Yoga wellness educator. Certified to teach Hatha yoga, meditation, pilates, and Reiki. Oracle card reader. Yoga Therapy Foundations program.
The corpse pose, or Savasana as it is called in Sanskrit, is a well-known relaxation pose in hatha yoga. In this relaxation, we aim to reduce muscular activity in the whole body except for the diaphragm as it is needed for breathing.
We can relax either before or after a session of hatha yoga. I used to do the corpse pose at the end of a hatha yoga session. It helped me relax from head to toe and integrate the relaxation into my awareness. Now, I start my yoga session at home with the corpse pose as it calms my body and focuses my mind, which helps me prepare for my yoga session.
We can vary our personal yoga practice with different poses but must always end with the corpse pose.
I noticed that when I do not take enough time to relax at the end of a yoga session, I feel a little agitated and cannot sleep easily. I now give this part of my yoga session a deserved importance.
- Before you lie down, stretch your body. Thrust the hips down from the shoulders, the hands down from the shoulders, the heels down from the hips, and lift the head away from the body to stretch the neck.
- Lie on your back on your yoga mat or on a padded and somewhat firm surface. This helps the spine flatten slightly against the floor but still supports the lumbar and cervical region. It is better if the surface is flat, otherwise, the blood will pool in the lower half of the body if your body is slanted downward.
- You can put a soft pillow under your head and neck.
- Your arms and thighs are comfortably away from your body, feet open to the sides, hands 30 to 45 cm away from your thighs with the palms facing up.
- Now let go, relax and breathe abdominally. The abdomen rises with the in-breath and falls with the out-breath. If you place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your chest, you will notice that your breathing slows down as you become more relaxed.
- Once you are settled, do not move. If you feel like moving, it might mean you did not start with the correct position.
If you are new to this type of relaxation, do three to five minutes at first. Bit by bit, increase the time up to 10 minutes at one time.
Techniques to Properly Relax in Savasana
The two points we must remember when we are in this relaxation pose are not to move and not to sleep.
If falling asleep during relaxation is a problem for you, you can prevent this by holding the root lock mildly or by bringing your feet closer together.
- When you lie down in the corpse pose, stay restfully alert and keep your attention on your body.
- Be still. The important aspect of muscular relaxation is to stay still. Make yourself comfortable so that you do not have to move.
- Stay awake and do not sleep. How?
- Concentrate on different parts of the body one after the other.
- Concentrate on particular points on the surface of the body.
- Let your attention go up and down the spine with each in-breath and out-breath.
- Let your attention be on the rise and fall of your abdomen or on your heart center.
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How to Come Out of the Corpse Pose
It is important to come out of relaxation in slow movements. When you are ready to come out of the relaxation:
- Slowly wiggle the fingers then the toes.
- Move the muscles of the legs, arms, and core.
- Move your head from side to side.
- Bring the arms overhead and stretch from the tips of the fingers to the tips of the toes.
- Finally, roll over to one side and stay there for a moment before you slowly sit up.
If problems occur in the regular and moderate relaxation practice, lean more on therapeutic exercise and hatha yoga as they ease unwanted mental and emotional states and help lessen aches and pains. The duration of the practice and the intensity of the effort required are relative to the age of the practitioner.
An isometric tension-relaxation exercise is recommended for those who constantly have trouble relaxing. Here is how the sequence of tensing and then relaxing is done:
- Lie on your back, tense then relax:
- your arms
- your legs
- the right upper and right lower extremities
- the left upper and left lower extremities
- the right upper and left lower
- the left upper and right lower
- your whole body, and
- Finally, relax.
H. David Coulter draws attention to some aspects of relaxation that require attention.
Those who feel faint or dizzy, and those who have low blood pressure should turn on their left side before they sit up. If they sit up fast, the flow of blood back to the heart may not be enough to supply to the brain. Turning on the left side before sitting up will briefly increase blood flow from the vein that returns blood to the heart from the head, neck, and upper limbs, and keeps the cardiac output high enough to prevent fainting.
Avoid exaggerating. Doing lengthy relaxations many times a day without other exercises may make the motor portion of the nervous system lazy. It is healthier to get vigorous activity during the day and practice relaxation a maximum of once or twice a day.
Some other aspects of relaxation can show now and then when the skeletal muscles are relaxed. If a person lies down to relax and starts feeling anxious instead of calm, he or she may be experiencing a “relaxation-induced anxiety.” If the relaxation does not push away the anxiety, then vigorous exercise and hatha yoga are preferable as these activities contribute to good mental states. Discussing psychological concerns with a qualified practitioner is also suitable in this case.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Liliane Najm