Savasana is one pose that you can either teach mediocrely or you can teach it well.
Savasana is what separates yoga from other forms of physical exercise. While after a run or a swim you might catch your breath before moving on to something else, yoga allots a specific time for the body to repair itself in Savasana.
The pose allows any physical stress or lactic acid that have accumulated during the other asanas to be released. Savasana gives space to slow down and relax, which is what yoga is all about.
Here’s how to guide your students through a restful and rejuvenating Savasana practice.
Create the right atmosphere.
Our lives are filled with noise just as are our minds are filled with wandering thoughts. Savasana presents a rare opportunity for students to enjoy stillness and quietude. While certain music might seem aligned with Savasana, it’s nonetheless sensory stimulation.
Give the ears a rest and fade out whatever music you had playing. If possible, dim the lights for the same reason. Better yet, provide your students with silk eye pillows to help shut out light.
Those who are new to yoga are likely to dismiss Savasana’s importance. They might fidget through it, or worse, leave class just as you announce it’s time for final relaxation. For this reason, always explain to your students why yoga ends with Savasana.
I like to say something such as this:
“We’re now going to finish with Savasana to rejuvenate the body and relax the mind. Do your best to be still, as the deeper you relax, the more benefits you receive from the pose.”
Provide alignment cues.
Even though Savasana is a simple pose, you should still give alignment cues to students of all levels. One of the reasons that many yogis attend class is to practice effortlessly. They enjoy being told exactly what to do so that they don’t have to think. Give them this gift in Savasana, too.
Here are clear, simple alignment cues for the pose:
- Lie down on your back.
- Bring your feet as wide as your mat and let them flop open.
- Relax your arms a few inches away from your body, palms facing the sky.
- Tuck your chin ½” toward your chest to lengthen the back of your neck.
- Close your eyes.
- Make any final adjustments so that you are completely comfortable.
- Breathe naturally.
Here, you might ask for students’ permission to give them an adjustment. Then, standing at their feet, lift the ankles a few inches off the ground and stretch the legs toward you before returning them to the floor. Do the same with the hands.
Lastly, squatting behind their head, trace your hands underneath the tops of the shoulders, under the neck, and the under the back of the head to elongate the neck before returning the head to the floor. Do this quietly and gently.
Give relaxation cues.
Here’s where you can really offer a great Savasana experience. Rather than leaving your students in complete silence, facilitate their relaxation. Many may be new to the idea of focused awareness, which is what Savasana is trying to achieve. Even the greatest meditators may need help dropping into relaxation. Body awareness cues ease the process.
I like to spend about five minutes giving verbal cues before allowing time for silent relaxation. First, I encourage students to relax their whole physical body. Next, I guide them through relaxation of each main body part. Lastly, I enforce that their whole body and their mind are relaxed.
The cues go something such as this:
- Relax your whole body.
- Allow your whole body to sink into the floor.
- Your whole body is relaxed.
- Relax your whole right foot.
- Relax your whole right leg, from your toes to your hip.
- Relax your whole right hand.
- Relax your whole right arm, from your fingers to your shoulder.
- (Then repeat the same for the left side.)
- Relax your belly.
- Relax your chest.
- Relax your shoulders.
- Relax your face.
- Relax your whole physical body.
- Relax your mental body.
- Relax your emotional body.
- Your whole body is relaxed.
Allow spacing of 10-20 seconds in between each verbal cue.
You can also expand upon these cues, taking a yoga nidra style approach. Consider giving cues to relax subtle areas of the body like the internal organs, heart, ears, and scalp.
Then give your students plenty of time to rest in silence, so that they can create their own Savasana experience. Allow 10-15 minutes for restoration.
Take a seat and close your eyes—no one wants to be watched!
Lead out of the practice gently.
When the time has come, gently guide your students out of the pose. Speak softly, perhaps beginning with little more than a whisper.
You might say something such as:
- We’ll now release the practice of Savasana.
- Very slowly and very gently, begin to make small movements with your fingers and your toes.
- Take a deep breath into your belly.
- Reach your arms over your head and take a nice long stretch, from your toes to your fingertips.
Have them roll onto their right side in fetal position, resting their head in the crook of their right arm. Then, ask them to rise to sitting without opening their eyes.
Here you can close the class with om chanting, a mantra, or a blessing of gratitude for their trust and openness.
Your students will awaken far more refreshed than if you had just asked them to lie down in silence. Look for the difference in their faces and in just how long it takes them to stand up as proof!
The Savasana pose helps students bring together the entire yoga session in a last, mindful act of relaxation for the mind and emotions, as well as the body. This pose is restorative, helping the student to capture the gains they have attained and move forward in their own yogic practice.