Believe it or not, savasana is the most important pose in a yoga class. Here’s why.
No matter what type of yoga class you attend, the last pose is always the same. Savasana, or corpse pose, is the final posture at the end of every class.
On the surface, it looks incredibly easy. After all, you’re lying down on your back with your arms relaxed by your side, palms facing up. Your legs are roughly mat-width apart and equally relaxed, feet turned out. And unlike the rest of class, your eyes are closed and your entire body is still – quite literally like a corpse.
In practice, however, savasana can be challenging. You’re required to stay in the pose for at least five minutes, and let go of any tension while being awake and fully present. In other words, you’re aiming for a meditative state of being. (Sorry, falling asleep isn’t an option here!) The teacher doesn’t typically give cues during savasana so it’s just you and your breath, which can be confronting.
(Also read: 7 Best Yoga Moves To Strengthen Your Core)
There are solid reasons why savasana is set up that way
The pose allows the nervous system to calm down after stretching and sweating it out on the mat, and really seals the benefits of your yoga practice. The last thing you want to do is to skip savasana and return to your usual hectic schedule while your heart is racing and your mind is all over the place because that’ll affect you negatively the rest of the day.
It isn’t possible to reach deep relaxation at the snap of your fingers, so the amount of time reserved for savasana makes sense. In fact, some yoga teachers argue that five minutes isn’t enough. Yoga Journal founder Judith Hanson Lasater, for instance, says that one should stay in the pose for 15 to 20 minutes for optimal benefits because it takes that long for the mind to completely let go and enter a meditative state.
Backed by science
Research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology suggests that the age-old practice of yoga may help lower the risk heart disease. The unique combination of physical activity, breathing AND meditation, which you experience in savasana, “positively affects cardiovascular risk factors” according to the study’s co-author Dr Gloria Yeh of Harvard Medical School.
On a related note, the benefits of meditation have also been well documented. Research from the University of Massachusetts Medical School shows that people who learned to meditate and did it regularly over an eight-week period were calmer, happier and less stressed than those who didn’t do so at all. If meditation isn’t something you already do, then it’s good to know that you can reap some of its benefits just by doing savasana at the end of a yoga class.
But what should you do if you struggle to quieten your mind during savasana? A simple technique is to pay attention to your breath. Count each breath, and concentrate on every inhalation and exhalation. If you lose count, that’s all good. Just start all over again. It will get easier with time.
So the next time you’re tempted to step out of yoga early, think about the ripple effects of savasana. Those blissful feels are totally worth staying the extra five minutes for.
Author Zarelda Marie Goh is a certified alignment-based hatha yoga teacher based in Perth, Australia.