There are actually three stages of savasana—and if you’re only in it for 5 minutes, you’re not even getting to stage one.
Savasana (also called shavasana or relaxation pose) is changing over time. In fact, it’s slowly evaporating from the practice.
In the past, teachers told students savasana was the most important pose. They reassured us it might be awkward or difficult at first, but with practice lying still would get easier—it might even become our favourite part of the class! They’d also tell us that if we skipped it, our body wouldn’t fully integrate the work we’d done in our practice.
But today teachers are reducing savasana because students want more movement and less relaxation.
We’re a culture addicted to action, so when we go to yoga, we’re more focused on “doing” than relaxing. We’re used to constant stimulation and being bombarded with information, so we’re not good at shutting down. Functioning in this state, we look for our exercise and relaxation to be the same pace as our hectic lives. People want to check ‘done’ on their practice and move onto the next item on their list.
Yoga is an opportunity to build strength and stamina, but it’s also meant to help us connect body, mind, and spirit. Sadly, some teachers are ending class with an optional savasana, or moving away from it altogether. And with more students seeking 45 or 60-minute classes, it’s harder to fit in a proper savasana.
This is a problem because we need relaxation more than ever.
Savasana is full of benefits, such as: relaxes the body; relieves mild depression; lowers blood pressure; calms the nervous system; aids in digestion; and strengthens our immune system. It’s also an opportunity to strengthen our awareness to a higher consciousness, connecting us to something bigger than ourselves.
Savasana is where the magic happens—and it takes more than 5 minutes to achieve.
To experience these benefits, the body needs time to physiologically find that state of relaxation. Although it rarely happens in a typical yoga class, it might surprise you to hear that savasana is most effective when practiced for 15 to 30 minutes.
There are actually three stages of Savasana:
- Stage One is allowing the body to find relaxation, which takes the average person approximately 15 minutes. The first stage is not yet savasana; it’s about allowing the body to relax. This is the place where the breath and heart rate slow down and the parasympathetic nervous system becomes dominant.
- Stage Two is when savasana actually begins. The body begins to feel heavy and connected to the earth, and we withdraw from the external world. Stage two is similar to the idea of Pantajali’s 5th limb of yoga, Pratyahara, a conscious withdrawal of the senses. You know you’re in this state when you hear a noise but are not drawn to the noise. Focus has turned inward.
- Stage Three, the final state of savasana, occurs when the ego and mind let go. This stage may not be experienced every time. When you do achieve it, you’ll feel disconnected from the ups and downs of the outside world and present with pure consciousness.
Savasana is an opportunity to take refuge from the constant activity within ourselves—but it takes time to find that refuge.
Does 30 minutes of savasana sound radical?
Before becoming a yoga teacher, I rarely practiced savasana. I was addicted to action, and I believed lying still was a waste of time.
But over time I grew to love the quieter practices. I continue to experiment with savasana as both a teacher and student, and have discovered no two experiences are ever the same. I learn new and different things about myself each time, and the more I practice, the more comfort and ease I experience.
We all have our own physiological make up, so don’t worry if a long savasana isn’t your thing. It might not work for every student, every setting, or every teacher.
Have you noticed Savasana is disappearing from the practice? Does a lengthy savasana seem impossible for you or your students? I’d love to hear about your experiences, in the comments below.
Much love and peace,
Misty Shakti Lucas