Shavasana

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Shavasana, Savasana (/ˌʃəˈvæˌsəˌnə/ shah-VAH-sah-nah;[1] Sanskrit: शवासन; IAST: śavāsana), or Corpse Pose[2] is an asana usually done at the end of a yoga practice in which practitioners lie flat on their backs with the heels spread as wide as the yoga mat and the arms a few inches away from the body, palms facing upwards.[3]

Etymology[edit]

The name comes from the Sanskrit words Shava (शव, Śava) meaning "corpse"[4] and Asana (आसन, Āsana) meaning "posture" or "seat".[5] The earliest mention of this asana is in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika states “lying full length on the back like a corpse is called Savasana. With this asana, tiredness caused by other asanas is eliminated; it also promotes calmness of the mind.” [6]

Description[edit]

Shavasana or mrtasana (death pose)

Shavasana and other sitting asanas maintain the balance between relaxation and meditation (two key components of yoga) by their equal input of physical stimuli.[7]

To perform Shavasana, lie on the back with the legs spread as wide as the yoga mat and arms relaxed to the side, preferably with no props. The eyes are closed and the breath is deep with the use deergha (long) pranayama. The whole body is relaxed on the floor with an awareness of the chest and abdomen rising and falling with each breath. During Shavasana, all parts of the body are scanned for muscular tension of any kind. Any muscular tension the body finds is consciously released as it is found. All control of the breath, the mind, and the body is then released for the duration of the asana. Shavasana is typically practiced for 5–10 minutes at the end of an asana practice, but can be practiced for 20–30 minutes.

The asana is released by slowly deepening the breath, flexing the fingers and toes, reaching the arms above the head, stretching the whole body, and exhaling while bringing the knees to the chest and rolling over to the side in a fetal position, drawing the head in the right arm. From here, one can push themselves up into a seated position.

Benefits[edit]

Shavasana is intended to rejuvenate the body, mind, and spirit. In Shavasana, practitioners’ breath deepens, and the stress of the day is released. The yogi forgets all other thoughts and surrenders any psychological effort. While in Shavasana, yogis slip into blissful neutrality and reflect on the practice.[8]

Relaxation[edit]

After the exertions of the practice, Shavasana allows the body a chance to regroup and reset itself. After a balanced practice, the entire body will be stretched, contracted, twisted and inverted. Therefore, even the deepest muscles will have the opportunity to let go and shed their regular habits, if only for a few minutes. Furthermore, the physiological benefits of deep relaxation can be numerous. However, none of the following have been scientifically proven:[1]

  • a decrease in heart rate and the rate of respiration
  • a decrease in blood pressure
  • a decrease in muscle tension
  • a decrease in metabolic rate and the consumption of oxygen
  • a reduction in general anxiety
  • a reduction in the number and frequency of anxiety attacks
  • an increase in energy levels and in general productivity
  • an increase in focus
  • an improvement in concentration and in memory

Integration[edit]

A complete yoga practice will furnish the nervous system with a host of new neuromuscular information. Shavasana gives the nervous system a chance to integrate that into a brief pause before it is forced to deal with the usual stresses of daily life once again.

Inner focus[edit]

After so much time being bound to the actions of the body, the practitioner's awareness is hopefully turned inwards and purified of sensory distraction. Shavasana then becomes the beginning of deeper, meditative yogic practices. In a state of sensory withdrawal, it becomes easier to be aware of the breath and the state of the mind itself.

Though not the best position for prolonged meditative contemplation, Shavasana dulls the mind enough that the discernment necessary to achieve deeper meditative states becomes more difficult. This reclination can be a successful introductory practice for those practitioners who are not yet ready for formal meditation.

Completion[edit]

Regardless of the style of yoga, most classes follow the same Shavasana pattern.[2] It begins with a short opening period where the practitioner gathers him or herself up, turning inwards away from the mundane world and setting an intention for the practice. The practice itself follows this setting of an intention. The integration phase—the ending point of a practice—allows the effects of the practice to take hold and penetrate deep into the self; Shavasana is the primary vehicle of this process.

Complications[edit]

Comfort is essential in the asana; the slightest point of discomfort can be endlessly distracting. Shavasana is a good way to reduce stress and tension.[9] On the other hand, yoga-nidra ("yogic sleep") meditation is often practiced in a lying position. Drowsiness or restlessness of the mind while in Shavasana may be counteracted by increasing the rate and depth of breathing. While in Shavasana, it is important to be in a neutral position.[2] Although Shavasana ends a practice in relaxation, some practitioners might not be able to relax and let go in this position. If this is the case, bend the knees and move the feet hip-distance apart.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Budilovsky, Joan; Adamson, Eve (2000). The complete idiot's guide to yoga (2 ed.). Penguin. p. 219. ISBN 978-0-02-863970-3. Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Yoga Journal – Corpse Pose". Retrieved 2011-04-11. 
  3. ^ https://www.artofliving.org/in-en/yoga/yoga-poses/shavasana-corpse-pose
  4. ^ "Shavasana – AshtangaYoga.info". Retrieved 2011-04-11. 
  5. ^ Sinha, S.C. (1 June 1996). Dictionary of Philosophy. Anmol Publications PVT. LTD. p. 18. ISBN 978-81-7041-293-9. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "The History Behind Savasana". Boston Yoga. 6 October 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2017. 
  7. ^ "Yoga Nidra: a deep mental relaxation approach". British Journal of Sports Medicine (44(S1)): i71–i72. 
  8. ^ http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/the-purpose-of-corpse-pose/
  9. ^ Physical Education Class – XII. Rachna Sagar. p. 64. ISBN 978-81-8137-350-2. Retrieved 11 April 2011. 

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