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Teachers, You Might Be Approaching Savasana All Wrong

There's more to sequencing the final resting pose than putting it at the end of class. Here's how to ensure your students are set up to find their calm.

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Given all the rushing, busyness, intensity, and stress that yoga students often carry with them into class, one thing you probably want to offer in each class is a little equilibrium to soothe their nervous systems. So at the end of class, your students are feeling balanced physically and mentally, and you include one more pose—a twist on each side—before Savasana.

While there’s nothing technically wrong with this progression into Savasana, taking your students’ bodies into an asymmetrical pose right before final relaxation could leave them feeling a little less than aligned. This is because the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the aspect of your nervous system that allows for rest, loves symmetry. I learned this from two different teachers of mine. I don’t have a precise scientific reason, although I can surmise that from an energetic standpoint it stands to reason that if the two nadi channels (ida and pingala) are at odds, that would be felt energetically on a subtle level.

In the moments before Savasana, instead of teaching popular cool-down poses such as Supine Twist or Supta Padangusthasana  (Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose), try offering symmetrical poses including Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend), Balasana (Child’s Pose), or Knees to Chest.

If you do include an asymmetrical pose late in your sequence, be certain to leave time for a symmetrical pose between it and Savasana—even if it’s just bending the knees and bringing the feet flat on the mat for a short spell.

The body also responds to symmetry during final resting pose. When students are settling into Savasana, check for subtleties in symmetry, as well:

  • Are both heels resting on the mat as opposed to one on and one off?
  • Is their head settled evenly on the mat or cocked to one side?
  • Are both hands at equal height and on the same type of texture?
  • Are their legs evenly spaced from their midline?
  • If props are used, are they evenly situated? (For example, the blanket height is the same underneath both arms, the bolster is evenly placed beneath both knees, and the prop texture or type is the same on both sides.)

Give this approach a try the next time you practice and take note of how it changes your experience. Then offer it to your yoga students and see if it makes a difference in their practice.

See also: The Subtle Struggle of Savasana