DOWNDOG | EAGLE | COBRA | HERO | HALF MOON | CORPSE | GATE
TRIANGLE | PEACOCK | LOCUST | COBBLER | SHOULDER STAND
HEADSTAND | BRIDGE | CAMEL | COW FACE | UP BOW | INVERTED STAFF
SEATED WIDE ANGLE | HEAD TO KNEE | TORTOISE | DANCER
Savanasana ~ Corpse Pose
Aahhhh! Sweet surrender. Time to lay your burden down. Whether you do it at the end of your practice or as a mini-yoga session of its own, savasana is wonderfully restorative for both the body and mind. Lying on your back enables you to totally let go of all muscle tension yet keep the spine aligned. This calms the nervous system and helps energy to circulate freely and evenly throughout the body. The heartbeat and respiration become smooth and easy, and your whole being is brought into balance. Closing your eyes and letting go of thoughts and worries frees your mind to enter a deeper and happier form of consciousness. The result is a state of blissful peace - your true nature. So give yourself up to Mother Earth, dissolve into the breath and let it softly carry you back to the loving stillness where you began.
Images by Nancy Van Kanegan
Because savasana lowers the blood pressure and body temperature, you may want to put on socks and sweats or cover yourself with a blanket or towel when you lie back, especially if the space you're in is cool and you'll be in the pose for more than a few minutes. It also helps to have a blanket, double mat or other cushioned surface to lie back on comfortably. In addition, you may want to lower the lights or use an eye bag to help the eyes rest.
To get into this pose, I like to first sit with my knees up and feet on the floor about hips width apart. Holding on to the back of my thighs, I gently tuck my chin and tail bone and let the back round. Then I lay one vertebra at a time on my mat as I ease myself down. I slide the legs out and slightly more than hips width apart (this enables the diaphragm to move with maximum freedom and ease) and let the arms come down to the sides, hands palms up and about a foot away from my hips.
To loosen my legs, I flop the feet gently from side to side and then let them fall to the outside, letting my legs fall off my pelvis. Pushing into my elbows, I raise the chest a bit to get the shoulder blades off the floor, bring them toward each other to open the collar bones and heart, then gently let the torso back down. Lifting the arms about an inch off the floor, I spread the fingers and stretch them away from the shoulders. Keeping the stretch, I pull the shoulders toward the ears about an inch to level them off and then roll them down to open the upper chest. I next let the hands and arms float back down, letting go and letting the fingers curl as they like. Finally, I lift the head a tiny bit, bring the chin down to neutral, and stretching back through the crown of the head, I lower it back down, coming to rest on that knob (occipital lobe) at the base of the skull. (If you find your head drops back and chin juts up, you'll be more comfortable if you put a rolled mat, pillow, or something else under your head to raise it to where the neck is level.)
However you get into savasana, once you're there you might want to take a big breath in and release it with an audible sigh to help release tension. Do this a couple of times if you like. You might also want to open the jaw wide and yawn, then let it hang gently open. Check to see that the throat and neck are relaxed and that you're not clenching your teeth or trying to control the breath. Let the eyes rest behind gently closed lids, falling back into the eye sockets and maybe even rolling up to "look" through your third eye between the eyebrows. Let the roof of the mouth dome up and soften, the inner ears open and the whole "back" of the face - the sinuses, the muscles around the eyes and mouth, and the teeth and gums - relax. Let the tongue lie silent and soft at the bottom of the mouth, and let the root of the tongue relax and slide down your throat and through the torso into the center of your pelvis, energetically releasing everything along the way.
To deepen your relaxation, you might want to do a body scan or a progressive relaxation exercise. I like to think of a warm, soft light falling first onto the crown of my head, then spreading slowly down my face, shoulders, torso, pelvis, legs, feet and out my toes. As it flows down, it "melts" tension away. The muscles fall away from the bones, and the bones fall away from each other, creating space for the breath energy to move freely and deeply through the body. The ribs spread apart like the pages of a book, the inner organs relax and lie happily on each other, and the heart softens and opens. The breath becomes very soft and quiet - so quiet that if there were a downy feather in front of your nostrils, it would barely flutter as the air moved easily in and out.
As the breath quiets, your mind becomes clear and still, like the surface of a pond reflecting the beauty of being around you. With no place to go, nothing to do and no one to be, you become what you really are: peaceful, loving bliss.
While it's good to do savasana for at least five minutes, it's great to do it for 10, 15 or more. To come out of it, slowly start to deepen the breath into bigger, fuller inhales and longer, more complete exhales. Start to move your fingers and toes, then circle your wrists and ankles a few times in and out. Bring your feet together and point the toes, and stretch your arms up overhead, back of the hands on the floor and fingers spread and stretching toward the wall behind you. With a big inhale stretch the fingers away from the toes, and with the exhale release. You may want to do this a couple of times.
Then with an inhale bend the knees one at a time and draw the feet in toward your hips, ankles and knees together. With an exhale, let the knees drop to your right side and let your body follow along so you're lying on your right side, resting your head on your hand or arm and breathing softly. When you're ready, use your arms to slowly lift up and come to sit for a moment, savoring how wonderful it is to feel "reborn." Then take that feeling of peace with you wherever you go and share it with everyone you meet.
Text by Tim
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