Savasana (Corpse Pose) is much more than a moment's rest at the end of a yoga class; it is a pose of total relaxation, making it one of the most challenging poses.
When I attended my first yoga class, a challenging and very sweaty Bikram class (hot yoga), I had no idea what I was doing, and I couldn't wait for the class to end. So when it came time for savasana, I thought it was heaven on a mat. I was sore and exhausted from stretching, sweating, and pretending like I knew what I was doing and when savasana arrived, I collapsed on my mat, ready for a very long nap. I had no clue what savasana meant or what it did for the body. All I knew was that it felt good, really, good.
As my yoga practice and training grew over the years, so did my understanding and appreciation of this underrated pose. Savanasa stands for "asana" (posture) and "sava" (corpse). Savasana, quite literally, means "Corpse Pose" – which doesn't exactly bring such peaceful images to mind, does it? But that's the point.
Rest can benefit any exercise. When yoga students are pressed for time, one of the first things to skip is Savasana. That brief period of laying in corpse pose at the end of class can feel indulgent when you've got a million other things to cross off your to-do list. But you might miss out on several mind and body benefits by skipping Savasana after yoga. Savasana is an essential pose and one you should never overlook.
This complete stillness in mind and body is the goal of savasana, which for most people makes it both the easiest pose physically and the most challenging pose mentally and emotionally. It shifts the body from the sympathetic nervous (fight or flight) system to the parasympathetic side (rest and digest), and we experience a calming, sweet release. Over time, Savasana teaches us how, and that we can, move from anxiety and hyper-stimulation to this state of down-regulation where digestion, the immune system, and other essential systems are restored and enhanced. It also teaches us to turn off active thinking and not let ourselves get caught up in the stories that might accompany them. To be in stillness and silence with ourselves is often a tricky thing to do, which is one of the reasons why so many of us tend to keep ourselves so busy — to avoid feeling the discomfort that can arise when we are still. But savasana allows us to step back and notice what we're thinking and feeling without clinging to those thoughts and feelings.
I hope this post has inspired you to view savasana from a new perspective and invite you to explore its gifts more deeply the next time you get on your mat.