Shavasana (Corpse Pose) is the ultimate pose for letting go to calm the mind and body. To do it with complete awareness, however, makes it one of the most challenging postures of all.
(Pronounced as "shah-VAHS-anna")
Shavam is the Sanskrit word for "corpse," and in some places, they describe this pose using the word for "death" as Mrtasana ("mrit-TAHS-anna"). The goal is to relax your body so that it is completely still while maintaining full awareness. When you perfect it, even your mind becomes quiet. Then you can feel energy naturally flowing from your head to your heels.
*In this pose, you essentially lie down flat on your back. Nevertheless, the way in which you lie down makes all the difference between releasing tension in your spine or compressing it further. If your spine is not perfectly straight and neutral in Corpse Pose, then you are more likely to experience back injuries later on.
To put your spine in the proper position to start, begin by sitting on your yoga mat with your knees bent and the soles of the feet touching the ground in front of you. Bring your heels close to your buttocks and hold your knees against your chest to help straighten your back.
Now do not move your feet or buttocks at all as you slowly lean back, putting your forearms and palms on the floor behind you for support. Gradually continue lowering your torso one vertebrate at a time until your back rests flat on the floor. Let your arms lie out at about 45 degrees from your sides with your palms facing the ceiling.
Extend your legs straight one at a time. As you lower each leg, straighten it by extending the heel forward first. Then relax the rest of the foot only after you have extended the leg fully. At the same time, slide your torso back on the yoga mat about an inch to help your tailbone stay fully tucked in. When you have extended both legs straight out, then your heels should remain in line with your hips while your toes roll out slightly to the sides.
Without disturbing your lower back or your legs, simply press down your elbows into the mat to slightly lift up your chest just enough to tuck your shoulder blades in, bringing the shoulder blades closer together. Then relax your arms and let your chest remain in this adjusted position. You will know that you have placed your chest in the right position when it feels like your shoulder blades create a little "shelf" of support for your expanded chest to rest on top of.
Relax your neck and adjust your head so that it stays in a neutral position. That means you should not point your chin up toward the ceiling, nor should you press your chin down toward your chest. Simply position your head so that you extend your neck muscles fairly straight. You should feel that only the very middle of the back of your head rests on the yoga mat. If this is uncomfortable for you, then you can place a small pillow or folded yoga blanket under your head.
Now release any tension in your sense organs. Close your eyes and let them sink down into your head. Relax your mouth and your face. Visualize your brain settling down comfortably in the back of your head. Make every part of your body soft as you breathe slowly. Gradually release tension in your shoulders, arms, fingers, chest, belly, hips, thighs, calves, ankles and your feet.
Breathe slowly and evenly from your belly, feeling it rise on every inhalation and fall on each exhalation. Remain in Corpse Pose for about 5 minutes if you have performed 30 minutes of other postures. If you have practiced for an hour or more, then you can hold Corpse Pose for up to 10 or 15 minutes. If you start to fall asleep, then you are holding the posture for too long.
Come out of the pose by breathing out and rolling over to your right side. Then push yourself up with your hands, making sure that your head comes up last.
In the beginning, it is best to practice Corpse Pose flat on the floor without props if you can. However, sometimes you need help expanding your chest to breathe better, like when you have a cough, asthma problems or a cold that makes breathing more difficult than normal. Here, sit on the floor just 2 inches in front of a bolster, placing a folded yoga blanket at the other end of the bolster for a pillow. Then lie down so that the bolster is right under your spine. The blanket should support both your neck and head while your arms remain on the floor by your sides.
Place a sandbag on top of your eyes to help release tension from eye strain and get the sensation of your eyes sinking down naturally in your eye sockets. Put another sandbag on your belly to make sure your belly is pushing the sandbag up on inhalations and sinking down under its weight on your exhalations.
Ask a partner to check your alignment in Corpse Pose. Have them stand behind you and make sure your head does not lean to one side. They can pull your head back gently from the base of your skull to help elongate and release your neck, centering your head exactly between your shoulders.
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