still conscious after death? Is our spirit floating around restless somewhere? Is it anxious about all the shoulda, woulda, couldas?
This is not, however, an article about death. This is about using Savasana to find inner peace. Let’s take a look at how we can do that using this pose.
Props (optional): 10-pound sandbag, yoga block, eye-pillow or towel, bolsters and blankets
This is a grounding pose; it gives you an opportunity to connect with the earth. Practicing outside on the grass can be a particular treat. Being in nature allows you to feel mother earth's energy. It pulses through the soil, making its way into your body.
· Lie flat on your back in neutral position, with feet slightly apart and your palms up.
· Relax your muscles using Progressive Muscle Relaxation (P.M.R.) – keep reading for specific instructions on how this is done.
· Draw your attention within. Pull all your fears, desires and passions from your pelvis to your heart center.
· Become aware of your inner world.
· If you want to have a deeper experience, use an eye pillow or towel to cover your eyes.
· Stay in this pose for 1 - 20 minutes.
· When you are ready to come out of Savasana, roll to your right side and lift yourself up.
If you have just completed a yoga session, stay in Savasana for 5 minutes for every 30 minutes of practice. For example, if you spent 1-hour doing asanas spend 10 minutes in Savasana
Enhance the Pose:
Try one or more of these tips to deepen the pose.
· To relax the abdomen, place a sandbag, block or blankets across the abdomen.
· For neck support place a bolster or folded blanket under your neck. Let your forehead rise slightly higher than your chin.
· Place a bolster under your knees to support your lower back.
· Position a block above your head. Let the block sit on one of its sides, and one of its ends should be touching your crown. Lay a 10-pound sandbag on the block. It should be half on the block and the other half touching your forehead. This helps to quiet the mind.
Starting at your feet, clench each muscle tightly and work your way up to your neck and head. Hold each muscle tight for 3 seconds and then relax it.
· Curl your toes downward and squeeze.
· Squeeze and tighten your calf muscles (right then left).
· Squeeze and tighten your legs (right then left).
· Clench your fists (right then left).
· Tighten your biceps by clenching your fist. Then pull your forearm toward your shoulder (right then left).
· Pull your butt cheeks together and squeeze.
· Pull in your stomach.
· Tighten your chest by taking a deep breath.
· Raise your shoulders up towards your ears.
· Open your mouth wide, move from side to side, and relax.
· Clench your eyelids shut.
· Raise your eyebrows up as far as you can.
· Lift your head up towards the ceiling, pointing the chin upwards, and then release.
Caution: If you are pregnant, modify the pose by placing a bolster under your head and chest.
Benefits of Savasana:
· Reduces headaches
· Helps with insomnia
· May lower blood pressure
· Stimulates blood circulation
· Helps with people living with diabetes, neurological problems, and asthma
· Helps with constipation and indigestion
· Helps in the reduction of the metabolic rate and oxygen consumption
· Calms the mind
· Relieves symptoms of depression
· Improves memory and concentration
· Helps foster self-acceptance
· Releases stress
· Helps bring a feeling of restoration
· Reduces anxiety
· Helps reduce Vata imbalance
· Allows you to connect with breath
· Brings peace
· Stimulates the crown chakra
· Grounds the body
· Aligns your energy field or true self with physical body
We do not know for certain what happens after we take our last breath. However, we do have control of what we do now, on and off the mat. This is what matters the most. It is perhaps one of the big lessons of Savasana: do your best and then surrender.
Remember, “When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.” — B.K.S. Iyengar