6 tips for savoring savasana

Savasana Pose - spine and neck are elongated, feet and legs relax open, palms face upward
Deepen mental focus throughout your life and yoga practice by working on your savasana.

Savasana, Sanskrit for "Corpse Pose," is the supine resting posture typically performed at the end of a yoga class. Yogis all over the world use this time to quiet the mind and body, allowing the asana practice to settle in. Simultaneously existing as one of the easiest and most difficult yoga postures, it deserves our attention and even a blog post. What should we really be doing in savasana? How does savasana really impact our yoga practice? And what can we do to improve it? The following are a few tips that will (hopefully) help you to work toward your best savasana...ever:

1) Take your time settling in: Whether or not your instructor cues it every time, take a few moments before complete stillness to really let go. Scan your body a few inches at a time from head to toes, flexing and releasing any areas of tension. Pay special attention to your neck and shoulders, lower back and hips, imagining that you are melting into your mat. If lying in the typical savasana (as shown above) isn't completely comfortable, feel free to move your legs or arms into whatever posture feels best for you; just try to find a reclined pose in which you can remain comfortable and stationary for a few minutes and keep your eyes closed.

2) Release the ujjayi breath: Your strong ujjayi breath was used to build and maintain internal heat throughout practice, carrying you through the asanas and helping to keep your mind focused. Now that you're in savasana, allow your breath to return to it's natural rhythm, cooling down the body. You may still continue to focus on your breathing to help keep your mind from wandering.

3) Realize that savasana is essential: When you're doing your best to squeeze in a practice or you're plotting out the rest of you're important day, it may be tempting to skip or shorten your time in savasana. Maybe you feel that the real tangible portion of practice is over and now you are just biding your time for a few minutes before rolling up the mat. This attitude could not be farther from the truth. 

Unfortunately, the folks who most desperately need savasana are often the ones who truly take it for granted. They might feel confined, awkward and restless or just consider it as a time to run through the upcoming "to-do" list. (If this is you, please read-on!) Savasana is arguably the most important part of practice. Especially if we take no other time for meditation or prayer, it is imperative that we use our savasana to intentionally practice slowing down the spinning mind and decompressing. There is plenty of interesting science behind the benefits of meditation and relaxation, but here is one summary in simple terms by yogi Bryan Kest:
"Thought alone can facilitate the secretion of hormones and chemicals into the bloodstream that provoke a mental or physical reaction. The heart rate may rise, blood pressure become elevated, (hypertension), stomach may secrete acid, the muscles may tighten, etc... So within this corpse pose there is a practice happening..." - Bryan Kest
(Read a bit more about the importance of savasana here.)
We are pursuing intentional and focused repose of the mind, body and spirit. Through repetition in savasana, we strive to achieve and refine physiological relaxation during a relaxed state; off the mat, we are then more likely to remain calm or unwind quicker during times of stress.

4) Set an intention: Savasana is a time to learn to be present with yourself, connecting your mind, body and spirit. Strive to remain conscious and focus on being totally present in the moment. If there is something you're struggling with or working on in your life or yoga practice, use this time to meditate or pray about your goal. Whether it is patience, strength, confidence or peace, your positive energy will have a positive impact.

5) Stop with the fidgeting: Do you really have an itch there or are you just starting to become uncomfortable with the silence? Sometimes, when we're distracted in any yoga asana, we turn to little habits and mannerisms that won't necessarily come off as fidgeting. These little traditions might be subconscious. Next time you're in savasana, try to admit these patterns to yourself if they exist and check your frame of mind when they occur. If you feel distracted, try to bring your focus back to your breath.

6) Acknowledge that savasana is literally only a few minutes of your time: I find it very interesting (and sad) that savasana in traditional Eastern yoga is anywhere from 20-30 minutes. Here in our hustle-bustle Western world, it's usually only held for 2-5 minutes. I understand that it's a challenge to surrender the mind and savasana will always be a work in progress, but if you really feel like savasana is taking forever, just remind yourself why you're there and recognize your need for those few minutes.

Savasana should be a time of bliss for your mind and body. Savor it. If you already embrace savasana, there is always room to improve by lengthening the duration or trying a simple guided meditation. (If you have a smart phone, there are even all sorts of free meditation apps you can download to practice.) If it's not always relaxing, that's okay, but please don't throw in the towel (or the mat, for that matter). Just like the physical yoga postures, with time and diligence, savasana will begin to feel more natural. You'll be able to take the peace and emotional control you cultivate during your practice and carry it throughout your daily life. The world could use more peace and emotional control! Namaste :)