It’s an adage in yoga classes that savasana is the most important pose. Savasana , corpse pose, is when we integrate the benefits of the practice and experience profound restoration. It is supposed to be characterized by total relaxation, but sometimes it’s difficult to get past barriers like the urges to fidget or make mental grocery lists.
Indeed, it takes effort to get into a state of complete effortlessness . Listed below are the most common barriers to attaining a state of blissful rest during savasana and what you can do to overcome them. Practice these techniques to guide you into sweet relaxation. Once you begin to lose the desire to control your body or breath, let go of the technique and surrender into present moment awareness. If you become agitated again return to one of these techniques until you recapture a state of effortlessness and equanimity.
Barrier #1: Physical tension
“Can I do pigeon again instead, please?”
If you made it through a balanced asana practice and you’re still holding onto tension, consider that more stretching may not be the answer. Another method for releasing residual tightness is to fill the lungs, strongly contract the muscles around the affected area for a few seconds while retaining the breath ( kumbhaka , described below), then release all tension from the body and mind with an exaggerated sigh. Physical tension may be seeded by emotional, mental, or spiritual tension. While holding the muscle contraction allow these roots to surface so that they are available for release with the exhale. If you would like more guidance, here is a guided Engage-and-Release practice to progressively relax the whole body.
Barrier #2: Mental chatter
“Hmm, should I get groceries then a latte, or a latte then groceries?”
Kumbhaka , or breath retention, is thought to bring calm and focus to the mind. To begin: Inhale to four fifths of your lung capacity. Then, seal the throat ( jalandara bandha ), tighten your abdominals, and engage your pelvic floor ( mula bandha ). It should feel like you’re using your muscles to hug your lungs and abdomen from the top, bottom, and around all the sides. Retain your breath for a few seconds (but not to the point of feeling panicky), then release all contraction and sigh out your breath. Reset with a couple ujjayi breaths , then repeat twice more. Over time, you may work up to practicing kumbhaka at the end of every inhale for two or three minutes.
Barrier #3: Stress
Technique: Long exhales
When you’re stressed you tend to inhale, inhale, inhale until your shoulders are up around your ears. Accentuating your exhales can help ground you when you’re stressed. Try inhaling for a count of four and exhaling for a count of eight. To accentuate this practice you may add in kumbhaka (described above): inhale for four counts, retain the breath for four counts, exhale for eight counts.
Barrier #4: Fidgeting
“Must. resist. itching. nose.”
Technique: Body scan
If you sense your need to fidget is more mental than physical, try a subtler alternative to Engage-and-Release (described above): Systematically scan the body, focusing on one body part per breath. Sink into deeper and deeper states of relaxation with every exhale. If you need more structure, listen to a recording of a 61-point body scan . This practice puts focus on specific energetic centers throughout the body and is commonly used to enter yoga nidra (yogic sleep).
Barrier #5: Distraction
“Ugh, I can’t believe the people in the lobby are chattering so loudly, and I think the person next to me just farted.”
Technique: Anuloma viloma
The average person can focus on seven things at once, so even while concentrating deeply on the sound and sensation of the breath during savasana, there are still five other mental slots free for distraction. To help distance yourself from distraction you can establish a more complex dristi (focal point) to consume your mind’s full attention. Anuloma viloma (alternate nostril breathing) is often done by physically blocking one nostril then the other with the fingers. However, in savasana , you’ll stay completely relaxed and limp on your back, and simply visualize breathing in through the right nostril, then out through the left; in through the left nostril, then out through the right; and so on. Not complex enough to distract you from distraction? Mentally enumerate your breaths as you go, counting backwards from one of the sacred numbers of 27, 54, or 108: In the right 108, out the left 108; in the left 107, out the right 107; in the right 106, out the left 106... If you lose count, return to the number from which you began.
By Barbie Levasseur