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Savasana: History & Purpose

By Sara Villamil

MON MAY 10, 2021

Practicing virtually can make it tempting to skip this posture; maybe you’re rushing back to work, the kids are jumping on you, or you can’t wait a second longer to clean the dust bunnies under your dresser. Whether you love or struggle with Savasana, it’s a way to close your practice and gently transition yourself back to reality.

The word Savasana comes from the Sanskrit words Śava, meaning corpse, and Āsana, meaning posture/pose.

Within the Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.32, an ancient yogic text, we find the earliest mention of the pose as, “Lying down on the ground supine, like a corpse, is called Shavasana. It eliminates tiredness and promotes calmness of the mind.”

Savasana is a combination of relaxation and meditation and is most commonly practiced as the final posture of the practice. It is done lying on your back with your legs and arms relaxed and spread out like a starfish - eyes closed, breath soft and natural, and physical distractions removed to fully let go.

If the mind is busy during Savasana, we can use the focus on the inhale and exhale to stay present. Over time, the awareness of the breath may dissipate, bringing us into that state just before sleep. A body scan or tuning into the senses can also be helpful to release into the pose.

Ideally Savasana is held for at least 5-10 minutes, but can last much, much longer. The longest I have held the pose is for 90-minutes in Yoga Nidra.

When coming out of Savasana we invite a very slow and natural return to awareness. For me it starts with swallowing, licking the lips, and the tiniest flicker of movement in the fingers and toes. Next I draw awareness back to the breath and eventually create bigger movements with the hands, feet, and legs. Rolling to the side before pressing up to sit helps with the transition into the rest of our day. It may also help prevent dizziness and protect the pelvic floor, abdomen, and back.

Traditionally we learn to roll to the right side of the body when coming out of Savasana. This article in Yoga U Online helps to explain why from a physiological, philosophical, and energetic perspective.

Sometimes in Savasana you will fall asleep, while other times your eyes will be wide open, and your heart racing.

When I first started practicing yoga, I couldn’t believe that Savasana was an actual posture - I didn’t understand the point. Did the teacher not realize all the things I could be doing within that five minutes? I counted in my head to 500 and willed sweet release from being alone with my thoughts in stillness. Now I can barely get out of the pose. With time, practice, experience, and life came an acceptance of this stillness, and a craving for it.

Don’t give up, try not to skip it, count if you have to, be gentle with yourself and your ever changing experience in it. Yoga is a living practice and the only constant is showing up and our breath.

Photo by Anton Shuvalov on Unsplash