Savasana is my favourite part of the yoga asana practice. Some yoga classes hurry through it or even skip savasana, but what you may not know is that savasana is arguably the most important part in an asana class.
In this article, we explore the real purpose of savasana, and why you might want to stay even longer next time.
The Purpose of Savasana
Savasana (shuh-VAH-suh-nuh), also known as corpse pose, is a supine resting pose practiced at the end of an asana practice. In Savasana, you lie fully relaxed on your back with your arms and legs extended, palms faced up, and eyes closed. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a text from the 15th century, contains descriptions of savasana as an asana. Savasana was found to be the only pose included in almost every sequence, pointing to its significance.
Physically, savasana serves various benefits to our bodies. As our asana practice purifies the prana (life force) within us, we need to manage the stress response that also arises. Savasana engages our parasympathetic nervous system, and calms our central nervous system from the stress resulting from physical movements and ujjayi breathing (diaphragmatic breathing).
Thus, savasana brings us back to a state of deep relaxation and homeostasis after physical practice. Beyond its physical benefits for our body, savasana brings us to a different state of consciousness. In savasana, we also learn that we are so much more than our bodies. In the deep stillness of our body and minds in savasana, we reach samadhi – the union of individual consciousness to universal consciousness.
Symbolism of Savasana
Corpse Pose might seem like an unusual name for such a relaxing pose, but there is actually a deeper symbolism behind savasana. In fact, savasana is directly related to the preparation for death and dying.
Prior to hatha yoga, savasana was the traditional pose in which yogis practiced dissolution meditations, to unite their consciousness with universal consciousness at the time of death.
In our YTTC, we learned that corpse pose symbolises that all life comes to an end. In that moment of lying in meditative stillness, we are reminded of death. Death of our physical body, death of the ego, and death of all clinging and attachment. In that death, we can let go of an old way of being and thinking, and release all that does not serve us.
From this place, we begin to recognise that there’s nothing else that we need to do – everything in the Universe is perfect just the way it is, and everything too shall pass.
As we come out of savasana, we awaken from this state of being, and consciously return to our bodies as though we are brand new. That’s why we roll from savasana onto fetal position on our sides, to symbolise rebirth. As we rise, we are reborn to a new version of ourselves – one that is peaceful, blissful, loving, and free.
So the next time you’re leading a class or doing your own asana practice, gently remind yourself to slow down during savasana, recall its true purpose, and savour its benefits.