Shavasana—the pose that most people know as the ‘laying down’ pose at the end of a yoga class— seems so simple but is probably one of the most difficult poses to do.
It is a pose that induces both physical and mental relaxation, and helps us to develop awareness and focus. Being a pose of total relaxation is what makes shavasana difficult. Due to stresses throughout the day, people might not realise they are holding onto tensions within their bodies or their ‘monkey minds’ start leaping ahead to what they need to do next instead of relishing the peace of the pose!
Introducing Shavasana in September
Earlier this year, I participated in the Yoga Bloom Savasana Challenge, 15 minutes of shavasana for 30 days in a row. Initially I found it difficult—my monkey mind ran wild—but by the end of the month I felt more relaxed and settled.
The challenge was held in the Northern Winter and those participating were encouraged to “get out of your mid-winter blahs and get into a stress-free mindset to recharge your system”. I loved the idea so much I wanted to arrange something similar for yogis in the Southern Hemisphere!
Hence Shavasana in September, 30 days of shavasana to shake off the southern Winter blues and welcome in the Spring.
What to do
- Each day in September, get into shavasana and stay there for at least 5 minutes. Feel free to stay there longer and, if you can spare the time, aim for longer sessions by the end of the month.
Why only 5 minutes instead of 15 as in the original challenge? People struggle to find time in our switched-on, fast-paced world and, in my experience, it can be difficult to find 15 minutes. Five minutes is short enough to find time to spare and five minutes relaxation is better than none.
- If you miss a day, make up for it the following day by doing an additional session or a longer session.
- Minutes laying in bed before getting up or going to sleep do not count (and I must admit, I have been tempted to count them in previous challenges!)
The idea is to have a distinct break, a period where you consciously stop and relax.
Why do shavasana every day?
Take the opportunity to find a small slice of the day to focus and nourish yourself.
De-stress, re-energise and re-focus.
When should I do shavasana?
Come into shavasana at any time of the day! It is most beneficial when you are physically or mentally tired.
Consider doing shavasana:
- During a break between activities to re-energise
For example, just after you come home from work or just before you start picking the children up from school.
- Before a meditation session or going to bed to help clear and relax your mind
To prepare yourself for the practice:
- Set yourself up in a room that is quiet and not brightly lit.
- Set an alarm only if you are pushed for time.
Because an alarm can be a harsh way to end, try to find a meditation timer that has a less intrusive chime. There are meditation timers available online and as smart phone apps.
- Ensure that you have bolsters, cushions and blankets available to support your body and keep you warm. Also consider an eye pillow or light towel to cover your eyes and reduce light and distractions.
- Lay down on your back.
- Your feet are about hip width apart and are falling out naturally to the sides
- Your arms are straight and laying beside your body with the palms face up
- Your spine is long and straight
To achieve a long, straight spine, you might need to do one or more of the following:
- Place cushions or blankets under your thighs and knees to allow your lower back to relax onto the floor.
- Tuck your chin towards your chest to lengthen the back of the neck.
- Place a cushion under your head to support the neck and head.
Update: See also Shavasana - The Pose, Modifications and Alternatives for more detailed instructions, photos and additional links.
Your time starts now!
What do you do once you are in shavasana?
- Scan your body and check that you are relaxed.
Focus on any tight muscles, breathe into them and let the tension seep away with the out breath.
- Focus on your breath and feel the sensation of it flowing in and out.
- Help focus your mind by counting your breaths.
Start at 27 and count each breath backwards. If you lose count or reach zero, start again from 27.
Some sessions you might be able to complete all steps, other sessions only 1 or 2 steps. Just do what you can in the time that you have!
Ready to relax???
(I'm also using the hashtag #ShvSep on Twitter and Instagram.)
- In this post I have used the phonetic spelling of shavasana that is adopted in the Satyananda texts, except when citing other articles where the alternative spelling savasana is used.
- The date in Social Workout is based on USA time zones. Depending on what time we log in, those of us living in time zones ahead of the USA can find Social Workout showing a day earlier that the day in our time zone. So, I've set up the Shavasana in September challenge to start 31 August to let us start tracking.