By Your Headspace Mindfulness & Meditation Experts
What is that resting pose at the end of yoga called? Many people who are new to yoga mistakenly assume that the final meditation pose called Shavasana or savasana — lying on your back, eyes closed, breathing deeply — is easy. It’s just like taking a nap, right? Not exactly. More experienced yoga students know that Shavasana can actually be the most challenging and beneficial of all the poses. That’s because the essence of Shavasana — similar to other types of meditation — is to relax the mind and body while remaining present and maintaining awareness. Here’s what yoga and meditation do — and don’t — have in common, and why you should never skip out on this essential yoga pose.
Shavasana is the pronunciation of the Sanskrit word “savasana.” It’s a resting and restorative pose, or asana, typically used at the end of a yoga session. The Sanskrit word actually means “corpse pose,” because students practicing this pose lie face-up on the ground, arms and legs comfortably spread, eyes closed. The purpose of the pose is to calm the mind and body, releasing stress and grounding the body. Sounds a lot like meditation, doesn’t it?
For many people, yoga, Shavasana, and meditation are interchangeable. Meditation is, of course, the practice of quieting the mind and focusing on the present moment. Though yoga and meditation are different, yoga is often described as “moving meditation” — calming the mind and creating awareness through simple body movements. Shavasana is sometimes described as the bridge between the two — the pose at the end of a yoga practice that quiets the mind and body, helping to bring you into a peaceful, meditative state.
Perhaps the most important benefit of Shavasana and meditation is promoting relaxation. When we’re relaxed, our parasympathetic nervous system is activated, causing a lowered heart rate, a sense of calm, and a decreased release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. And the benefits of reducing stress are widely known: it can diminish the symptoms of many health conditions including inflammation, anxiety, and insomnia. Plus, reducing stress makes us feel good if not really good.
Shavasana and generalized meditation have other science-backed benefits, too, including:
A good introduction to Shavasana meditation is the body scan technique. To begin, lie flat on your back, arms and legs comfortably extended, eyes closed, breathing deeply. Start at the top of the head and gradually scan down your body from head to toe, relaxing one body part at a time. Try imagining each body part getting heavier and spreading out a little more.
As you scan down the body, notice which parts feel relaxed or tense, comfortable or uncomfortable, light or heavy. If thoughts arise, simply notice them and trust that the breath will carry you back to a place of stillness. Through regular practice, you’ll be able to access this place of quiet and ease more easily and deeply. You may even begin to notice that your breath sounds quieter — if you notice it at all.
Start your meditation practice with a 10-day beginner’s course — available in the Headspace app during your free trial. Or, you can explore the whole library of content, covering everything from sleep and compassion to anger and focus. Headspace also offers mini-meditations — most are 3 minutes or shorter — if you have only a short time to relax.
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