Yoga Posture Guide - The Corpse Pose (Shava-asana)

The Corpse Pose (Shava-asana)

The Corpse Pose (Shava-asana) Translation

The Sanskrit word shava means corpse hence this is the Corpse. The shava-asana is also known as the mrta-asana.
Pronunciation:  sha-vah-sa-na  
Difficulty:  (1)      

While many consider this a simple posture at first, its simplicity eventually proves to be deceiving. The goal of the shava-asana is for the body and mind to be perfectly still and relaxed. Not only should the body be motionless and at ease, but the mind as well should be quiet, like the surface of a still lake. The result will be a deep and stable relaxation that will extend into your meditation or be felt through the activities of your daily circumstances.  

It goes without saying that the shava-asana will take some time to perfect. You will find the simple exercise of focusing your attention on each part of your body and consciously directing the breath there to be a great help with this posture. 

There are two common obstacles that can prevent you from fully benefitting from this posture: sleepiness and a restless mind. If find yourself getting drowsy while in the shava-asana increase the rate and depth of your breathing. If your mind is restless or wondering focus your attention on all of the bodily sensations you're experiencing. Bring your mind to the sensation of the floor beneath you or on the rhythm of your breath.  

While practicing your Yoga-asana routine you should always begin and end each session with the shavaasana. 

Benefits of the Corpse Pose (Shavasana)

  • This posture brings a deep, meditative state of rest, which may help in the repair of tissues and cells, and in releasing stress. It also gives time for the yoga workout to sink in at a deeper level.
  • This posture leaves you in a state of rejuvenation. It is the perfect way to end a yoga session, particularly if it has been a fast-paced one.
  • It helps reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia.
  • This is an excellent way to ground the body and reduce the Vata dosha (imbalance of the air element) in the body.

Instructions to the Corpse Pose Translation (Shava-asana)

  1. Lie flat on your back with your legs together but not touching, and your arms close to the body with the palms facing up. 
  2. Keep your eyes gently closed with the facial muscles relaxed and breath deeply and slowly through the nostrils. 
  3. Starting at the top of the head and working your way down to the feet, bring your attention to each part of your body, consciously relaxing it before proceeding on to the next. 
  4. Remain in the shava-asana for between 3 and 5 minutes or longer. If you become sleepy while in the shava-asana begin to breath a bit faster and deeper. 

Duration/Repetitions: We recommend that you begin your period of yoga-asana practice with at least 3-5 minutes of shava-asana. Return to it periodically thought your posture session to relax and rejuvenate the body/mind and then conclude your session with at least 3-5 minutes more.  

Common Challenges of the Corpse Pose (Shava-asana)

This simple-sounding pose is more difficult than you might realize. The body can cause distractions that make it a challenge. Your body might feel cold, itchy, or unsettled. Shavasana occurs at the end of the yoga practice to remedy this obstacle.

By the time you’ve completed asanas, or postures, your body and mind should be tired enough to be able to relax sufficiently for Shavasana. Think of it like taking your dog to the park or your kid to Disneyland—the drive home is often the quietest and calmest of the day.

Even if your body is amenable to the rest, your mind can get in the way. Some common thoughts that pop up during Shavasana:
  • How much longer will we be here?
  • Did that guy just snore? That’s embarrassing.
  • I hope I didn’t just snore.
  • What am I making for dinner when I get home?
  • Is this relationship really working out?
  • I’m hungry.
  • What’s my life all about, anyway?
  • I smell like sweat.
  • Did I remember to pay the meter?
  • Maybe I should quit my job.
It’s normal for the mind to try to resist this deep relaxation. Shavasana is the ultimate act of conscious surrender. It takes practice and patience to surrender easily.

With the world moving so quickly, cultivating the art of Shavasana is more valuable than ever. Our society tends to place greater value on speed and productivity; learning how to do nothing is a skill that can help you become more productive when you need to be.

Shavasana helps us learn how to completely surrender, stop fighting the clock, and make space for peace and harmony to fill the soul. Shavasana is like turning off your computer when it’s acting up. Once you reboot it, the computer often has greater functionality.

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