The Meaning of Savasana & Why You Should Stay Even Longer

Explore the deeper meaning of savasana in asana practice, the reason why you move into the fetal position before returning from your mat as well as guided meditations and gentle music tracks for your savasana practice.
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog
Chief Editor Insight Timer Blog

There’s a popular meme on social media that reminds us each time someone skips savasana, a unicorn dies. We’ll never know if this is true. What we do know, is that savasana is the true peak pose in any asana class. In fact, your entire vinyasa practice is geared towards allowing you to rest more comfortably in this final and most important shape. We explore the significance and meaning of savasana and why next time you might want to stay even longer.

The Meaning Of Savasana

In savasana, we aim to get as comfortable as possible, so we can let go of the distractions of the body and simply rest.

Savasana (pronounced shuh-VAH-suh-nuh) is a supine resting pose, in which you lie on your back, fully relaxed with your arms and legs extended, palms face up by your side, and eyes closed. Those with lower back troubles can practice savasana with a blanket or bolster under their knees, to allow the low back to lie flat. A more extreme modification includes resting with knees bent and feet rooted on the ground, toes facing inward allows the knees to naturally rest against each other.

Descriptions of savasana as an asana date back to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a 15th-century text in which we find many of the earliest references to the yoga poses that are still practiced today. It is the only pose among all the asana that is included in every sequence, a hint to its significance.

As our physical yoga practice manipulates and purifies the prana within, a stress response arises that needs to be mitigated. Practiced at the close of an asana practice, savasana serves to calm the central nervous system after the stress of physical movement and a fiery ujjayi breath. By engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, savasana dampens this stress response. Without savasana, we miss out on the joy of post-yoga bliss.

Read more: Learn what prana is and how to feel it.

A study by Mysore’s National Journal of Basic Medical Sciences demonstrated that the regular practice of savasana decreases resting heart rate and leads one towards parasympathetic dominance. Savasana practitioners are thus less likely to reach peak stress, even outside of a yoga class. Similar results were reported by the Physical Education School of the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Savasana decreased the heart rate of their study participants for up to 35 minutes after the relaxation exercise, and the effect was the same for both hypertensive and normotensive participants. 

On a physical level, savasana returns us a state of deep relaxation, bringing the body back to homeostasis after an intense physical practice. Yet there’s much more to savasana than meets the eye. 

The deepest meditation practices take place in savasana. Yoga Nidra for example, typically practiced in a supported savasana, brings us to the state of consciousness between waking and sleeping where we learn that we are much more than the body itself. Deep stillness in both body and mind is necessary for reaching yoga’s completion stage, samadhi, full integration with universal love and transcendent bliss.

Before reading on you might want to bookmark these guided practices and music tracks for your well-deserved savasana:

  1. Shavasana - A Practice Of Resting Thoughts & Feelings Kerry Brennan 11:26
  2. Crystal Singing Bowl & Piano to Energize Heart Chakra Claudio Senna Venzke 7:21
  3. Deep Relaxation - Brave Restorative Savasana (Guided) Radha Brave 9:53
  4. Savasana Crickets (Music) Tina Lear 5:44
  5. Guided Shavasana Lawrence Conlan 9:26
  6. Ong Namo (Chanting) Carrie Grossman 7:11
  7. Body Scan for Sleep or Savasana (Guided) Laura Trimble-Thompson 5:01
  8. Toning (Music) Cheryl Chaffee 7:37

About Corpe And Death Pose

Savasana translates to corpse pose and is alternatively referred to as mrtasana or death pose. In our western culture, we don’t often talk about death. Your yoga teacher will likely use the Sanskrit name for savasana more than for any other pose. Yet the power of savasana is directly related to the practice of dying and death preparation, and to separate it from that fact is to lose its deepest meaning.  

It’s helpful to remember that our yoga practice is not about getting things. Not the perfect body, nor the clearest mind, nor a life of perpetual sunshine. Every quality of an enlightened being is already within us and through yoga, we drop the veils and cease the churning of the mind that prevents us from recognizing this. Yoga is a letting go.

While the body and subtle body benefit from the movement and exertion of asana, yoga’s ultimate state is only achieved when we stop. It’s in savasana that we practice the very important task of doing nothing, in both body and mind. When we lose ourselves as the actor, bliss arises.

Savasana is then the practice of death. Death of the ego, death of all craving and grasping toward anything outside of us we mistakenly think will cause our happiness, and death of all aversion to anything we think is causing our unhappiness. In savasana, we practice recognizing that everything is perfect exactly as it is. There’s nothing left to do.

Savasana marks the death of who we were when we first walked into our yoga class. In the space of this pose, we have the opportunity to transform. What we’re re-born into before we awaken and head back out into the world, is entirely up to us.

Read more: Learn about the meaning of surrender in yoga and meditation practice.

The Cycle Of Yoga: Rebirth

It’s through the practice of death that we remember the preciousness of our life, and receive inspiration on how to live. It’s befriending the unpredictability of death, not just in savasana, but in each moment of our lives, that inspires us to stay on our spiritual path.

Everything in this world arises, lasts for a while, then dissipates. This is the cycle of birth, life, and death.

While the concept of past and future lives or rebirth can be difficult to understand, we only have to look to this one life to see that we are a brand new human compared to who we were as a baby, a child, before a negative or positive life-changing event, or sometimes even last week. 

Practicing savasana is not only a fantastic reminder of our own mortality and the impermanence of our human body, but in savasana, we become aware that we are much more than the body itself. With the distraction of the body gone, we open to the experience of stillness, and if we learn to remain still, we become better acquainted with our minds.

Savasana predates hatha yoga as the traditional pose in which to practice dissolution meditations, a yogi’s dress rehearsal for directing the consciousness to unite with the divine at the moment of death. Death for the highest yogic practitioners is not an endpoint. In yoga, a conscious death marks a transitional stage from this human life to eternity.

While formal dissolution practices require the guidance of a teacher, we can each practice a dissolution of sorts in savasana by connecting to a slower, gentler breath, or the spaces in between each breath. Savasana is the perfect space in which to meditate on universal love and connect to the state of samadhi.

Read more: Lama Brian Hilliard explains how yoga postures, asanas, have the power to help us access the treasure of mind.

As we slowly awaken from this post and state, we intentionally explore back into our body as though it is brand new, because, after savasana, it is. We roll from savasana to the fetal position to mimic a rebirth. As we rise, we are “reborn” as a clear-headed, peaceful, and more loving version of ourselves. 

We arise from savasana imbued with each of the benefits we’ve received by making it to our mats, and especially, the benefit of remaining still for that final resting pose.

Meditation. Free.