Savasana / Shavasana / (also called the relaxation pose, corpse pose, and the cozy pose) ©
Adapted from Yoga Nidra for Complete Relaxation & Stress Relief by Julie Lusk and Yoga Nidra Meditations: 24 Scripts for True Relaxation, her new book being published in May 2021. Do not copy without written permission from the publisher.
Savasana is the most important yoga posture. Other postures are done to prepare for it. It is usually done lying down on the floor. A couch or bed can be used instead, however, doing so may put you to sleep. Some Yoga Nidra traditions highly recommend the traditional posture with little to no props. Others encourage using other positions and lots of props, like lying on one’s side or sitting in a chair or against the wall. Savasana is harder than it may seem. The best position for you is the one where you are least likely to move and supports good, comfortable alignment. Savasana should never be skipped after practicing yoga poses.
Yoga Nidra is mostly done lying down in the relaxation or corpse pose, commonly referred to as either Savasana or Shavasana (sometimes the last a is dropped). Both spellings are correct. It is pronounced shah-VAH-sah-nah or with the first s as in “sedan.” Savasana does not refer to the experience of Yoga Nidra itself, just to the physical position.
Use these wonderful instructions and handy tips for Savasana.
Lie down, lining up your head, chin, and navel for good brain-body communication and energetic flow. Close your eyes or keep them slightly open.
- Have your head parallel and aligned with your body. Slightly tuck your chin toward your throat to make breathing easier by freeing constrictions in the trachea. Make sure to maintain the natural arch behind your neck. Use a thin pillow under your head if your neck is stiff.
- Soften the tongue. Doing so slows mental chatter. Place the tip of your tongue at the edge of the palate and upper teeth to help with not falling asleep. Another option is for the tongue to rest at the bottom of the mouth. This is calming, makes it easier to breathe, but might induce snoring. Others like to have the tip of the tongue placed softly between slightly parted teeth. Experiment.
- Move your shoulders down from your ears. Place your arms out from your sides so they do not touch your body. Rotate your arms and palms upward to support and align your shoulder blades. Lift your shoulders up slightly and lower them back down so they are in good contact with floor. Sensory input lowers with your palms up since your fingertips are not touching anything. However, you may prefer to keep your arms closer to your body or rest your hands over your heart or belly or with your palms down.
- Notice your low back, hips, and buttocks. Move around until it feels fairly even and supported down there.
- To relax the legs, hips, and back, either use a pillow or bolster under your thighs or knees for support or have your feet on the floor with your knees up. Experiment.
- Place your feet about twelve to twenty-four inches apart so that the insides of your legs do not touch to cut down on physical distractions. Rest your feet out to each side.
- Finally, scan your body and make your own personal adjustments until you are so comfortable that there is no need to move at all.
Use Props for Comfort. Using props makes it easier to stay still and remain alert by reducing discomfort and distractions. Official yoga props are nice, but not needed. Household items work well. Use the options below that work for you. Forget the rest.
- Something to lie on. A yoga mat or beach towel is fine but may not be thick enough, especially when on the floor for a half hour. Consider adding something else for extra padding. A thick, non-slip blanket or camping mat works well by itself or with your mat. It adds comfort and warmth. Being on a bed, sofa, or chair are more options.
- Support your head and neck for comfort. Use either a thin, one to three-inch cushion or pillow under your head or a small, rolled-up towel or pillow can go behind your neck. Either way, maintain natural arch in the back of the neck. This head and neck position help the nervous system relax and can prevent snoring. A thick pillow puts the head and neck in an awkward position creating upper body tension and can hamper breath flow and circulation. Having the head too high can signal mental alertness rather than restfulness.
- Elevate your back and head with a long, firm bolster or thick, non-slip blanket. Position it so your head, neck, and backbone are aligned and supported. Your buttocks rest on the floor.
- Cover your eyes. Relaxation enhances significantly by the added darkness and reduction of unnecessary eye movements from the weight. Try an eye pillow, wash cloth, tissue, or scarf. Do not cover your nose.
- Support and relax your back, hips, and legs by placing a firm pillow, blanket or bolster under your knees or under the full length of the hamstrings (thighs). Experiment with placement and different heights to find what’s best for you.
- Place something on your belly that weighs up to ten pounds such as a heavy book, pillow, or sandbag. This stimulates the relaxation response by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
- Cover up with a cozy blanket to stay warm. At least have one handy in case you get cold. Body temperature typically drops during deep relaxation.
Alternate Positions: Use these other positions for accommodating your needs, add variety, and expand your ability to relax while in different positions such as being sideways or sitting.
- Elevate and prop up your back and head. Put a large yoga bolster, big, sturdy pillow, or folded, non-slip blanket beneath you. This can ease back issues and help prevent snoring. People with sleep apnea, cardiac disease, and acid reflux can benefit from elevating their back.
- Rest your calves on a chair seat with your back on the floor.
- Lie on your side. Support your head with a pillow and place another one between your knees to keep your head, neck, and spine aligned. Side-sleeping improves airflow of the breath and may make it easier for the brain to clear out amyloid beta, a waste product. Choose whichever side is most comfortable for you. Take into consideration that being on your left side can prevent heartburn, aid digestion, and may improve immunity. Lying on your right side can encourage calmness by activating the relaxation response ( parasympathetic nervous system), and the left hemisphere of the brain (ida nadi).
- Sit in a chair. With legs uncrossed, either have your feet flat on the floor, use the footrest on a recliner, or rest your legs on another chair facing you. Place the chair back against a wall to rest your head against. Other options are to sit on the floor while leaning your back against a wall with a bolster at a comfortable angle (try 45 degrees).
- Stand while leaning against a wall for support.
Get yoga nidra downloads here.
© Photo Credits – Do not copy without written permission.
Photographers: Ricardo L. Ramirez and Julie Lusk
Models: Anita Poonawala * David Benison * Candis Gorman
Special thanks to Viviana Collazo