Want to learn more about Savasana, aka Corpse Pose? In this post, I share the benefits of Savasana, a complete pose breakdown, contraindications, myths and misconceptions, modifications and more.
One of the most difficult things I have to do as a yoga teacher is ring the bells at the end of Savasana and bring students back. But why? Because I know what it’s like to have a really deep, amazing Savasana only to have it interrupted by the chiming of the bells that mean real life has to begin again.
Maybe you know the feeling. When class was just what you needed, just the right mix of exertion and introversion, and then in Savasana the world melts away. The process of integrating the work from class is happening, and you can actually feel the transformation occur.
Then the teacher rings the bells and it’s all over in a chime.
I always worry that one of you (or all of you) is in the place of pure bliss and I am the jerk to pull you out of it, when I know you’d just like to stay there for a moment longer.
Luckily, these magic moments in Savasana stick with you long after you get up off of your mat and head out into the world.
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Savasana Quick Facts
|Sanskrit||Savasana / Shavasana|
|Meaning||Sava (pronounced shava) means corpse. |
Asana means pose or posture.
Savasana means corpse pose.
Savasana is one of the poses described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Lying on the back on the ground like a corpse is Savasana. It removes fatigue and gives rest to the mind.–Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Chapter 1, Verse 32
Iyengar placed a great importance on Savasana.
The stresses of modern civilisation are a strain on the nerves for which Savasana is the best antidote.–B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Yoga
And I love the reminder: “If you’re asleep, it’s not Savasana.” Savasana is conscious relaxation, not the unconscious escape of sleep.
Note: I only include the scientifically supported benefits of Savasana here. Plenty of claims about other supposed benefits (from the plausible to the magical to the ridiculous) have been made. To me, pseudo-scientific claims only serve to harm the yoga community, so I choose not to give them airtime here.
That said, there have actually been a number of scientific studies on the benefits of Savasana.
- One study, “suggests that a person practicing Shavasana can successfully reduce the physiological effects of stress”.
- Savasana and Yoga Nidra can help steady the heart rate of patients with insomnia.
- A small study (only 25 patients) showed a decrease in hypertension after six months of “Shavasana therapy”.
- There are also studies showing improvement in health of patients with diabetes. However is is worth noting that these studies did not prove Savasana can cure diabetes, as is often claimed.
The other main physical benefits of Savasana include:
- Reduces fatigue.
- Reduces stress.
- Calms your nervous system.
- Allows your mind and body to relax.
If you want more, see our complete guide to the benefits of yoga, which includes a history of yoga plus the origins of our modern yoga practice and much more.
Precautions & Contraindications
Remember that while yoga is for everyone, not all poses are for all people! If your body requires some extra support in this pose, see the Modifications section below for ideas on how to do this pose safely. Consult your personal doctor if you need medical advice.
- If you are pregnant and in your second or third trimester, you may wish to practice Savasana on your side with bolsters or blankets for support under your knees and arms (similar to using a body pillow).
- When you are pregnant and lie on your back, pressure is placed on the vena cava, the vein that carries blood to your heart. However, according to Dr. Zanotti from the Cleveland Clinic, lying on your back for “short periods of time ― even if you were on your back for an hour or two ― probably do[es] no harm to your child.”
- If you have a neck injury, it can cause discomfort or numbness to lie down. A good guide is to have your forehead at least as high as your breast bone (sternum).
- If you have asthma or a cough, lying on your back can irritate this. You may wish to sit upright against a wall so that you can relax there instead.
Misconceptions & Myths About Corpse Pose
Savasana is not the boring bit at the end of yoga class. It is not optional (unless it is). Even when I am teaching short classes (like 20-35 minute classes for YouTube), I always include Savasana.
I see it as an essential time for your body to reset and file away the work it did in class.
It’s kind of like that moment between ejecting an external hard drive from your computer and being able to unplug it. If you unplug it without ejecting, the whole hard drive crashes and everything is lost. (If you’re a Mac user you know what I’m talking about. For some reason Windows-based computers don’t have this issue.)
This is what I feel happens if you “eject” from class without the pause of Savasana. Many of the benefits of class are lost because you didn’t take a few minutes to absorb and store the information.
Savasana Pose Breakdown
How to do Savasana / Corpse Pose
- Lie down on your mat with your back on the mat and your body straight.
- Separate your feet roughly outer hip-width apart. Relax your legs so that your feet and legs turn out slightly.
- Rest your arms at your side with your palms up. Have your arms slightly away from your torso. Relax your hands and arms.
- Close your eyes. Release any focus on your breath. Relax.
- Scan your body for any places of tension and ask those places to relax.
- This is Savasana. Rest here.
- All you have to do in Savasana is rest. How long do you rest? That depends. Generally, I recommend a ratio of 1:10 in relation to your asana practice (so 5 minutes Savasana for 50 minutes of asana). But this is only a guideline and not a strict rule. If you are practicing Savasana at home, you can rest there for as long as you like.
- When you are coming out of Savasana, take your time.
- Breathe more deeply, wiggle your fingers and toes, move your wrists and ankles, and stretch through your arms and legs.
- Bend your knees and turn onto your side. Pause in the foetal position.
- Keep your lower body heavy and use your arms to press yourself up to a seated position. If you can keep your eyes closed as you transition, do.
Modifications & Variations
People love using props in Savasana!
Iyengar regularly practiced this pose with weights on his body, used a yoga strap around his feet, and appeared to gather every prop from the prop cupboard to support this pose.
There are endless variations for propping and modifying your Corpse Pose. The important thing is that you are able to relax and be comfortable. So find what works for you.
If you get cold in Savasana
Grab whatever you need to stay warm before Savasana. In colder climates (I’m thinking of my Irish and Scandinavian students), they love to grab sweaters, socks and yoga blankets and wrap themselves up tight against the chill.
If the light from the room bothers you
Many studios have eye-pillows available so you may wish to use one of those, or cover your eyes with a folded towel, to help you relax.
If your arms go numb
This can happen because your neck is extending too much and impinging a nerve. Place a yoga blanket under your head to lift your head slightly. A good guide is to have your forehead at least as high as your breast bone (sternum).
If you have a neck injury
You can either rest your head on a folded blanket as described above, or place a rolled towel beneath your neck to help maintain the natural curve.
If your knees or lower back hurt
Place a yoga bolster or rolled up yoga blanket under your knees. This will prevent your knees from hyperextending and can also provide relief for your lower back.
If your spine hurts
If placing a yoga bolster under your knees doesn’t solve the issue, place a yoga blanket folded lengthwise under the length of your spine and lie down on that. You will likely also want to prop your head so that your forehead is at least as high as your sternum (breast bone).
Yoga Poses Related to Savasana
- All asanas are preparatory poses for Savasana.
- You can also do Savasana on its own as a resting pose, without any prep.
- Iyengar recommends doing Savasana after Pranayama practice.
- Sukhasana / Comfortable Seated Pose
- Siddhasana / Accomplished One Pose
- Pranayama / Breath work
Poses To Take Your Practice Further
Savasana is generally the final pose of a yoga practice. If you are practicing Pranayama techniques you might take a short Savasana between each technique.
Related Posts & Videos
- Post: Tadasana Benefits & Pose Breakdown
- Post: Vajrasana Benefits & Pose Breakdown
- Video: Savasana Pose Breakdown
Gear & Resources for This Pose
- BKS Iyengar’s Light on Yoga
- Darren Rhodes Yoga Resource Practice Manual
- Stephen’s Favourite Eco-Friendly Yoga Mat
- Organic Cotton or Hemp Yoga Bolsters
- Machine Washable Vegan Yoga Blankets
Save 10% – Yoloha yoga gear, including cork yoga mats and blocks, organic cotton yoga straps, bolsters and more, is 10% off when you use our code adventure10 at checkout!
A Final Note About Corpse Pose
Do you want an amazing Savasana experience?
In public classes — and especially during online classes — Savasana is never as long as I would like. If you really want Savasana to transform you, I recommend you set aside extra time once a week for an extended Savasana.
Get a yoga blanket or thin pillow to place under your head, grab a blanket to wrap around your body, light your favourite candles and some incense and set a timer for 15–30 minutes. Alternatively, don’t set a timer and see how long you can spend decompressing without falling asleep.
It’s possible to have a deep mindful meditation in Savasana if you give it time. So dim the lights, lie down, get comfortable, and chill.
Namaste OMies, Stephen
I hope this post has been helpful in expanding your possibilities with Corpse Pose. It’s my goal to inspire you to explore your yoga practice more deeply while enabling you to cultivate the strength and clarity needed to live your life’s adventure to the fullest!