Corpse pose, known as shavasana, savasana or mritasana in Sanskrit, is the simplest yoga pose to assume, but the most difficult yoga pose to master. The meditative pose focuses on relaxing the mind and body completely, which is not always an easy task.
How to do the Savasana Pose
- Lie on your back on the mat with your knees bent and your feet planted. Align your head, neck, and spine. Scoop your tailbone towards your navel, so that your lower back sinks towards the mat.
- Extend your legs, one at a time. Rest your feet on the mat wider than hip distance apart. Your legs and feet should be extended evenly from the spine to preserve the body alignment through the spine, neck, and head.
- Relax your hip and leg muscles, letting your feet naturally fall outwards.
- Press your shoulders slightly back and down, sinking them towards the mat. As your shoulders sink, your arms will naturally open to the sides. Your elbows will externally rotate so that your elbow joints are facing upwards.
- Rest your hands slightly away from your body. Turn your palms up, towards the ceiling.
- Tuck your chin slightly to lengthen the back of your neck. Close your eyes. Relax your tongue away from the roof of your mouth.
- Exhale and sink your entire body into the mat. As you lie in this restive and meditative posture, focus on the natural rhythm of your breath. Take your time in shavasana. Relax in the pose for five to twenty minutes.
- When you are ready to come out of shavasana, bring movement back into your body by wiggling your fingers and toes. Sweep your hands upwards along on the floor until you can clasp your hands together over your head. Give your full body a stretch.
- Bring your legs together and roll over onto your right side in fetal position. Place your palms together in prayer pose (anjali mudra) and place them under your cheek to support your head.
- Exhale and, using your left hand, push yourself up into a comfortable seated position.
Tips, Photos and Videos for Beginners
Modifications and Props
Neck Support. To support and lengthen the neck in shavasana, rest your head on a folded blanket during the pose.
Swayback Modification. If a pelvic tilt doesn’t eliminate the space between your lower back and the mat, elevating your knees will sink your back lower. Prop your knees up with a bolster.
Heart Opening Modification. To open the chest and shoulders more in shavasana, place a bolster vertically along your spine. This heart opening variation improves breathing and posture.
The purpose of shavasana is to relax every muscle of the body. The slight pelvic twist does engage the abdominals and erector spinae muscles to an extent. Rolling the shoulders back (particularly if you use a bolster along the spine) also engages the rotator cuff muscles in each shoulder. For the most part, however, shavasana is meant to disengage the muscles rather than engage them.
Corpse pose relaxes the entire psycho-physiological system of mind and body. A meditative pose, it builds concentration and mental strength in practitioners. The aim of the pose is to cultivate pratyahara – i.e. sense withdrawal – through meditation. Yogis gave corpse pose its definitively morbid name based on this aim.
Because corpse pose relaxes the mind and body, it is an ideal pose to perform before bed or as a cure for insomnia.
In Vinyasa yoga, corpse pose is either the first or, more commonly, the last pose in the flow.
At the beginning of class, corpse pose mentally prepares practitioners for the practice. The pose is an intermediary between the outside world and the yoga practice. It helps practitioners enter the present moment and build concentration for other poses.
At the end of class, practitioners can relax tired muscles in corpse pose. The focus on the breath during the pose aids the transition from yogic breathing (ujjayi) to normal breathing.