Why bother with corpse pose?
Corpse pose is touted as one of the most important poses you can do in yoga. It is said to allow the benefits of your practice to soak in. It allows for release of tension. It allows your body the time to reset and restore (especially needed after a particularly invigorating active practice!)
At its simplest, you are channeling most of the benefits (if not all) of a Restorative Yoga Class in these last couple of minutes of savasana. Read more about Restorative Yoga here / Sign-up for our next Restorative Yoga class here.
In an ideal world, students would stay for about ten-minutes in savasana after every physical asana practice. At the very least, a five-minute savasana should be allocated. Finally, at the very best end of the spectrum, in the most luxurious yoga sessions ever, savasana lasts for twenty-minutes or more (most likely to be executed in a home practice or during a yoga retreat.)
Why do some of us struggle with corpse pose?
While it looks peaceful on the outside (we are, in a sense, “just lying there”), it can be a time when all of our thoughts rush to surface. We start thinking of all the groceries we need! Our to-do lists! Work obligations! Family stuff! School!
When we are ‘supposed’ to be clearing our minds and entering a meditative state, for some of us, it seems like anything but! Our monkey mind takes over and our head fills up with chatter, and the more we try to suppress it, the noisier it gets.
For others, it can be a physical discomfort. Lying on our back, against the floor with nothing but a thin yoga mat underneath us can feel quite different than the comfy bed and furniture we are used to at home. Sometimes, a pre-existing injury keeps us from really enjoying the pose, and the longer we stay, the more restless our bodies become.
So, how can we make it easier and more comfortable?
Since every class is different and every instructor has their own style, you may or may not be cued into savasana as thoroughly as we are going to do now. Many times, it is a simple matter of not having enough time to mention every subtlety of the pose. Furthermore, it can be quite distracting if an instructor is talking throughout the entire duration of savasana!
Be prop ready!
A great habit to develop, when you enter a yoga studio, is to grab your favorite props before class begins, and have them nearby your mat. Depending on your needs, you could require a blanket, a bolster, a couple of blocks, and/or a belt. Towards the end of the class, the instructor will typically spend a couple of minutes suggesting “cool-down” poses and easing you into savasana. By having your props handy, you avoid a last-minute walk to the prop closet, which may induce a relatively stimulated state just before savasana. Being “prop ready” is an easy way to safeguard the relaxed state your instructor skillfully guided you towards, and it ensures a good start to a restful savasana. Rest assured, no one will give you a hard time if you set yourself up comfortably in savasana. If you forgot to grab something, don’t be afraid to raise a hand to flag down the instructor and ask them for it, they are there to help.
Easing the "mental"
If too many thoughts flood your brain, try slowing the breath down and bringing your awareness to your slow inhalations and exhalations. You can think the word “Inhale” as you breathe in and the word “Exhale” every time you breathe out. Flowing between these two words can help stabilize your monkey mind and help to push out all the other thoughts of, “I-need-eggs-and-bread-and-milk-and-I-have-to-think-of-that-NOW”. For some people, it is easier to focus on numbers - so as you inhale, take a slow count in your head: 1-2-3-4-5 and as you exhale, take the same slow rhythm to empty the breath.
Easing the "physical"
Sometimes, all it takes is a good “old fashioned shake-out” to get rid of all the restlessness and jitters. So, if you feel that this rings true for you, raise your arms and legs towards the ceiling, hands above the shoulders, feet above the hips and vigorously shake your arms and legs and head (a little like a dog does after swimming!) for a minute or so, then relax everything into your corpse pose.
If you don’t want to draw that much attention to yourself, you can also scrunch up your body - furrowing the space between your eyebrows, clenching the jaw, making fists, engaging your legs, heels reaching away from your hips; squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, contract, contract, contract; then release and ease into savasana.
Tips for specific areas of your body
For extra comfort, explore resting your legs on top of a chair or a pile of bolsters, with your shins parallel to your mat (you may need to prop up the hips with a pillow or folded blanket if your legs are shorter than the chair legs.) This pose - Half Legs up the Wall - also feels really great for people with low back issues and can be used instead of traditional savasana.
Alternatively, if you have back problems but don’t have access to any props, bend the knees and set the feet on the floor, about hip-width distance, and knees resting against each, at centre. This is called Constructive Rest Pose.
Many of us practice yoga to increase our flexibility or to become stronger, but it is equally important to allocate time for rest and relaxation. To balance out the “frenzies of life”, resist the temptation to skip savasana for it harbours healing powers!
Article written by Judy Trinh
Savasana Photo Credits: Designed by Yanalya