Updated: Jul 28, 2021
Who knew that lying on your back at the end of yoga came with so many benefits?
It's the asana finale. The last pose you will normally experience at the end of a typical yoga class. Savasana (shah-VAH-sah-nah) is what many of us dream of as we move from one yoga pose to the next, knowing that our reward will be over five minutes of pure blissful relaxation at the end.
Why does Savasana mean so much more to us at the end of a yoga class, then just going home after work and lying on the floor? While both have their benefits, this final resting pose after turning yourself into a pretzel for a solid 50 minutes brings with it a sense of deep rest for your well-exercised body.
Savasana quite literally means Corpse Pose; “asana” (posture) and “sava” (corpse), and I can hear your saying, "well, this doesn't exactly conjure peaceful images in my mind!" But that's the point. Not only is a corpse’s physical body perfectly still; its mind is still, too. Completely still. Not awake and thinking about the just-finished yoga practice or lists of things to do after class; not asleep and dreaming.
This complete stillness in mind and body is the goal of Savasana, which for most people makes it both the easiest pose physically, and the most challenging pose mentally and/or emotionally.
A lot happens in our bodies during Savasana, despite (and because of) our stillness. Savasana offers the body rest after a yoga practice. It is a time when our musculo-skeletal and nervous systems integrate the practice we just finished; a time when the fight-flight-or-freeze states that typify the majority of our daily lives take a back seat and the rest-and-digest mechanisms in our parasympathetic nervous systems take the driver’s seat; a time when our digestive and immune systems function best; and, a time when our minds become more calm and clear.
Mentally, Savasana provides the opportunity to take a break from active thinking and be present in the moment. If you've been to one of our outdoor Activ Life yoga classes at Sunset House, this is the time to feel the warmth of the setting sun on your toes and the gentle sea breeze playing with your hair. It's the time to listen to the sounds of the waves breaking against the ironshore, and perhaps even open your eyes to look up at the clouds moving across the sky above you. I love this evening class, because as the sun farewells another day, you see the moon emerge while lying still and completely immersed in your surroundings.
To be in stillness and silence with ourselves is often a very difficult thing to do, which is one of the reasons why so many of us tend to keep ourselves so busy — to avoid feeling the discomfort that can arise when we are still.
Next time you come to an Activ Life yoga class, notice how we encourage you to hold onto your state of Savasana for as long as possible as we gently guide you towards the end. You'll walk away clear-headed and motivated and/or relaxed and ready for bed.
To me, it's the most important ingredient to any yoga experience.