sava = corpse
This pose is also called Mrtasana (pronounced mrit-TAHS-anna, mrta = death)
Savasana is perhaps the most important part of yoga practice. Lying on the back, the arms and legs are spread at about 45 degrees, the eyes are closed and the breath deep, using deerkha (long) pranayama (breath). The whole body is relaxed onto the floor with an awareness of the chest and abdomen rising and falling with each breath. All parts of the body are scanned for muscular tension of any kind, which is consciously released as it is found, optionally with a small repetitive movement of the area. All control of the breath, the mind, and the body is then released for the duration of the posture, typically 20-30 minutes although often less in Western yoga classes.
The posture is released by slowly deepening the breath, flexing the fingers and toes, reaching the arms above the head, stretching the whole body, exhaling, bringing the knees to the chest and rolling over to the side in a fetal position. After a short time and a slow inhalation, the practitioner takes a seated position.
Following an asana practice ending in savasana, the body may be in the anabolic state of metabolism during which organ and muscle repair and development is occurring. Activities requiring the body to switch back to the highly active catabolic state of metabolism are therefore reintroduced sensitively, as the two states do not coexist well.
The benefits of Savasana are many – to put it simply, however, it is intended to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit. Other benefits include:
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Relaxes the body
- Reduces headache, fatigue, and insomnia
- Helps to lower blood pressure
Often it’s difficult to release the heads of the thigh bones and soften the groins in this pose. This creates tension throughout the body and restricts the breath. Take two 10-pound sand bags and lay one across each top thigh, parallel to the crease of the groin. Then imagine that the heads of the thigh bones are sinking away from the weight, down into the floor. An alternative to weights is to use a yoga strap to bind the legs together – wrapping around ankles and around the low back – to create a “held” posture that is supportive and creates less pressure on the hips and lower back.