Discover the transformative power of Shavasana, a powerful yoga pose that can lead to deep relaxation and inner peace. The corpse pose offers an oasis of calm amidst the chaos of everyday life.
This ancient yoga pose may seem deceptively simple, but its health benefits are profound.
Here, you’ll learn step-by-step how to reduce stress and anxiety while preventing modern diseases and improving your sleep quality by correctly performing the meditative posture.
What Is Shavasana?
No yoga without Shavasana!
Shavasana, or Savasana, is a meditative yoga pose, usually practiced as the last exercise. No yoga class is complete without spending a few minutes in the relaxed supine position. It is perhaps the most underrated yoga exercise.
At first glance, the posture seems very simple. However, some people find Shavasana to be even the most challenging yoga pose, struggling to quiet the mind and honestly do “nothing” for once.
“It’s much harder to keep the mind still than the body. That is why this posture, which seems easy to master, is one of the most difficult.”B.K.S. Iyengar
The term is derived from the two Sanskrit words: Sava, meaning “corpse,” and Asana, meaning “seat” or “posture.” Hence, the position translates to “corpse pose”. You lie motionless on the floor in the posture, bringing the mind to rest completely.
Shavasana is an essential part of the practice in almost all yoga traditions and is usually used at the end of class as a means of relaxation and integration. Traditionally practiced in the last 10-15 minutes of the yoga class, the posture is often combined with a guided full-body relaxation or visualization exercise. Doing so promotes deep relaxation and healing, calming the nervous system.
In some classes, it can also be practiced at the very beginning to help you arrive, and in yoga therapy, it is sometimes even integrated between postures.
In my experience, you almost feel like a new person when you leave the posture.
The first written mention of savasana is in the 15th-century yoga text Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which states, “Lying down on the floor like a corpse is called Savasana. It drives away fatigue and gives rest to the mind.”
Yoga vs. Meditation
Many first think of yoga only in terms of postures and movements, the asanas.
Meditation, just like the postures, is an essential part of yoga. Meditation is quieting the mind and focusing on the present moment.
Body-oriented yoga is also often described as “moving meditation,” which prepares the mind for meditation by creating awareness through simple body movements. Shavasana is a pose that helps to quiet the mind and body at the end of the practice and enter a meditative state.
Is Shavasana Suitable for Beginners?
Yes, Shavasana is suitable for beginners and advanced practitioners. At first, it can be challenging to hold the body motionless for several minutes and quiet the mind, but the more you practice it, the sooner you can enter into total deep relaxation.
Which Yoga Classes Practive the Corpse Pose?
The Shavasna is integrated into almost all yoga classes at the end as a final relaxation.
What Are the Benefits of Shavasana?
It may sound unusual, but the relaxation posture combats fatigue and energizes and invigorates, especially afterward. After you leave your Shavasana, you almost feel like you are reborn. Fifteen minutes of Shavasana can feel like you just slept off hours.
The corpse pose calms the mind, thoughts, and the nervous system. This way, stress, blood pressure, sleep quality, focus, and concentration improve.
1. Fights Modern Diseases
Oxidative stress is instrumental in aging and is at the root of numerous chronic diseases. In particular, these include cancer, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease (Liguori et al. 20181).
A yoga program consisting of breathing exercises, poses, and final relaxation helped people between 19 and 71 significantly lower oxidative stress markers in their blood after only 10 days (Yadav et al. 20052).
2. Counteracts Hypertension
In one study, participants were taught the practice of corpse pose. After practicing the exercise for 6 months, researchers noted a significant decrease in mean systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Sundar et al. 19843).
A clinical study also found that Shavasana was a natural alternative to antihypertensive drugs without sharing their side effects (Datey et al. 19694).
3. Regulates Blood Sugar
In a recent study, a yoga program focusing on Shavasana and Yoga Nidra was able to help female college students lower blood sugar levels and stress in the process (Kim et al. 20145).
4. Combats Diabetes
During a study, 20 people with diabetes between 30 and 60 completed a yoga program consisting of 13 exercises ending with Shavasana.
In addition to blood glucose levels, the subjects could reduce their waist-to-hip ratio and insulin levels.
As a result, they improved their glucose utilization and fat distribution. The researchers concluded that yoga asanas can be an adjunct to diet and medication in treating type 2 diabetes (Malhotra et al. 20156).
5. Improves Focus and Balance
108 firefighters who were physically active but had no previous experience with yoga participated in the study. They practiced yoga classes for six weeks, including pranayama, asanas, and Shavasana.
Afterward, the firefighters felt more focused, relaxed, and less musculoskeletal pain. Due to the success, most participants maintained the class after completing the study (Cowen 20107).
6. Boosts Sleep Quality
Stimulation can be good, but too much strains our nervous system. Yoga provides a release from excessive stimulation, the stressors, and the hustle and bustle of modern life.
An American researcher found that restorative postures, Shavasana, breathing exercises, pranayama, meditation, and pratyahara, turning the senses inward, promote better quality sleep.
It allows the nervous system to time out. The byproduct is higher sleep quality (Woodyard 20118).
7. Relieves Stress
Shavasana is one of the few yoga exercises with its studies dedicated to it. They support that Shavasana helps to successfully reduce the physiological effects of stress (Sharma et al. 20079).
Researchers have also found that people reduce stress significantly faster using Shavasana than resting on a chair or in a reclining resting position (Bera et al. 199810).
8. Reduces Depression
A recent study, conceptualized as genuine experimental research with a group performing a pre-test and a post-test, determined the depression level of depressed subjects.
The post-test result proved a significant relationship between Savasana and reducing stress and depression levels (Tamilpulavendran et al. 202111).
How to Do Shavasana
Similar to meditation, the essence of Shavasana is to relax the mind and body while remaining present and maintaining awareness. Here’s how to perform the posture correctly:
- The body lies relaxed and straight on the mat. The spine is straight from the tailbone to the back of the head.
- The feet are about hip-width apart. Relax the muscles in the feet so that the tips of the toes fall outward.
- Place the arms at the sides of the body, slightly away from the torso. Turn the palms upward, but do not try to keep them open. Let your fingers roll inward slightly.
- Ensure your shoulder blades are even on the floor and away from your ears.
- Give your body weight to the floor, letting yourself get all heavy and sink into the floor. Consciously release the tension in your muscles.
- Allow the facial features to soften. Relax the many small facial muscles, mouth, tongue, forehead, and ears, and keep your eyes closed.
- Allow the breathing to flow naturally. When your thoughts wander, you can bring your attention to the breath. However, do not try to control it. Notice it.
- Stay in this posture for at least 5 minutes, better 15 minutes. If you practice at home, set a gentle alarm clock so you don’t want to keep looking at the clock.
- To leave the posture, consciously let your breath deepen and gently move the fingertips and toes to wake up the body. If you wish, stretch your hands above your head. Slowly turn to one side and remain blissful for a moment. Keep your eyes still closed.
- Press your hands onto the floor and mindfully raise your upper body until seated.
- Focus on thoughts: Often, the mind wants to remain active even when the body is relaxed. As soon as you notice your mind wandering and you’re already on to-do’s after yoga practice or your grocery list, lovingly bring yourself back to the present moment. Getting your focus to your breath, or just noticing the thoughts but not going with them, can help a lot. Shavasana is the ultimate in conscious surrender. It takes practice and patience.
- Tense muscles: Often, especially in the smaller muscles, for example, in the face or jaw, tension is still held unconsciously. Let gravity become active and loosen your muscles. You can also mentally go through your body from toe to head and consciously let go of each body part.
- Falling asleep: Shavasana is a time to rest, but not a time to sleep. It is meant to achieve a state of deep relaxation, but one in which you remain awake and conscious.
Expert Tips to Improve
- Prepare for relaxation: Before Shavasana, tense all muscles firmly or draw your knees to your chest and make yourself into a small package. With an exhalation, release everything and bring the body into the dead position. Make sure you are comfortable and do not move your body for the next 10-15 minutes. Blankets or eye pillows can help you relax more easily.
- Take a deep breath: Take one last conscious deep breath and exhale with a light sigh. Doing so signals your body to let go and message your parasympathetic nervous system that relaxing is safe. After that, let your breath flow freely.
- Scan your body: Mentally, go through all the parts of your body. Let them get all heavy and sink into the ground. Pay special attention to tensions hiding in your jaw, temples, shoulders, and hips, as stress accumulates in these areas.
- Be patient: Some days will be easier than others, and that’s part of the exercise. Don’t judge yourself if you find it harder to relax or calm your mind, notice it. Stay calm and trust that the breath will carry you into the next moment. Notice the gaps between each thought. Over time, they will get bigger, and you will find more inner peace and clarity.
- Set an intention: Before coming out of your Shavasana, take a moment to notice how you feel. Ask yourself what you want to take away from today’s practice: a thought, a feeling, or an intention. Give yourself an inner smile and gratitude for taking the time to do something good for yourself.
Variations and Modifications
Using assistive devices during Shavasana can make the posture more comfortable and help you relax more easily:
- Place a folded blanket or yoga bolster on your thighs or lower abdomen to increase the sensation of the body sinking into the floor.
- Place a rolled-up blanket or yoga pillow under your knees to relax the lower back.
- To support the neck: Place a folded blanket or yoga pillow under your neck and head until your forehead is slightly higher than your chin.
- An eye pillow can help you relax more deeply and focus entirely inward. Eye pillows with lavender scent, for example, are charming.
- The body cools down quickly when you relax. If you get cold easily, cover yourself with a light Shavasana blanket or put on a sweater and socks.
All yoga poses can prepare the body for Shavasana. Mobilization exercises for the spine, shoulders, and hips are efficient.
Among these, the following poses are ideal as preparatory poses due to the sequence of movements:
- Shoulder Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
- Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana)
- Head-to-Knee Pose (Janu Shirshasana)
- Cobra (Bhujangasana)
The follow-up posture is usually seated, such as Sukhasana, the easy pose, to end the practice, or Apanasana, where the knees are drawn to the chest.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is the difference between Shavasana and Savasana?
They are the same yoga posture: the corpse pose. Shavasana is the pronunciation of the Sanskrit word “Savasana.” Both spellings are correct and standard today.
Is it OK to sleep during Shavasana?
Shavasana is a time of rest but not a time to sleep. It is to reach a state of deep relaxation where you remain awake and conscious.
How long should you stay in Savasana?
To get the full effect of Shavasana, you should practice the posture for at least 5 minutes, better for 12-15 minutes.
Why you should never skip Savasana?
Shavasana is a fundamental practice for quieting the mind, relaxing the body, and holistically integrating the benefits of a yoga practice into your hectic daily life.
Liguori, I., Russo, G., Curcio, F., Bulli, G., Aran, L., Della-Morte, D., Gargiulo, G., Testa, G., Cacciatore, F., Bonaduce, D., & Abete, P. (2018). Oxidative stress, aging, and diseases. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 13, 757-772. https://doi.org/10.2147/CIA.S158513
Yadav, R. K., Ray, R. B., Vempati, R., & Bijlani, R. L. (2005). Effect of a comprehensive yoga-based lifestyle modification program on lipid peroxidation. Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology, 49(3), 358–362.
Sundar, S., Agrawal, S. K., Singh, V. P., Bhattacharya, S. K., Udupa, K. N., & Vaish, S. K. (1984). Role of yoga in management of essential hypertension. Acta cardiologica, 39(3), 203–208.
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Kim, S. D. (2014). Effects of Yogic Exercises on Life Stress and Blood Glucose Levels in Nursing Students. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 26(12), 2003-2006. https://doi.org/10.1589/jpts.26.2003
Malhotra, V., Singh, S., Tandon, O. P., & Sharma, S. B. (2005). The beneficial effect of yoga in diabetes. Nepal Medical College journal : NMCJ, 7(2), 145–147.
Cowen V. S. (2010). Functional fitness improvements after a worksite-based yoga initiative. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 14(1), 50–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2009.02.006
Woodyard, C. (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International Journal of Yoga, 4(2), 49-54. https://doi.org/10.4103/0973-6131.85485
Sharma, G., Mahajan, K., & Sharma, L. (2007). Shavasana—Relaxation technique to combat stress. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 11(2), 173-180. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2007.01.002
Bera, T. K., Gore, M. M., & Oak, J. P. (1998). Recovery from stress in two different postures and in Shavasana–a yogic relaxation posture. Indian journal of physiology and pharmacology, 42(4), 473–478.
Tamilpulavendran, V., Danasu, R. (2021). A Study to Assess the Effectiveness of Savasana on reduction of Stress among Depression patients admitted in selected hospitals at Puducherry. International Journal of Advances in Nursing Management, 9(3), 238-0. https://doi.org/10.52711/2454-2652.2021.00054
Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.
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