Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay) & Dr Manasa, B.A.M.S
Shavasana is an asana in which the person performing the Yoga assumes the pose of a corpse or dead body. In this, he lay down like a dead body, without movements, inert. Therefore it is called Shavasana or the Corpse Pose or Dead Body Pose.
Shavasana or Corpse Pose
Shava = Dead body, Corpse
Asana = Pose, Posture
On the outlook, Shavasana looks like an easy pose to do but the performers would agree that it is not as simple as it looks. The doer needs to completely surrender to self, by relaxing the body and mind totally and let the body lose and light, not much focusing on what is happening around. This is really tough to do unless one gets a very good practice and mastery over Shavasana by doing it regularly.
It is usually done at the end of many Yoga postures. This unique Asana instills in the doer a feel of deep healing and totally relaxes the body and mind. This Asana may be practiced when one is extremely tired and worn out. This will enable good relaxation and help the doer to get going and get back to his or her work in quick time.
Shavasana provides good rejuvenation and relaxation.
Points to remember before doing Shavasana
As already said Shavasana provides deep relaxation and also induces good sleep while in the pose. One needs to restrain self from going into the sleep while practicing this asana. When one gets drowsy and is pushed into the sleep he or she should immediately take deeper and faster breaths which will avoid the drowsiness and pull one back from the sleep. Concentration and maintaining the concentration is the key in Shavasana.
Preparation for Shavasana
- Shavasana being a relaxing Asana is usually done at the end of many asanas. Therefore much preparation is not needed for doing Shavasana. The preparation done for the previous asana or asanas is itself the preparation for Shavasana.
- When Shavasana is done individually (independently) it is better do it on empty stomach. In this context it is sensible to have food 4-6 hours before doing Shavasana. On the other hand it shall be done early in the morning too.
- Shavasana can be done either in the morning or evening. When one feels extremely tired by body and mind he or she shall perform Shavasana and get back to business.
Method of doing Shawasana
Positioning for the Asana
- Lie flat on the floor or Yoga mat, on your back. Before lying down, make sure that you do not have any disturbing protocol until you finish off the asana. This means to tell that there should not be any disturbance to the doer during the entire length of time of doing the asana. The best results of Shavasana can be obtained when one lays down on a hard surface.
- Position yourself such that you are comfortably lying down. Do not use any pillows or cushions.
- Now slowly close your eyes.
Performing and getting to the Shavasana Pose
- After comfortably lying down and closing your eyes, place your legs such that they are placed apart comfortably.
- Make sure that your legs are completely relaxed as you keep them apart. Your toes should be facing sidewards.
- Place your arms alongside your body, slightly apart from the torso. Leave your palms open, facing upwards.
- Relax and slowly draw (focus, concentrate) your attention to each and every part of your body. Start concentrating and paying attention beginning from your toes, upwards.
- As you do this, breathe slowly and deeply. The combined effect of all these will impart a deep relaxation. Now you have set your body in a mode of deep relaxation. In the process, make sure you do not fall asleep. Concentrate on your concentration. As already mentioned if you feel a sense of entering deep sleep quickly start deep and rapid breathing. Concentrating on breathing will also avoid you from sleeping.
- Breathe slowly, yet deeply. Allow your body to relax completely. You may experience that your body will be energized as you breathe in. As you breathe out, your body will calm down. Just focus on yourself and your body. Forget all works and priorities. Let go and surrender to self.
Release from the asana and coming back to the point of start
- Keep yourself in Shavasana for 10-12 minutes. When you feel that your body is relaxed and refreshed, slowly roll on to one side. Don’t open your eyes yet.
- Stay in this lateral position for about 1 minute or so.
- Slowly wake up, and sit up in Sukhasana.
- Take few deep breaths.
- Come to alertness and slowly start gaining the awareness of your surroundings.
- Open your eyes.
You have now completed one cycle of Shavasana.
While spreading or extending the legs in the asana, it is important to release the heads of femur or thigh bones so that the groin softens. This is the most difficult part of Shavasana and many would not be comfortably doing it. If there is no relaxation of groin in this asana it could restrict proper breathing, and thus creates lot of tension in the body. To combat this inconvenience, a small adjustment needs to be made. One should place five kilogram weights on their thighs at the groin crease and then imagine the heads of the thigh bone pressed down because of the weight.
Advanced pose (variation of Shavasana)
Adjustments to rest the shoulders on the ground – While doing Shavasana, your shoulders should rest on the floor. This will not be possible if you have tightness in your shoulders, chest or back. This will strain your neck. In this case, elevate your head slightly and bring it to the same level as that of your neck. This elevation will help soften the back of your neck. Now put a folded blanket beneath your head such that it reaches and ends at the top of your shoulders.
Elevation of Leg – You can elevate your leg while doing Shavasana or corpse pose if the muscles of your lower back or Hamstring muscles (muscles on the back of your thighs) are tight enough to extend your limbs. You can do the same adjustment if you have low back pain or hip joint pain while doing the asana. You can place a bolster right under your knees. Alternatively you can place a folded or stacked blanket beneath your knees.
Purva, Paschat Asanas
Purva Asanas (Preparatory Asanas)
Shavasana should be done after you are done with all the Asanas and or Pranayamas. Shavasana becomes a Pashcat Asana for many (almost) asanas.
Paschat Asanas (Post-Shavasana Poses)
Sukhasana or Easy Pose is the follow up pose of Shavasana.
What time should be spent in the pose while doing Shavasana?
One can stay in Shavasana or Corpse Pose for 10-12 minutes at a stretch.
Health Benefits of Shavasana
Below mentioned are the benefits of Shavasana –
- Shavasana relaxes refreshes and rejuvenates the body. It replenishes the entire system. It provides good climax to your tiresome workouts and Asanas. It is a perfect sync and buffer between your exercises and daily activities. It relieves tiredness and enables you to push yourself back to work in quick time.
- Shavasana brings the body to a state of deep meditation since the asana relaxes the body completely. The tranquility thus produced helps in repair of cells and tissues.
- The asana also helps in relieving stress owing to the relaxation and rejuvenation it bestows on the whole system.
- It helps in increasing energy levels in the body. The asana forms the fastest, safest and most effective way to gain energy instantly. It boosts the whole system with extreme energy and triggers proper functioning and productivity of cells, tissues and organs.
- It improves memory and concentration. The focus, memory and concentration are fortified due to meditative condition into which Shavasana leads the performer into. The mind and its functions are also improved when this asana is practiced regularly. This happens because we focus and concentrate on each and every part of our body while performing Shavasana, forgetting and ignoring our surroundings and happenings therein.
- Shavasana is a good remedy for those suffering from hypertension (high BP) and anxiety related disorders. Since the body relaxes and calms down following Shavasana, the blood pressure too drops and comes to normal. This can be achieved on constant practice. This in turn helps in relaxing the heart. As a result of all these events one gets devoid of anxiety because the mind calms and settles down due to Shavasana and meditation effect which is a part of Shavasana.
- Shavasana relieves insomnia and depression.
- Shavasana is a good remedy for neurological problems, asthma, indigestion, constipation and diabetes.
Effect of Shavasana on Doshas, Dhatus and Malas
Effect on Doshas
Effect of Shavasana on Doshas and Subtypes
Shavasana balances the Tridoshas. Mainly Shavasana calms the vitiated Vata. It generates Utsaha (enthusiasm and energy) Uchwasa-Nishwasa (balances the breathing mechanism and provides good oxygenation to the body), Chesta (enables the body movements by rejuvenating and relaxing the body muscles) and Akshanam Patava (calms the senses and their perception).
Shavasana calms the Prana Vayu and balances its functions. It controls the functions of the brain and nerves. The Prana Vayu balanced by Shavasana commands and controls Buddhi (intellect), Hridaya (heart and circulation), Indriya (sense organs and perception) and Chitta (brain and its activities). It also controls the Nishwasa (breathing patterns and circulation of oxygenation in the body) and saturates the body with oxygen which in turn is the source of all energy.
Shavasana also soothes and balances the Udana Vayu. The Udana Vayu thus balanced by Shavasana controls and coordinates in an extremely good way the Vak Pravritti (speech), Prayatna (efforts), Urja (energy), Bala (strength and energy), Varna (color and complexion) and Smriti (memory process).
Shavasana coordinates the Prana-Udana axis and maintains the equilibrium and smooth functioning of the body in terms of input and output of elements mainly air and food uninterruptedly.
Effect on Dhatus
Effect of Shavasana on Dhatus –
Shavasana strengthens and relaxes the Mamsa Dhatu i.e. muscle tissue and enables their smooth movements.
Shavasana, what it promises!
Shavasana is a master relaxer. It provides ultimate and unparalleled relaxation of body and mind. It is also a good exercise to the body and mind and also a diet to the thoughts.
Shavasana helps in resetting, rebooting and regrouping of your body components and induces fresh energy in the system. It is handy especially in conditions where you have had a strenuous workout which involves stretching, contracting, twisting and inverting of your muscles. If it is done immediately after workouts, it reorganizes the structure and muscles of the body, calms the soft tissues and relaxes the body and mind. It is a very good asana to relieve body stress, especially the stress in the muscles.
It helps in balancing the neuromuscular conduction and thus integrates the electrical system of the body.
Since we concentrate on our body and mind while doing Shavasana, the asana imparts a sense of deep awareness of your body and mind. With practice, you become extremely aware of each breathe you take and sense all activities in your body.
Shavasana provides a good warm up at the beginning, relaxation during the act and an integration phase at the end wherein the effects of the exercise are allowed to seep into the body and mind providing ultimate relaxation. It is a perfect climax to a satisfying workout.
Impact on Chakras
Shavasana produces a calming effect on all the Chakras and enables them to function properly. Shavasana has its best soothing effect on the higher Chakras i.e. Ajna Chakra and Sahasrara Chakra. The calming effect on these Chakras brings total relaxation of body and mind and takes us into Trans.
Who should not do? (Contraindications and precautions for doing Shavasana)
Shavasana is one of the safest Asanas and can be practiced by anyone and everyone.
Pregnant women should rest their head and chest on a bolster for comfort while performing Shavasana.
Just Before Finish
Shavasana is one of the finishing poses for many asanas, but by itself it provides a new beginning to the body and mind and enables them to kick start into the activities of the day with fresh energy and rejuvenation. It is the best asana to relax the body and mind and provide tranquility. Therefore relax yourself with Shavasana!
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