In theory, Savasana (Corpse Pose) should be the easiest pose of all the asanas. After all, you’re just lying there, resting. Yet many yogis find it one of the most difficult to master. Settling into true relaxation is harder than it looks—especially if you have a busy mind or a tendency toward anxiousness. Think of Savasana as a pose that takes practice like any other.
Some teachers will start a class with a Savasana, but it is typically an end-of-practice pose—one that you settle into after stretching, opening, and releasing tension from your body during an active practice. You may experience a warm, cocoon-like feeling that allows your mind to drop into a meditative state. Some people even fall asleep in Savasana, though it isn’t supposed to signal nap time.
For other people, the pose can be agitating. They start thinking about their to-do list, their shopping list, and everything else they need to do after class. People who are coping with anxiety or who have experienced trauma may also find Savasana difficult. That’s OK. Just like anything else, learning to let your mind and body truly relax is part of the practice.
Also called Mrtasana (mrta means death in Sanskrit), Corpse Pose represents letting go of old ways of thinking and being—allowing those things to symbolically “die.” In this pose, everything else falls away so you can rest in who you are at that moment. Once you do, you may experience less anxiety, more restful sleep, lower blood pressure, and fewer headaches.
In Savasana, lengthen your neck and release any tension in your buttocks; extend your tailbone down and let gravity open your hips. Create space for your shoulder blades and your collar bone to spread. Most importantly, release any tension in your face—close your eyes and relax your jaw. (Touching the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth can help with that.)Section divider
Corpse Pose basics
sava = corpse.
This pose is also called Mrtasana (pronounced mrit-TAHS-anna, mrta = death)
Pose Type: Supine
Target Area: Full BodySection divider
Corpse Pose can help manage stress by activating the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) and deactivating the stress response (sympathetic nervous system). Savasana may also help lower or regulate blood pressure and can help relieve muscular tension.Section divider
- Come onto your back.
- Separate your feet as wide as the mat, allowing your legs to fall open.
- Turn your palms to face the ceiling and locate your arms just far enough from your body so that they do not touch your torso.
- Let your eyes to close and imagine them dropping back deeply into the sockets.
- Allow your muscles and bones to become heavy.
- Notice if there are places that are still holding onto tension – use your exhales to invite a release.
- Gradually let your breath become softer, quieter, more internal.
- Continue to follow your breath so that your mind too becomes softer and quieter.
- Rest deeply, without sleeping.
- Hold for a few minutes, or as long as you like.
- To exit the pose, slowly and gently bring awareness back to your body. When you are ready, slowly turn to your left side and push yourself up to a seated position
Explore the pose
- If you find it difficult to quiet your mind during Savasana, try to remove sensory input. Complete darkness can help. You may want to consider trying an eye pillow. Or simply drape the sleeve of a sweatshirt or the edge of a blanket over your closed eyes.
- If you have a back injury or any discomfort, you can do this pose with your knees bent and your feet flat on the mat, hip-distance apart. Either slide a bolster (or a couple pillows) beneath your bent knees and let the weight of your legs rest on the support or bind your thighs parallel to each other with a strap (taking care not to position the heels too close to the buttocks).
- If you are pregnant, raise your head and chest on a bolster.
Modifications and props
- Usually Savasana is performed with the legs relaxed, which can cause them to turn outward. Sometimes though, after a practice involving lots of outward rotation of the legs (as in standing poses), it feels good to do this pose with the legs turned in. Take a strap and make a small loop. Sit on the floor with your knees slightly bent and slip the loop over your big toes. Lie back and turn your thighs inward, sliding your heels apart. The loop will help maintain the inward turn of the legs.
Deepen the pose
- Often it is difficult to release the heads of the thigh bones and soften the groin in this pose. This creates tension throughout the body and restricts the breath. Take two 10-pound sand bags and lay one across each top thigh, parallel to the crease of the groin. Then imagine that the heads of the thigh bones are sinking away from the weight, down into the floor.
- In Savasana, it’s especially useful to have a partner check your physical alignment. One of the most difficult parts of the body to align on your own is your head. Have your partner sit at your head and observe its position relative to your shoulders. It’s common for students’ heads to be tilted or turned to one side or the other. The partner should gently cradle your head in his/her hands and draw the base of the skull away from the back of the neck, lengthening the shorter side of the neck, so that both ears are equidistant from the shoulders. Then your partner can lay your head back down on the floor, making sure that the tip of your nose is pointing directly toward the ceiling.
Corpse Pose variations
If your low back is achy, relax your back and relieve your legs by placing your mat in front of a chair or couch and lying in the center of your mat with your knees bent. Lift your legs and place the backs of your calves on the seat.
Or, try one of the creative variations below.
Corpse Pose with knee support
For low back, hip, and knee comfort, put a bolster, rolled blanket, or rolled yoga mat under your knees. You may also want to place a blanket under your head as a cushion.
Legs Up a Chair
Try lying on your back and putting your legs up on a chair. You may need to turn the chair sideways if the back of the chair gets in the way of your feet. You may also want to use a folded blanket on the chair for extra cushioning.
If you are practicing at home, try lying on the floor and putting your legs up on the couch.Section divider
Preparatory and counter poses
Any poses you practiced prior to Savasana serve as your preparatory poses. Corpse Pose is the culmination of your practice, so there are no counter poses afterward. However, after you slowly make your way out of Savasana, you can follow it with Sukhasana (Easy Pose) for quiet meditation.Section divider
Your body in Corpse Pose | Anatomy
In Savasana, your body is completely at rest. The various poses completed prior to this position have lengthened the muscles surrounding the various joints and stimulated nerve conduction. It is time to complete your practice through deep relaxation. Find complete repose and relaxation in your body. There should be no strain or discomfort.
Excerpted with permission from The Key Poses of Yoga by Ray Long.Section divider
Put Corpse Pose into practice
- The Subtle Struggle of Savasana
- Heavenly Rest: Why Corpse Pose Is So Key
- Find Serenity Now With This Restorative Yoga Practice
About our contributors
Teacher and model Natasha Rizopoulos is a senior teacher at Down Under Yoga in Boston, where she offers classes and leads 200- and 300-hour teacher trainings. A dedicated Ashtanga practitioner for many years, she became equally as captivated by the precision of the Iyengar system. These two traditions inform her teaching and her dynamic, anatomy-based vinyasa system Align Your Flow. For more information, visit natasharizopoulos.com.
Ray Long is an orthopedic surgeon and the founder of Bandha Yoga, a popular series of yoga anatomy books, and the Daily Bandha, which provides tips and techniques for teaching and practicing safe alignment. Ray graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School and pursued post-graduate training at Cornell University, McGill University, the University of Montreal, and the Florida Orthopedic Institute. He has studied hatha yoga for over 20 years, training extensively with B.K.S. Iyengar and other leading yoga masters, and teaches anatomy workshops at yoga studios around the country.