Savasana is the Sanskrit name for the final relaxation pose that comes at the end of most yoga classes. According to Judith Lasater, it is “the deliberate practice of stillness.” It is through this stillness that we learn to recognize and release muscular tension, become familiar with our body’s natural rhythms and to “discover a clear space from which to make life choices.”
Savasana is usually done by simply lying down on your mat for 5-10 minutes. To get the most beneficial effects of the pose, use props to make the posture as comfortable as possible and remain in the pose for 15-20 minutes. The benefits of restorative poses such as this may include lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduced fatigue, tension and pain, improved sleep and enhanced function of the neuroendocrine system.
Points of Body Awareness:
*To minimize tension in the hips and lower back, place a rolled up blanket, a bolster or a foam roller behind the knees. You could also place the legs on the seat of a chair which would help to relieve any swelling in the legs as well as ease strain in the lower back.
*Use a blanket or towel roll to support the inward curve of the neck, especially if there is any discomfort in the neck, head or shoulders.
*Is the chin slightly lower than the forehead? It should be. This helps to quiet the thinking parts of our brains.
*Cover up with a blanket, sweater or jacket if you feel cool.
*Do you feel completely comfortable? Are there any areas where you feel too much pressure? If so, continue to add props.
*Release tension from the jaw, the throat and the facial muscles. Allow the legs to roll outward and the fingers to curl inward.
*Can you feel the muscles drop away from the bones? Can you feel the bones become heavier? Can you feel the vital organs in the abdomen settle into the body?
*Notice when you begin to feel lighter. Can you feel the sensations of sinking and rising at the same time. Can you feel both stability and expansion simultaneously?
*Take slow, steady breaths with slight pauses between the inhalations and the exhalations. Allow the breath to come and go without effort. Be here for 5-20 minutes.
Most people will easily find comfort in Savasana but some will not tolerate lying flat. For those with severe reflux or vertigo for example, try propping a bolster up on blocks at 30-40 degree angle. For pregnant women in their third trimester, for those with severe spinal stenosis or for anyone who feels vulnerable on their backs, a side-lying variation of savasana is a good option.
Consider ‘prescribing’ savasana or other restorative pose to your patients. Common sense and good science tell us that rest and relaxation are essential for managing pain and healing injuries. How much time do you spend counseling patients on how to get a better night of sleep? As we all know, sometimes it’s not as simple as reducing stimulants, darkening the room or even changing the pillow or mattress. Many Americans simply do not know how to rest. It’s a skill that we have lost or maybe never really learned. If your client has difficulty staying in savasana for at least 5 minutes, chances are it is a skill that they should cultivate.