Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Savasana Dilemma

The Savasana Dilemma

Part One

By Libby Young

As a teacher, hands down the absolute hardest pose I teach is Savasana. No matter 

how soothing I try to speak or relaxing I create the environment to be, I always see 

my students struggling to be still. They fidget, they look at other students, they even 

sit up. As I was teaching the other day, I noticed one student had their eyes open the 

entire Savasana period. I felt like I had failed somehow to help this person let go, to 

relax. But then I remembered, all those years ago when I first started yoga, how hard 

it was for me to lay still for even two minutes, much less ten. This got me 

wondering…why is Savasana so difficult? 

The human mind is a beautiful machine. It’s also a complete asshole. We are capable 

of imagining and creating things in this world that no other species can 

comprehend, much less do. But yet our minds can be terribly destructive. They 

impede progress, harm intention, distract from focus, and deceive the truth. The key 

to a successful Savasana is the mind; the problem with achieving a successful 

Savasana is the mind. See the paradox?

The very first step we can take as practitioners is to recognize Savasana as an actual 

pose. Because it is! Let’s first look at the etymology of the word. Savasana comes 

from the Sanskrit words Shava meaning “corpse” and Asana meaning “posture”. It’s 

is often referred to as the most important part of a yoga practice. Without Savasana, 

a yoga practice would be incomplete. Like playing soccer without a ball, or 

swimming without water. You can go through the motions, but the true benefits are 


So why is “just laying there” that important to yoga? Relaxation to start with. After 

completing muscularly and skeletally challenging poses, Corpse Pose let’s the body 

rest. Allowing it time to recover from the physical demands just placed upon it. And 

the same goes for the mind. When we practice, we are focused on a thousand 

different things. ‘My arm goes here, right hand under, leg goes there, wait my toes 

need to point, shit I forgot to breathe!’ During Savasana, it’s a time to let go of the 

mind as well. Allowing the brain much needed rest. When we begin using that time 

to think about the groceries we need to pick up after class or the fight we just had 

with our significant other, we are removing the soccer ball from the game. Our 

minds tell our bodies to relax.  Here’s an example: scary movies. If you’ve ever seen 

a scary movie, you know that during that creepy-music-playing, someone-is-about-

to-jump-out-at-me scene, your entire body actually physically tenses up. We aren’t 

actively thinking about shrinking down in our seat or shrugging our shoulders up to 

our ears, but we do. That’s because the mind is engaged in fear and therefore 

subconsciously telling the body to react appropriately. The same exact thing 

happens when we engage the mind with stress. Whether it’s a huge life problem or a 

mild afterthought. It takes a physical toll on our bodies. This is why Savasana is so 

incredibly important.  For those few moments, we are releasing everything. And 

when we do, the benefits can be numerous. Decreases in heart rate, rate or 

respiration, blood pressure, muscle tension, metabolic rate, oxygen consumption, 

anxiety, stress and fatigue. Increases in energy levels, productivity, concentration, 

memory, focus, self-confidence, improved neural responses and achieving deeper, 

sounder sleep. 

Finally, Savasana is a mark of completion. If we look at the practice of yoga, it has a 

beginning, a middle, and an end. The end is Corpse Pose. It is the phase in which the 

effects of the practice are allowed to sink in and rejuvenate the body, mind, and soul. 

Without taking the necessary time, again, those effects are greatly diminished if not 

lost. And we aren’t fully participation in a complete yoga practice.

This is why Savasana is important to us yogis. Once we understand why, we can 

begin the process of learning how to implement it. Look for next week’s post, Part 

Two, where I will talk about how to start practicing Savasana.

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