Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Why is Savasana important?
Have you heard your yoga teacher saying “savasana is the most important asana”? and “don’t skip Savasana”, or “Savasana is the most difficult of all”? While I do not think it is useful to describe anything as “difficult” or “easy” (it is all really relevant & perspectives are different), Savasana is an astonishing useful “shape” to practice. In nowadays stressful society yoga Nidra (psychic sleep) gets more and more important.
Funny enough, Shavasana (śavāsana - Corpse Pose), is only regarded as a posture or asana since around the 15th century. Savasana was incorporated as an asana in the Hatha Pradipika.
The Pradipika states in 1.32 that "lying full length on the back like a corpse is called Shavasana. With this asana, tiredness caused by other asanas is eliminated; it also promotes calmness of the mind."
The Hathapradipika is a compilation that draws onto the wisdom from at least 20 other texts that preceded it (Dr Mallinson). It is the first text that sets out to teach Hatha Yoga above other methods of yoga. It includes an introduction of 15 postures and Savasana is one of them.
Before that, Savasana used to be a method of laya yoga (the yoga of dissolution). Around the 12th century, this technique was distinct from Hatha yoga. It included meditating on emptiness, staring at the tip of the nose and between the eyebrows (third eye), a meditation on the rear part of the head said to conquer death, and /or staring at the big toes of the left and right feet. It also included simply lying supine on the ground like a corpse, and it was said that this technique, when practised relaxed, will be a successful method of dissolution. The Yoga of Dissolution (laya yoga) happens because of the dissolution of the mind employing esoteric techniques.
The physical form of nowadays asanas serves to strengthen our nervous system mainly and to untangle nerves. Savasana soothes irritated nerves. Pranayama can only be practised when the nerves are soothed. We need a stable spine but sill mind to be able to meditate and go deeper. A right balance between backward and forward bending is important to achieve this. Excessive backbend gives you an elastic spine but to sit in meditation; you need a stable spine. Lungs are stretched in backbends and make your mind alert. Alertness is useful for practising meditation and pranayama. Excessive forward bends may give you a stable spine but not an alert and sill mind. In pranayama, the mind must stay alert and the spine stable.
Besides, to achieve the optimum health of a person, any physical training is important, but so is to nourish a rest period! The optimal health is not necessarily achieved while the person is performing shapes and movements, but afterwards in the long term.
All tissues have a tipping point for optimum health, and if we go above it, we may overstress the tissue, and it tears the tissue down. If we load at the same time, this might lead to an injury. If we stay under the optimum tipping point, we get what is called a beneficial adaptation.
Strength and tolerance of tissue through shapes in yoga ( and load) can increase. Still, we have to ensure that we rest the body in between those “work-outs” and even you call your yoga a “work-in” if you practice some of the classical shapes, you definitely work on the tolerance of your tissues and muscles.
Our tissue can elongate with training but also creeping will take place. Cumulative stress also leads to fatigue building up.
With mindful training that includes rest periods, you are creating a stimulus for your tissue to adapt to higher tolerance, that means that you appreciate the rest after the training as the time when the tissue can adapt. Over the rest period, the tolerance of the tissue can adapt to a higher level. For a better explanation, please watch Your Spine, Your Yoga The Course - The Biological Tipping Point - YouTube.
Many yoga practitioners combine Savasana nowadays with the practice of Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is translated as psychic sleep, and there are many benefits in practising yoga Nidra, such as emotional self-regulation. Sign up here and receive my next blog about Yoga Nidra.
I am offering yoga teacher training in 2021—eleven weekends in Hove. Learning the art and science of yoga takes time. I am registered with the Yoga Alliance Professionals who have high standards. If you would like to receive more information, please send me an email. Also, in January, I am happy to offer a “the business of yoga” course and another restore and relax. There is also a foundation course for a beginner to practice at home starting January 13, 2021.