Yoga. Whether you’ve been practicing for years or have never set foot on a mat, I’m sure there are several images that pop up in your mind about this ancient practice. Do a Google search and you’ll get millions of results of thin women holding their leg in their air or basking in a sunset meditation. But the truth is yoga is for everyone and every body. In fact, the actual postures or stretches most often associated with yoga are only a tiny part of what yoga is all about.
“Yoga is learning to come back to yourself. It’s finding your limits, expanding your boundaries, and being able to truly relax into who you are.” – Christina Brown, The Yoga Bible
And while the intense and sometimes seemingly impossible poses are definitely a part of the beauty of yoga, so are the simple moments of breath, focus, and relaxation.
In other words, you don’t have to be able to do this:
…to benefit from yoga.
In fact, I am increasingly drawn to the profound beauty and lessons that come from the “easiest” posture in yoga: Savasana or “Corpse Pose.”
What is Savasana?
The name comes from the Sanskrit words Shava (शव, Śava) meaning “corpse”, and Asana (आसन, Āsana) meaning “posture” or “seat”. This simple posture is done by lying your back with your arms and legs spread. Eyes are closed and the breath is deep. The whole body is relaxed. It’s a posture that traditionally was experienced for 20 – 30 minutes at the closing of a yoga practice, although (sadly) in most Western yoga classes it much shorter than that. And the benefits? Just take a look of some of them:
- Relaxes your central nervous system and calms your mind
- Helps relieve stress
- Relaxes your body
- Decreases beta brain waves and shifts to slower brain waves
- Reduces insomnia and helps improve your sleep
- Reduces headache and fatigue
- Helps relieve depression
It’s also a chance for your body to simultaneously integrate and let go of the yoga practice just experienced. Many consider it the most important pose in yoga. And the lessons it offers are quite beautiful.
10 Life Lessons Learned from Savasana
1. You are enough just the way you are.
Forget the headstands, the crazy balancing positions, or being able to get your legs over your head. The same holds true for worldly achievements, too. Savasana reminds us that we are enough as we are.
2. We are human beings not human doings.
In a world that celebrates those always on the go, those who have a mile-long to-do list, and the other “go-getters” of the world, corpse pose reminds us that we are human beings. Our ability to feel, sense, and BE is an amazing aspect of our life. When we are centered in that practice of being, the doing comes so much easier.
3. Sometimes you have to let it go.
I’m not talking about a particular Disney song… I am talking about the beautiful reminder to let go of the things we can’t change. The things we can’t control. The things that are just out of our reach… for now. There is a time to work, sweat, and extend our abilities. And there is also a time to let go and breathe.
4. There is much to hear when you silence your mind.
We live in a world that is brimming with noise pollution. To tune out the noise, focus inward, and listen to our bodies is a gift that many do not take advantage of. To let go of the mental to-do lists, re-lived conversations, and the like is tricky, but critical. Inspiration comes in the quiet. Wisdom can be found in the peace of silence. Tuning into the most basic function of life (our breath) is not only good for our health, it’s a powerful rhythmic sound that flows at the river of all creativity and life.
5. Health requires balance.
We live in a world obsessed with “health.” From mapping out runs on our phones, to counting calories/nutrients, to lifting ridiculous amounts of metal above our head… we’ve perfected the many ways we can DO things for our health. But Savasana reminds us that we must have balance in all things. We must find relaxation to balance our exertion. We must find meditation to balance our crowded thinking. We must release as much as we contract.
6. There is power in being vulnerable.
Unlike other resting positions, Savasana is a very open and vulnerable posture. With the heart and palms extending skyward, there is a gift of opening up to the unknown, baring own’s soul, and freeing one’s spirit. This is one of the reasons why corpse pose can actually be challenging for many. There are very few instances in our lives where we are so open while doing so little. It’s easy to hide in the busy-ness of life. It’s far more powerful, however, to simply be while opening yourself for the world to see.
7. The great equalizer.
Even though yoga isn’t a competitive experience, there will always be the eyes of those new looking forward to the experienced practitioners. There is awe in the beauty of those who can balance with strength, bend with ease, and move their bodies in and out of the many yoga postures. And in our world where we are always comparing and competing, Savasana brings the class back to equal grounds. With no impressive feats to hide behind, this posture reminds us that we are not that different after all.
8. The Reminder: We’re all going to die…
I remember giggling the first time I heard the term “corpse pose” during a high school dance camp. The name, at first, seems a bit morbid. But the reality of our fragile existence and ultimate outcome can be a beautiful service. It’s another opportunity to strip away the unnecessary and focus on what really matters because in that brief moment of contemplating our death, we can focus on…
9. …How we choose to live.
The moments before coming out of Savasana (which generally involves rolling to one side and coming into fetal position, a posture about “new life” or “rebirth”) I like to visualize the life I want. Those few minutes in deep relaxation give my mind a chance to channel my energy toward my real priorities.
10. Sometimes it’s okay to give up.
Stay with me on this one… Our society is great at the motivational speeches that constantly blare the battle cry: “Never give up!”
We go, go, go… always scratching away at some unknown prize by doing more everyday to prove our existence. But Savasana knows better. Remember, we are enough right now. Always. And while there is great triumph in winning and achieving, there are times when failing, falling, and settling into our passive weight is exactly what we must do.
To be clear: We don’t give up for good. But we also don’t fear those moments when something else wins. We find that there is a lot to gain in succumbing to the power of gravity and recognizing our weaknesses. It’s not about forfeiting the game, it’s about remember that there is no game. Just life. Life requires humility, challenges, and even failure. It’s how we learn, grow, and become better.
I see why Savasana is considered the most important posture in the practice of yoga. It’s not that we should spend all of our time resting, meditating, or relaxing on our backs. We need to work hard, stretch, balance, and try new things. But Savasana becomes a home where we can recharge, refocus, and remember important life lessons. Something we all need a little more of.