How to do Shavasana
Shava means corpse and asana means pose. Shavasana means corpse pose.
This is a very important pose and one that is often over looked in modern yoga institutes. Traditionally Shavasana is always practiced after every yoga session. It usually ends the practice. Shavasana may look deceptively simple, but for most, it is the most difficult pose to do correctly.
Shavasana is particularly difficult because of the nature of our fast paced lives. We are afraid to stop. Afraid to be still for the fact that we might crash if we don’t keep up the pace. We fear what we might observe or experience if we look to deeply, we might not be comfortable to confront these things.
The very representation of Shavasana as the Corpse Pose symbolizes death. Death and rebirth. The full circle of life, the full circle of a yoga practice.
Humans, by their very nature have been fascinated with death from the very beginning of man kind. They have revered it, feared it, worshipped it, tried to avoid it, prepared for it investigated it and mystisised it. Some people have dedicated their lives to discovering its mysteries.
Shavasana is practiced lying on the back with the arms and legs slightly away from the centre line of the body. The palms are facing upwards, feet and toes rolling outwards. The head is neutral, with the eyes closed and the face relaxed. The whole body should be relaxed and the breathing should be natural. The practitioner should be observant in this state. Watching the breath, watching the thoughts but being separate from these things. Not becoming obsorbed in dreaming or sleep. Or allowing themselves to be distracted by the mind, which may try to call for attention with an itch or a twitch or distracting thoughts. The practitioner must remain totally still.
The benefits of Shavasana:
Shavasana is an incredibly important element to any yoga practice. Shavasana is not simply sleeping or resting. It is a time for the body, energy and mind to absorb and process the information received during a yoga practice. It resets the body both physically and energetically.
Some of the benefits:
- Shavasana relaxes the entire body.
- Calms the mind improveing mental health.
- Releases stress, fatigue, depression and anxiety.
- Improves concentration.
- Helps aleviate insomnia.
- Relaxes the muscles.
The myth behind the asana:
There was a great King of India, Prikshit Maharaj. Prikshit was renowned as being a good king who ruled with fairness and compassion.
One day he was riding in the woods and came upon the home of a Rishi/Saint, he was thirsty so he stopped to ask for water.
Samika Rishi was deep in meditation and did not respond to the King. The King became annoyed and threw a dead snake on The Rishi.
The Rishis son returned just at that moment and whitnessing this insult he cursed the King to die in seven days.
Samika Rishi awoke from his meditation and scolded the boy for reacting this way for a small insult. However, there was nothing to be done now that the curse had been set. There was no way to reverse it and save the King.
King Prikshit waisted no time with seven days to live, he gave up his throne and travelled to the sacred river Ganges.
There the King met a group of mystics who were discussing spirituality. The King asked them to teach him about Yoga.
The Youngest Sage of only sixteen years who was already an enlightened master taught the King for seven days. The Sage would often stop to ask the King if he would stop to eat or drink. The King replied that his hunger and thirst were satisfied by the Divine Knowledge he was recieveing.
On the Seventh day the King became enlightened and welcomed his death with open arms.
The King, in understanding his mortality was in a sense very fortunate. He new exactly when he would die and therefore did not waste a single second. He also chose to spend his time understanding the mysteries of life and death. Finally stepping unfearingly into the unknown when he died.
What can we learn from Shavasana?
The understanding of our own mortality in each moment and in our life time is not something to be sacred of or something morbid. By understanding the process of death we can understand life and truly live in the present moment. Which is what yoga is all about.
During each yoga class the yogi is born, lives and dies symbolically. Surrendering to the process and learning, embracing the unknown.
Absorbing the new knowledge and clearing out the old. Helping us to move forward in the most effective way, making us stronger to embrace life and all its ups and downs. All the while coming closer to our higher selves and the cosmos.
Coming full circle.