Ahhhh….savasana. The prize at the end of every yoga-asana class. Sometimes referred to as adult nap time, adult time out, or chillaxin’. Maybe not that last one exactly, but savasana has definitely inspired a meme or two.
You can always tell the newbies or the non-yogi-types: they roll up their mats and leave when everyone else is hunkering down for the next five to ten minutes. Poor souls. They’re literally missing the best part.
Give the gift, teach savasana
What’s worse than a person who walks out right at savasana?
The teacher who skips it altogether.
Don’t be the yoga teacher who lessens the importance of savasana (pronounced sha-VAHS-ah-nah) by not doing it, or eliminating it because you ran short on time. Final relaxation, as it’s also called, provides very real benefits to those who don’t skip it.
Some benefits include:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Relieves stress and calms the mind
- Reduces headaches, insomnia, and fatigue
- Returns the body’s process to normal
- Generally improves other physiological functions
Corpse pose teaches more than relaxation though. In a culture that values busy-ness and doing over being, the time you give for savasana may be the only time your participants are quiet and present.
How to teach savasana
The final stage in a yoga sequence calls for savasana and the minimum time recommend to stay in corpse pose is five minutes. Savasana allows your participants to completely relax, and completes the preparation needed for meditation.
Some cues I like to use when I’m guiding participants into final resting pose:
- Lie on the ground flat, “like a corpse.”
- Allow your feet to flop out and your legs to relax.
- Your palms face up to the ceiling with your fingers curling naturally.
- Let your shoulders relax and roll toward the ground.
- Release the tension in your jaw, allowing your tongue to drop from the roof of your mouth.
- Be comfortable, adjust until you feel you can completely relax.
For those who have low back issues, you can have them bend their knees and keep their feet flat on the floor. If you have them, you can also put a bolster underneath their knees. The goal of savasana is to be comfortable so you can relax completely even if you need to take a different position.
Make Savasana Special
Creating the right atmosphere goes a long way to encouraging participants to stay for savasana as well as
bribing inspiring them to return.
One tip I give new yoga teachers when learning how to teach savasana is to come up with their own secret sauce: a small ritual or routine that leaves a lasting impression.
Some ideas for your secret sauce:
- Dim or turn off the lights in the room completely
- Play relaxing/soft instrumental music
- Read an affirmation, quote, or a tell a story
- Lead the class in a guided meditation
- Honor the silence
- Use singing bowls/sound bath
- Spritz a towel with lavender for them to lay across their eyes
- Offer simple assists/adjustments
Using essential oils during final relaxation
Lavender is the most common essential oil used during savasana. Teachers mix a few drops with distilled water and spritz it into the air. Or you can spray it onto a warm towel to cover their eyes. Others combine a couple of drops with coconut oil, rub it into their palms, and hold it over the participant’s face in order to inhale it.
If you teach warm classes or in warmer climates, you could provide cold/frozen towels with soothing eucalyptus essential oil.
Never apply undiluted essential oil directly to a participant’s skin and ask before savasana starts if participants are okay with the use of essential oils.
Using simple assists/adjustments in savasana
Again, to follow proper etiquette (and to avoid getting in trouble), always ask your participants if it’s alright to do any kind of adjustments. Even with these simple assists, be specific and let them know what you’re planning to do, and give them a chance to opt-out.
In my experience most people opt-in for the savsasana secret sauce, but we need to remain mindful of individuals with allergies, skin sensitivities, and trauma. Respect those boundaries.
Choose whether you want to focus on their feet or their heads. I don’t recommend going back and forth (eww). Hands are another great area to focus on.
You can opt for a gentle palming or squeezing of the instep.
Or you can use your thumbs to press different acupressure points on the bottom of the foot.
Use your thumbs to press different acupressure points on the palms. You can also gently squeeze each finger between the joints, and/or rotate the wrists.
Gently rub circles on the temples. Apply easy pressure at the corner of the eyes (next to the nose and against the bone). Or squeeze and stretch the earlobes.
What ingredients can you bring in to teach savasana in such a way that makes it special and memorable? These small, yet thoughtful, gestures impact participants more than anything else, and will be what they remember long after the yoga-asana class ends.