Relaxation is not our nation’s forte. So when you tell your yoga students to lie on their backs in Savasana (Corpse pose) for 10 minutes without moving or thinking, you can bet they’re struggling. It’s the pose they need the most, but the one they’re most apt to walk out on, or at least mentally battle. Students need help getting into Savasana, and I don’t mean physically—it’s a simple enough posture. Students need help getting into a relaxed mindset.
I’ve been the student of many yoga teachers who leave as little as 30 seconds for Savasana. And some teachers even skip it altogether. They’ve either fallen short on time or simply don’t know the importance of this pose. Because teachers under-emphasize Savasana, many students don’t understand the point of lying on the floor for so long. Some view it as the perfect opportunity to leave class early. Some fidget through it—opening their eyes to see what others are doing or popping up before they’re instructed. Even if they keep still, they might embrace Savasana as an occasion to let their mind wander.
Take your time
Savasana, and all yogic relaxation, is what separates yoga from other forms of physical exercise. After practicing asanas, the body may be under a certain level of stress or discomfort, and this resting time gives the body a chance to rejuvenate. Savasana allows any lactic acid buildup to be released, and enables the newly unblocked prana to flow freely. Because of this pose, students leave class feeling refreshed and relaxed rather than exhausted from their practice, as one might after a “workout.”
To help your students get the most out of Savasana, allow 10-15 minutes for the entire practice. You’ll first guide them into the pose, and then use autosuggestion to help them relax each body part. Finally, you’ll give them a few minutes to rest in silence. The practice is a lot like yoga nidra, or sleepless sleep, when autosuggestion is used to bring one’s awareness inward. This withdrawal of the senses facilitates a state of deep relaxation. Bodily and mental tension are released, and the mind becomes clear. This is exactly what we hope for when we practice this posture.
Cue for comfort
Help students experience a restful and reviving Savasana by first finding a comfortable posture. Don’t assume they know how to position their bodies. And unless the room is warm, encourage students to put on a sweatshirt and socks or cover themselves with a blanket, as the body temperature drops after asanas. Give these alignment cues:
- Lie comfortably on your back.
- Close your eyes.
- Bring your legs wide, and allow your feet to flop open.
- Bring your arms by your sides and away from your body.
- Turn your palms toward the sky.
- Tuck your shoulder blades slightly underneath you.
- Tuck your chin very slightly into your chest.
- Make any small movements you need so that you are very comfortable.
- Take easy, natural breaths through your nose.
- Set an intention to stay very still and very present.
Be simple but specific
Now, encourage your students to relax physically by bringing their attention to each individual body part, starting with the toes. Bring their focus to one specific area by giving a simple cue, such as “relax your toes.” Work your way up the body, directing students to relax the soles of the feet, ankles, knees, thighs, and so on—all the way to the top of the head. Pause between each body part, giving your students time to redirect their attention.
While it’s easiest to relax the muscles, we can even relax the involuntary organs that we think we have no control over. By sending these organs a message with the conscious mind, the subconscious mind receives and carries out the order. Direct students to relax their involuntary organs, such as the stomach, heart, and lungs. You can even direct them to relax inert body parts like the fingernails, eyelashes, and hair.
Guide them out gently
Next, allow your students several minutes to rest in silence. You might then chant a gentle om to let them know it’s time to change gears. Ask them to breathe a few deep breaths into their belly. Then guide them gradually out of the posture, first instructing students to turn slowly and mindfully onto their right side. Give them a moment to rest in this fetal position. Then ask them to come to a comfortable seat, keeping their eyes closed. The exit out of Savasana should be slow and gentle so as not to disrupt the student’s relaxed mindset.
As a teacher, there’s a lot of room for creativity when it comes to Savasana. Along with the guidance described above, you can add hands-on adjustments, head massages, or reiki. You can use aromatherapy or singing bowls, or give relaxation cues in the form of a song. This all contributes to creating a restful mindset and peaceful atmosphere for your students. They’ll welcome the feeling of renewal after Savasana, even if they came to yoga for a “workout.”
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Dreams of Mystics by DJ Taz Rashid pairs perfectly with meditations, yin or restorative yoga practices, and Savasana.