Savasana is one of the most important poses we can bring into our practice, but is often practiced too quickly, without attention to alignment, and without clarity about how to deepen it. We fidget. We daydream. We snore. We start thinking about dinner. And then it’s over. But there are ways to improve a savasana that doesn’t feel quite right.
The Usual Suspects
When we think about props in yoga practice we usually think about the usual suspects of legs in straps for supta padangusthasana or hands on blocks for ardha chandrasana. Props, especially from the Iyengar perspective, allow us to explore poses that for one reason or another our body needs some extra help getting into. Additionally, they are useful in other ways and traditions, like yin or restorative, to stretch over or rest on top of. At the end of practice, your savasana might benefit from props because like any pose, you can always go deeper and practice it with more proficiency.
Props for Savasana?
But why would you need props for savasana? It’s just lying on the ground, right? Savasana is not necessarily an easy pose, and is sometimes annoyingly but probably correctly called the “most difficult pose.” For many people it can be quite hard to settle into a rest at the end of class, even when and probably most especially when it is all too brief. Keep in mind that Light On Yoga advises a savasana of ten to fifteen minutes after asana practice, not three minutes lying down while a slow ballad plays and your sweat dries. Savasana is serious business and can take some time to set up. Once in the pose, the mind needs a few minutes to slow down as you give yourself permission to rest. The addition of props can make the feeling so luxurious and inviting that you have no excuse but to drop in to rest. Each bit of support can potentially remove small amounts of discomfort and tension throughout the body that otherwise would have made you wiggle, squirm, and itch. Here are my essential prop supports to make the transition into savasana and rest much easier and more rewarding.
Particularly for those of us with strained lower backs and tight hip flexors from sitting all day, supporting the back of the knees with a bolster can be a much welcome support. With the slight lift of the knee, the thigh bones can ground into the pelvis, which can release to the floor and the lower back can take a much needed rest.
As we come into savasana our body temperatures can drop, and particularly if we’re sweaty from a strong practice we can get quite a chill. But if you’re cold you won’t relax. Use a blanket to cover up and get warm and cozy. Importantly, extremities like feet and hands get cold more quickly than other parts, yet often I see students covering only their abdomen. Be sure your blanket covers all of you without restricting breath in the upper chest, and even put on extra layers and socks before you settle down. Additionally, a blanket can be used to provide comfort to the back of the head and support a bit underneath the shoulders and back of the neck. Especially for those with typical computer-related forward head, the support can allow the upper body to relax.
Eye pillows often sit neglected in a basket by the straps and may seem mysterious in their potential uses. But the fact is gentle pressure on and around the eyes initiates a reflex action which will lower the heart rate and stimulate the vagus nerve, all of which will lead to a calmed down nervous system and deeper relaxation. This is a super quick fix that can yield big results on your path to a restful savasana. If you’re practicing in a studio, bring your own if you don’t like using communal ones.
Especially after a demanding vinyasa practice, the wrists could use some propping up, which will allow the elbows to release into the floor and the shoulders to relax. You can use blocks as shown here, or folded blankets under each hand. Be sure the angle of your support is parallel to that of the back of the wrist and that you are only supporting underneath the hand and wrist, and not the forearm.
If practicing at home, use a timer and commit to a lengthy stay and prevent any falling-asleep-induced scheduling snafus.