Many yoga teachers consider savasana—also known as corpse pose or relaxation pose—both the easiest and hardest of all postures. Why? On the one hand, the point of the pose is to relax deeply and fully in a supine position with arms and legs gently rolled out to the sides. On the other hand, many people in our type A society have a difficult time allowing their nervous systems to reap the amazing benefits of savasana. Students (and sometimes teachers) either skip this final resting pose altogether, or they “muster through” a shortened version.
The benefits of savasana are numerous: It removes fatigue, calms the brain, allows for deep healing and enhances the psychoneuroimmunologic abilities of the body (Kappmeier & Ambosini 2006). With these benefits in mind, doesn’t it make sense to “share the savasana” outside of yoga class—in step, dance, boot camp and kickboxing sessions?
Learn how to transition your class from movement to cool-down, and finally to a minivacation called savasana.
Preparing for a Proper Savasana
Depending on the teacher and the practice, savasana will last between 3 and 10 minutes. Judith Hanson Lasater, PhD, a founder of the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco, recommends even more time, saying it takes 15 minutes to fully relax. If possible, give your students 7 minutes minimum to experience the pose. Here are additional tips:
- Teach savasana as a special add-on to a regular class. Don’t expect to include it in all of your traditional movement classes. The idea is to introduce students to the benefits of full relaxation and restoration.
- Allow enough time to cool students down completely before transitioning to savasana. Don’t move directly from high intensity to the floor.
- Since students will likely be sweaty, suggest they put on a long-sleeved shirt or other layer before relaxing, or modify the room temperature if possible.
Ideally, you’ll have enough mats for everyone to use. Directly following the cool-down, during which you explained the benefits of savasana and encouraged everyone to stay, invite participants to come down to the floor and lie on their backs.
- Dim the lights and play soft, soothing music (optional).
- Ask class to progressively tense and then consciously relax the body in stages: from upper body to lower body.
- Cue participants to simply relax and let go of all muscle activity.
- Invite students to allow their arms and legs to gently roll open, palms up, fingers curled naturally. Eyes are closed.
- Let the silence take over, or share a guided meditation or visualization.
- When time is up, cue students to hug their knees into their chests and gently roll to the right side. From here, allow them to make their own slow transition to an upright position.
Try the following suggestions on using this special relaxation time to maximize participants’ experience in classes other than yoga:
For step class. If feasible, use the step to deepen relaxation. Students can elevate their feet on the platform.
For dance class. Have participants recall a block of choreography from class and visualize themselves executing it perfectly. Encourage them to take this positive feeling with them into the rest of the day.
For strength or boot camp classes. Talk briefly about how important it is for muscles to rest in order to rebuild. Tell attendees to apply the rest principle to their training if they want to reap rewards.
For kickboxing class. Cue class to focus on completely releasing tight, overworked muscles in the hips and shoulders.
Kappmeier, K., & Ambrosini, D. 2006. Instructing Hatha Yoga. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Lasater, J.H. 2004. Find serenity in savasana. Yoga Journal, 184 54. www.yogajournal.com/practice/151; retrieved July 20, 2013.