Why You Should Never Skip Savasana

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Among hundreds of yoga poses, including advanced, impressive, contorted, balancing, or inverted asanas, the one pose we yoga teachers jokingly (but not really) call the most difficult to master might surprise you.

Savasana, or Corpse Pose, is the final resting posture we typically assume at the end of a yoga session. Some yoga teachers call this the most advanced and essential posture.

Savasana is a paradox for many new yogis. How can a restful posture be the most difficult to master? I remember other questions running through my mind while lying in Corpse Pose in my first yoga classes as a student: “Isn’t this basically like taking a nap at the end of class? I don’t have time to nap; I have too many things to do! I’ve done my yoga session already, and nobody will notice if I just slip out, right?”

As a yoga teacher, I can tell you with certainty – we do notice! And we wish you wouldn’t, for many reasons.

If you’re a yogi who tends to be Savasana-resistant, or if you’re a new yogi wondering what the deal is with this end-of-class “nap” time, I urge you to stick with me here as I make the case for why you should never skip Savasana.

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The Essence of Savasana

The traditional way to practice Savasana is to lie flat on your back, your legs extended, and your arms at your sides with your palms facing up. Ideally, your body should be completely relaxed: your feet fall open gently, your jaw relaxes, and your breathing is easy and natural. 

The Deeper Meaning of Corpse Pose

Corpse Pose might sound a bit morbid to some people, but the symbolism can be beautiful. In the Western world, death is the final outcome. However, in philosophies closely related to yoga, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, death refers to rebirth and new beginnings.

The symbolism of Savasana or Corpse Pose can also signify:

  • Closure, marking the end of your physical and mental efforts
  • Surrender to the present moment
  • A temporary state before rejuvenation
  • Separation from ego and physical attachments 

Understanding Savasana’s Purpose

Depending on the style of yoga, the teacher, or individual students, Savasana can serve different purposes within a yoga practice. 

According to history and tradition, Savasana was an essential part of every asana practice:

  • The 15th-century yoga text, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, explains that Savasana is necessary at the end of a yoga session as it “removes tiredness and enables the mind and whole body to relax.” 
  • The Gheranda Samhita, a 17th-century text, defines Savasana as one of the 32 most essential postures, relieving fatigue and bringing relief to the mind.
  • In his 1934 text, Yoga Makaranda, renowned teacher T. Krishnamacharya instructs practitioners to rest in Savasana for at least 15 minutes or until their sweat subsides to prevent disease. 

In modern yoga practice, we tend to use Savasana more practically for: 

  • Meditation: Some yoga teachers provide guided meditations at the end of their classes while students relax in Savasana. Alternatively, others offer a few minutes of quiet time, allowing students to have their own meditative experiences.
  • Rest & relaxation: Savasana allows our bodies to rest and recover rather than jumping into our next activity immediately after a particularly intense physical workout or deep stretch.
  • Transition: The quiet time in Savasana at the end of a yoga practice provides an easy transition back into “real life,” in which we can mentally prepare to shift focus from our yoga mats to the next part of our busy day.  

Reasons Students May Skip Savasana

Despite its historical importance and functional uses, there are many reasons why students might feel resistant to Savasana or inclined to skip it altogether. Here are some of the most common justifications I’ve encountered: 

  • Time constraints: Some life circumstances are unavoidable – you might have to pick your kids up from school or make it to work or an appointment on time. Although unfortunate, it’s better to duck out of class early rather than skip yoga entirely! 
  • Physical discomfort: While Savasana intends to relax the whole body, the reality is that lying flat on your back might not be physically comfortable for some students. Newer students need to learn how to modify the pose with props. Similarly, they may not realize that choosing a completely different resting posture is possible.
  • Restlessness or impatience: So many of us these days are unaccustomed to stillness – it feels almost wrong to be lying down, doing nothing. People unaware of Savasana’s benefits may become restless and want to cut out early.
  • Avoidance: For some people, stillness and introspection can bring up difficult emotions – especially those dealing with unresolved trauma. It might not feel safe for someone to face those emotions in the presence of others.
  • Inexperience: New students may need more understanding of the basic format of a yoga class and misinterpret Savasana as signifying the end of a class rather than waiting for the yoga teacher to close the session formally.

These scenarios vary from person to person. All of them are valid, but we can avoid some of these situations by providing more information about the many benefits of Savasana. Once you understand the positive effects you’re missing out on, you might be more inclined to stick it out in Corpse Pose for the time allotted by your yoga class – even if it takes some work or modifications.

Making a Case for Savasana

I’ll let science do the talking rather than bring my yoga teacher training experience bias into the mix. Here are some scientifically backed reasons why Savasana is fantastic for your body and mind. 

  • Aids in physical recovery: One study showed that Savasana lessened the time needed for recovery from physiological stress. So, if you’ve had a particularly strenuous yoga session, Corpse Pose can reduce your recovery time.
  • Supports neuroplasticity: Some yoga teachers say that Savasana allows your body and mind to “integrate” the physical changes that have taken place throughout a yoga session. Scientifically speaking, they’re talking about neuroplasticity – the body’s ability to learn new skills by forming new neural connections. To “lock in” these physical changes, the body needs to be at rest. Savasana is also a time for meditation, which has strong links to neuroplasticity.
  • Boosts mental clarity and concentration: Corpse Pose might imply that you become completely unresponsive in this position. On the contrary, Savasana is an active practice of quieting the mind and concentrating attentively on the present moment. Since many of us have grown used to our attention divided between tasks and devices, this can feel challenging! 
  • Reduces stress and anxiety: Spending time in Corpse Pose can increase the production of GABA, a brain chemical that helps regulate nerve activity. Higher GABA levels can help calm overactive neural circuits responsible for the stress response. 
  • Balances the nervous system: Taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths in Savasana stimulates your vagus nerve, a vital part of your body’s parasympathetic nervous system. You’re signaling to your body that it’s time to enter “rest and digest” mode, ensuring all bodily systems function optimally. 
  • Improves cardiovascular health: Various studies report that spending time in Savasana slows down your heart rate, reducing the adverse effects of hypertension and relieving physiological symptoms of stress.
  • Promotes interoception: Interoception” is a fancy term for “body awareness,” meaning the ability to sense internal signals within the body. When your external body becomes still in Savasana, you can focus more on your inner experience. 

A Yoga Teacher’s Perspective on Savasana

If the science hasn’t convinced you, I’ll offer my perspective as a yoga teacher. 

Regardless of the physical and mental effects, you may practice Savasana at the end of your yoga session out of respect. Not only are you honoring the tradition of a classical yoga practice, but you also show respect for the instructor and other students by not causing disruption or distraction. 

Finally, the number one reason I encourage my students to indulge in Savasana is because you deserve it! We live in a fast-paced, productivity-driven world that often equates stillness with laziness. For this reason, many people have a difficult time letting themselves relax and rest, when actually, that’s what the majority of us need the most! 

If you find yourself caught in the daily grind, struggling to set aside a moment for yourself, let your yoga practice – and Savasana, in particular – be your refuge. Trading ten minutes of your busy schedule for mindful rest can have profound, lasting effects. You’ll feel rejuvenated, clear-headed, and ready to take on the rest of your day.

Closing Advice and Encouragement

Yoga is a highly individualized practice; the same applies to Savasana. From a teaching standpoint, I want to hold space in my class for each student to have their own experience, whether practicing stillness, body awareness, meditation training, or simply providing a quiet time to rest.

If you’re a student who has resisted traditional forms of Savasana, I invite you to explore your options. Experiment with props: a bolster under your knees, a pillow under your head, or even covering yourself with a blanket! You might even change up your body position entirely. If it’s uncomfortable to lie on your back, try rolling onto one side or coming to stillness upright, sitting against a wall. 

For those practicing yoga at home, try putting on a soothing audio track of music or ambient sounds rather than lying in complete silence. Or, queue up a guided meditation app or script you can follow. 

Savasana, as with yoga in general, is about tuning into your personal experience and honoring your individual needs. Like any yoga pose, you can adapt and modify this asana to make it work. Don’t sell yourself short by skipping it altogether! Embrace the positive effects of Savasana to give your body and mind the TLC they deserve.