Your ultimate guide to perfect savasana bliss: savasana benefits, savasana steps, and a guided savasana.
Don’t you just love savasana? I sure do. It’s the blissful gem that crowns every yoga session with pure relaxation for our body-mind-spirit system. Humble and powerful at the same time, it doesn’t require movement, flexibility, strength or balance. But while this can make it seem the easiest pose in the whole yoga system, that’s actually not true. In fact, if we do it in a way that reaps all the savasana benefits, it can prove to be one of the most challenging.
That’s why today I’m dedicating a whole post to this vital pose. Specifically, I’m sharing savasana steps you can follow to ensure you’re getting all this pose has to offer. Better yet, I’ve created a guided savasana you can use for your home yoga practice. You can find it at the end of this post. (After all, isn’t having someone take you through savasana one of the best parts of a yoga class?)
When you know the goals you’re aiming to reach, and the steps that can get you there, you’ve got the roadmap you need to master this pose. A guided savasana just makes it easier. Whether you want to guide yourself through the steps, or use my guided version to walk you through them, you’re sure to arrive at savasana bliss.
What’s the point of savasana?
At first glance, it can look like it’s just an opportunity to rest at the end of our yoga workout. And of course, it is that. But it’s also so much more.
When practiced intentionally, savasana offers benefits that go well beyond what we might gain from simply taking some time to lie flat on the floor. It’s a deeply restorative process that can reset patterns in our muscles, nervous system, and mind. And it culminates the transformative processes initiated throughout all the preceding asanas, giving them time to take hold before we jump back into our daily routines.
Savasana Benefits: Progressive Muscle Relaxation
For starters, following the savasana steps, or using my guided savasana, takes you through a progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). Which means, savasana offers all the same benefits PMR does. These include:
- deep relaxation
- stress management
- anxiety management
- insomnia relief
- reduced symptoms of chronic pain
- improved digestion
- lowered blood pressure
How does it accomplish all of this?
Savasana’s deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation activate our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS is the conductor for our rest and digest functions, which means it plays an important role in all the benefits listed above. Furthermore, as we progressively bring attention to and relax all our muscles, we’re learning to become more aware of our internal states. More importantly, we’re cultivating the capacity to consciously shift those states.
Over time, this can help us recognize when our body is having a stress response, holding tension, or generating anxious energy throughout the ordinary course of our day. With this awareness, we can get more actively involved in reestablishing inner states of calm and ease. For example, we can breathe more deeply, practice mindfulness, or stretch or move our body. We can begin to take control of – and eventually master – the inner dynamics of our body-mind-spirit system.
Savasana Benefits: The Reset
As we move through a sequence of yoga asanas, we’re putting our body into positions intended to strengthen, stretch, open and compress all the different parts of our body. Combined with breathwork, these poses activate, tone, and calm our nervous system. This brings balance to our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, creating equilibrium.
Likewise, moving our body through yoga postures stimulates parts of our endocrine system (glands), helping to optimize our hormone levels. And by strengthening and stretching our muscles, we create an ideal state for them to be able to relax and release any tension they may be holding onto.
In other words, we initiate a LOT of change in our whole system when we practice yoga poses. At the end, when we rest into the stillness of savasana, we’re giving our body time to integrate all this change.
Savasana & Stillness Of Mind
However, when I say stillness, I’m not just referring to the body. The full benefits of savasana are gained when we follow through with all the savasana steps, which includes bringing our mind to stillness. Why is that important?
Because the mind can have a significant impact on the body – altering our nervous system and triggering hormonal releases in our endocrine system. And because the goal of yoga isn’t just to attain physical health. Ultimately, it seeks to create inner states of harmony, equanimity, peace of mind, and joy of spirit.
The reality is, we can lie in physical stillness while our minds remain quite active. And this mental activity can counteract all the work we just did to establish balance and harmony in our bodily systems. For example, worrying and anxious thoughts can send our endocrine and sympathetic nervous systems into varying degrees of fight-flight response. Likewise, angry thoughts can create big changes in our physical state – increasing testosterone, arterial tension, and heart rate, while decreasing cortisol and overstimulating the left hemisphere of the brain. And of course, stressful thoughts can tense our muscles.
Savasana is intended to sustain our body and mind in a state of harmony. Because the body can alter the mind and vice versa, we use the savasana steps to bring both the body and mind to stillness. In this way, we receive all the benefits not only of savasana, but of our whole yoga practice.
Savasana Benefits: Turning Inward
Last but not least of the savasana benefits, we have the turning inward.
As we follow the savasana steps, we facilitate the beginning of pratyahara (sensory withdrawal). We set the stage for meditation, which ideally follows. But even if we don’t move on to a meditation practice, the deep, inward focus we experience in savasana supports us in developing self-awareness and establishing inner peace.
Whether you’re using my guided savasana or leading yourself through it, the process of savasana folds your awareness deeply inward. You become more and more aware of what’s happening in your body as you notice and relax each part of your body. Less distracted by your surroundings, and whatever might be happening in your life off the yoga mat, you drop into the present moment. Not only does this prepare you for a meditation practice, but it’s a kind of meditative state in its own right.
Once you’ve attended to all the parts of your body, the task becomes simply witnessing your breath and your mind’s activity. Just as in meditation practice, savasana challenges you to remain still, even when thoughts arise. Your mind may drift to what happened earlier in the day, yesterday, or even ten years ago. It may remind you of all the things you still need to do, stirring impatience or a sense of urgency to get up and get busy. Or, it may grow increasingly distracted by sounds or smells in your environment. Yet, you keep bringing it back to noticing your breath and your body in the present moment.
In doing this, you’re training your body and mind in the art of stillness. And the result over time is self awareness and self mastery – the kind that’s familiar with inner peace and can hold your body and mind steady.
It’s important to know the aim of savasana, which is all those powerful savasana benefits we just discussed. After all, if you don’t know where you’re trying to go, it’s much harder to find your way there. But when you follow the savasana steps below, your journey becomes even easier.
Here’s how to do it:
Enter savasana by lying down – flat on your back, legs about 18 inches apart, feet dropped outward, and arms to your sides with palms turned up.
- Take a deep breath in, expanding your belly as you fill your lungs. Exhale through your mouth with a sigh.
- Bring awareness to your right leg, just noticing it.
- Inhale as you lift your leg about a foot from the ground. Tense your leg and foot muscles, pointing your toes. Hold your breath and the tension a few moments.
- Release your breath and your leg, letting your leg drop to the floor.
- Shake your leg a little. Then, relax it. Notice how your leg feels now that it’s relaxed.
- Repeat this process with your left leg, and then each of your arms.
- Bring awareness to your pelvic region. Inhale and squeeze your buttocks, lifting it from the floor. Hold. As you exhale, release your bottom to the floor.
- Bring awareness to your shoulders. As you inhale, draw them up and forward. Hold your breath and this position a few moments. Exhale and release your shoulders to the floor.
- Notice your head. Then move it side to side a few times. Tilt it up and down (chin up/down) a few times. Bring it to rest at center.
- Open your mouth as wide as you can several times. Move your lower jaw from side to side.
- Suck your cheeks in, pursing your lips, and release quickly with a smack. Repeat.
- Squeeze your eyes shut and scrunch up your face. Release and repeat.
- Breathe deeply, expanding your belly and then your chest. Exhale quickly with a sigh. Repeat.
Now that you’ve tensed and relaxed your whole body, let it come to rest. Check in with each part of your body, noticing if there are any parts still holding onto some tension. If so, hold that body part in awareness, and gently give it permission to let go and relax.
Let The Ground Hold You
Feel the sensations of the ground beneath you. Notice all the places where your body is contacting the ground. Release the full weight of your body into that support, trusting it to hold you. Notice how it feels to be supported.
And for the remainder of your time in savasana, simply be a witness to the movement of your breath and any sensations in your body. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them without allowing them to carry you away from what’s happening in the present moment. Keep coming back to your breath and your body. Remind yourself, this is your time to be still. To soak up all the benefits of savasana and your whole yoga practice.
With the steady ground holding you from beneath, let go of the need to do or move – whether physically or mentally – and rest into your ground of being.
Having someone else guide us through the savasana process can be sublime. We don’t have to think about anything. All we have to do is follow along. This can make it easier to let go of our over-thinking, analytical mind and enter the space of deep self-awareness and inner stillness. Especially on days when our mind is extra active.
For a variety of reasons, I practice yoga almost exclusively at home. And without question, what I miss most about practicing in a class setting is the guided savasana at the end. That’s why I thought it would be nice to create a guided savasana for home use. If like me, you enjoy having someone guide you through it, please feel free to use this one any time you’re practicing at home. I put a link to it at the top of the page for ease of access when you come back.
Note: This guided savasana can also be used for deep relaxation, destressing, and preparing for a good night’s sleep anytime you need it – not just at the end of your yoga practice.
It can be so tempting to skimp on savasana, even when we love it. Maybe we feel rushed because we don’t have a lot of time, or we’ve got something important we need to do. We might feel extra impatient or antsy, for a variety of reasons. Or, maybe we tend toward preferring the more active and physically challenging aspects of our yoga practice. So we devote only enough time to savasana to feel rested. Whatever the reason may be, if we’re not giving our self the full gift of savasana, we’re missing out.
I hope this post has inspired you to take your time in savasana. To fully explore and reap the benefits of savasana, as you follow through with all the steps. Savasana is a bridge between the more physical portion of our practice and the more mental and spiritual aspects. It seals-in the changes we make to our whole system during the more active asanas, helping us carry what we gain on the mat into our daily life more effectively.
There’s so much going on in this little unassuming pose. We just have to give it our time and attention to reap the rewards.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with savasana. Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. And if you want a perfectly balanced asana practice you can do at home with my guided savasana, you can find my absolute favorite, gentle flow yoga sequence here.
Many blessings for a fruitful practice! Namaste.