As your asana practice draws to a close, you will enter corpse pose, or Savasana. This is the point in your practice where you begin to let go after an experience of stretching and strengthening the body–along with focusing the mind focusing the mind, as we’ve seen in several previous articles.
Savasana is often considered the most important pose in yoga. Do not skip it! Ever! If you have to leave class early, leave yourself a few minutes to experience this deep state of relaxation regardless of what the rest of the class is doing. Your teacher will not mind.
I often explain to students that skipping Savasana is like carefully putting together all the ingredients for a great soufflé, and then not bothering to put it in the oven. The ingredients in a yoga practice—the asanas—are individual building blocks contributing to a much larger total experience. Just as that soufflé needs the heat of the oven for all of the ingredients to combine and transform into something amazing (and edible), your body and mind need the time to relax and to integrate those poses into something much greater than the sum of their parts. Otherwise, you risk being left with a loose, gooey dough and the sense that you’ve cheated yourself out of something valuable.
Scientific and therapeutic professionals including anxiety specialist Dr. E.J. Bourne recognize a long list of physiological benefits from regular Savasana practice, such as:
- decreased heart and respiration rates;
- lower blood pressure;
- reduced muscle tension;
- relief from general anxiety and a lower frequency of panic attacks;
- increased energy levels and greater general productivity;
- improved memory, concentration, and focus;
- decreased fatigue, coupled with deeper and sounder sleep;
- improved self-confidence.
In his book B.K.S. Iyengar Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health, the great yoga master understands those benefits and how they contribute to Savasana being a gateway to meditation. He says it better than I can:
“When you practice this asana, your organs of perception—the eyes, ears, and tongue—withdraw from the outside world. The body and the mind become one, and you experience inner silence. This asana is the first step in the practice of meditation.”
Many people find Savasana to be a surprisingly difficult asana precisely because it requires a profound letting go of the need to be “doing” something. They fidget. Their minds race. They feel vulnerable, especially in a class setting. These obstacles are not so different from those you might face when you begin to practice formal sitting meditation. Stillness is not such an easy state to find!
If the core purpose of asana practice is to prepare the body and mind for meditation, then Savasana is the perfect transitional pose. Even children recognize that something special happens when lying in corpse pose. I’ve taught classes where kids who have boundless energy—or even an ADHD diagnosis—are transformed (however briefly) through the magic of letting go, and this almost always gets them asking questions and wanting more.
Next time you hit the yoga mat, let yourself be fully aware of what’s going on during those precious minutes on your back with nothing to do and nowhere to go. You may find a new perspective on this beautifully meditative asana.