Extended Savasana – Yoga for Relaxation
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, hopefully you’re familiar with savasana – the lying down corpse-pose portion at the end of class. This rest feels nice after a long class, but did you know you can practice an extended savasana outside of the yoga studio? Indeed, many classes only feature a few minutes of savasana, if at all. It takes the body and mind awhile to fully relax, up to 15 minutes for many people.
Benefits of Savasana
Savasana has great benefits, including helping to relieve stress and tension, calming the brain, relaxing the body, and helping to lower blood pressure.*
A daily practice of a long savasana is recommended, but that might be difficult to fit into your regular schedule. If you’re practicing yoga at home, you could extend your practice to include a longer savansana at the end. Another way to incorporate extended savasana is to take the time for it when you notice you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed, stressed, busy, or exhausted. These are times when your mind and body especially need a rest and it can be very beneficial to take even a 15-minute savasana.
Stages of Savasana
There are three stages the body goes through during an extended savasana practice: the first being relaxation, next, a dimming awareness of thoughts and sounds, and lastly, completely letting go of the mind and outside world.
It can take up to 15 minutes for the body to fully and deeply relax (which is why shorter savasanas aren’t nearly as effective, since we’re usually only given a few minutes of relaxation at the end of class). In this first stage, the mind is still active and you might find it hard to lie still. As time passes in this pose, the breath and brain waves gradually slow down while the blood pressure drops. Your body and mind will start to unwind during this stage.
In the next stage, your awareness of the outside world starts to dim. Sounds won’t disturb you, distractions drift further away, and you’ll disconnect from your thoughts. Some teachers describe this stage as a form of surrender.
The last stage is where the mind completely lets go. You’ll feel disconnected from the outside world, brain waves will slow to their lowest frequency, and you’ll feel yourself in a state of groundlessness.
It is recommended to let yourself fall into at least the second stage. The third stage is even more difficult to reach and, as such, is a nice bonus to your practice when it does happen.
Give yourself at least 15 minutes for the body to deeply relax, and then work your way up to 30-minute sessions.
Recommended props include a timer, blankets, pillow, eye cushion, warm socks and other comfy clothes, and a mat if practicing on a hard surface. Most of these are for comfort but aren’t necessary for savasana. However, because you’ll be in savasana for an extended period of time, they are recommended to make the experience more pleasant!
Set yourself up in a comfortable savasana, perhaps with a rolled-up blanket underneath your knees and a pillow or another blanket under the neck. It’s also nice to have a third blanket to cover up with in case you get cold. The eye cushion helps to tune out any bright or distracting lights. It might take a few minutes of rearranging props to really get comfortable, but make sure to take the time to do so.
Start by setting your timer for 15 minutes, eventually working your way up to more.
Once comfortable, take 10-20 deep, steady breaths. Slowly increase the length of your inhales and exhales.
Then release your breath work and let go of any tension left in the body as you feel your body sink further into the floor. As is common to some meditation styles, let your thoughts roll across your mind without connecting to or judging any of them.
After awhile, you might feel yourself flow through the stages described above. If you’re new to the practice, you might not. And that’s ok! It takes time to let your mind and body fully relax, especially when you’re not used to doing so.
When you hear your timer, start to bring your mind and body back to awareness by taking a few deep breaths in and out. Bring some gentle movement back into the body by wiggling your fingers and toes, rolling your wrists and ankles, moving your arms and legs, and nodding your head slowly from side to side. Bring your knees into your chest, roll to one side, and stay here for a few breaths (more if prone to dizziness). Slowly push yourself up to a seat.
It can be nice to stay here in a comfortable seat for a little bit longer. Notice any mental or physical changes in yourself, and enjoy the lingering feeling of calm and contentment.
Practice with me!
*Check out this meta-analysis studying the effects of yoga on blood pressure where yoga was found to be associated with a ‘modest but significant reduction in blood pressure’ among people with pre-hypertension or hypertension.
If you’re interested in learning more about the different types of brain waves and various studies done on the effects of yoga on brain waves, check out this article from Psychology Today:
Please note that practicing savasana on your back is not recommended during pregnancy. Instead, it is common to set up savasana by laying on the left side and support with props. Please see this article for more information:
This article is not intended to be medical advice, please see your doctor for more information about yoga, yoga with high blood pressure, and yoga during pregnancy.
If you’re looking for more relaxing yoga, check out my yoga flow to unwind after work!