Posted by on Jul 27, 2012 in Breath and Body | Comments Off on Savasana


Iyengar has said that in every pose there should be repose.  We may acknowledge that finding surrender in an asana like Virabhadrasana 2 can be a challenge (though it is possible!), but assume that when we are “just lying there” in Savasana, relaxation must be happening.

For most of us, this is not the case (at least at first).

In Light on Life, Iyengar argues that humans are the only animal that must make deep repose a conscious endeavor.  Animals in the wild work and play hard but then relax and refuel with such natural abandon.  They make it look so easy!  See the way in which your cats or dogs lay about with ease, stretching, reaching their hips up and back, then a long sigh and … release.  Is this what you create in Savasana?

We often seek to work through poses that tackle more obvious external cues such as straightening the arms in Bakasana (crow) or Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel) or folding deeper in Paschimottanasana (intense west stretch- seated forward fold) that we neglect to see the work that needs to be done in subtle body stillness.  To most people who are drawn to a vinyasa style flow yoga class (I’m talking to you, Pittas!), this is the place where more attention needs to be paid.  No, it won’t give you buff shoulders or a little yoga butt (and if that’s why you come to yoga, that’s fine!), but it will create results that are just as transformational… on another level.

Savasana translates as “corpse pose”.  It is not “sleeping pose”.  When you are asleep you may look still on the outside but your mind is filled with activity.  The corpse, however, has broken free of the buzz of life.  No longer resplendent with vitality, it is still and calm and detached.  Unattached.

To find savasana, lay on your back, arms and legs outstretched.  Move any props, clothing or flesh that may stand in the way of your feeling balanced and calm.  Roll your arms beneath you slightly to bring a rise through the heart, open the arms and allow the palms to face down for grounding energy, or upwards to receive energy.  Tuck the chin under slightly, allowing the forehead to rise.  Allow feet to fall away from one another and legs to go limp.  Now move through a full-body scan, mindfully releasing tension from top to toe.  The face is a place where we hold a lot of unconscious tension and the muscles here are so readily activated for expression that we sometimes forget to shut them down.  Relax the forehead and the eyes, feel the eyeballs sink down into the sockets.  Unclench the jaw and separate the teeth slightly, allow the tongue to fall back.  The shoulders feel heavy on the mat, the buttocks and legs can be clenched then released, point the toes in an exaggerated fashion, then allow them to relax as well.

Fight the urge to fidget and shift.  If your mind begins to fixate on a place of perceived bodily unevenness or starts to race around out of boredom, direct your inner gaze to the back of the forehead where the third eye is located.  Take your mind from the physical body and the distractions of your world (groceries, picking up the kids, what you have to do when you get home) and move the attention instead to the breath.  Hurried, ragged breathing creates chaotic thoughts, so consciously slow down the breath but keep the depth of it natural and the quality of your thoughts will follow.  Be aware of the sensation created as the air moves in and out of your body, and keep the awareness hovering here.  When it moves (as it may well do), simply bring it back without judgment or disappointment.

After you begin to practice savasana as it is intended, you will notice that it takes less work to get here each time.  No longer feeling the desire to bolt from the mat (some people are so uncomfortable being still, they dodge class before savasana!), you may also lose the itchiness to move.  Being okay with bodily stillness then opens the door to inner stillness.  And then we get to the yoga: the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

If you are working on developing your physical practice, building stamina and strength, flexibility and poise, don’t neglect the balance.  Learn to find repose in every pose, and begin the search for what this means in the quiet heaviness of savasana.

All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.