Why Savasana Is So Important in Yoga Classes
Those moments of stillness provide huge benefits for your body.
By Catherine Hopkinson•
Peloton yoga classes are all so different, from the instructors’ styles to the musical choices to the areas of focus, that you might be hard-pressed to think of one common factor in all of them. But here’s one similarity in everyone’s classes: All the instructors advise that if you have an extra 5, 10 or even 15 minutes, you should stay in savasana for that length of time. Why?
Let’s back up a little. For the uninitiated, “savasana” translates from Sanskrit to “corpse pose,” aka final resting pose, in which the practitioner lies flat on their back with feet splayed out, arms extended at a slight angle from the body and palms facing up. The idea is to breathe naturally and relax the mind and body after what may have been a challenging physical practice.
But in our rise-and-grind culture, not everyone appreciates the opportunity to just lie still for a few minutes. Almost anyone who’s ever attended an in-studio yoga class knows the distraction of a fellow student getting up to scoot out of class early.
That’s a missed opportunity, says Peloton instructor Kirra Michel. “I find that the people who tend to skip savasana usually need it the most,” she says. “A lot of the time, it's the busy bodies who have trouble being still. Stillness can be the medicine to burnout and stress. I believe you are missing out on the sweetest part of the practice when you skip savasana!”
What actually happens in the body when you’re in savasana? “Within the stillness of the body in savasana, the central nervous system shifts towards the down regulation, the parasympathetic nervous system. This creates a sense of calmness, which helps the body to relax and restore,” Kirra explains. “A longer savasana can allow this to fully take place in the body. It also can assist practitioners into finding a deeper meditative mind state, or at least drop some of the constant mind chatter.”
Peloton Member Kaitlynn M. is a perfect example of this idea. She says, “I do yoga to really take time to listen to and feel my body. I like to spend extra time in savasana because it helps me release any last stress and lets me hold on to that elevated mind-body connection for longer. If I take a short savasana, I feel more jolted and still feel stretched but lose some of that connection.”
Peloton Member Nicole K. has her own strategy for getting the most out of savasana. “I usually remain in savasana longer because at the beginning of the practice, I set an intention for the class. Once the class is over, I like to revisit that intention, whether it was releasing stress or working on balance. Then I take a moment to make a life connection,” she explains. “So if the intention was working on flexibility, then I think about how I can be more flexible in my work life and what that may look like, as in listening closer to others’ ideas and being willing to pivot and try something new. Or how I can be more flexible in my home life and what that could look like.”
Others aren’t quite so active in their final resting pose. Peloton Member Stephanie G. almost always stays longer in savasana. “It is my time at the end to just ‘be.’ To be still, yet present. To not yet have to rejoin the rest of my day,” she says. “It is an important part of my practice.”
If you’ve never tried doing an extended savasana, Kirra has a suggestion. “At first, if you’re a busy body, the thought of savasana, or meditation in general, might sound excruciating and impossible,” she says. “Give it time. Notice the resistance, relax the body and do it anyway.”
It’s kind of like getting back into fitness after a break, she adds: “You know that once you get back into routine, you start to enjoy it again and it may even become your favorite part of practice! That's how it was for me.”