Shava, in Sanskrit, means corpse or a dead body. Thus, Shavasana is a pose that simulates a corpse. That is why it is also sometimes called Mrtasana, mrta in Sanskrit, means dead. It is often practiced at the end of a yoga session but can also be practiced at the end of each asana, or pose, to relax the body and prepare for the next asana. Some practitioners also practice it in the beginning of the session for better concentration and focus during the practice of various asanas. It can also be practiced as a standalone asana to relieve stress at any time of the day.
To practice Shavasana, follow these steps:
- Lie down on the back, spread arms and feet at an angle of approximately 45 degrees from the sides of the body. Slightly tilt the head backward to rest it comfortably. Make yourself comfortable. In winters, if you feel necessary, you can place a blanket over the body to keep yourself warm.
- Close the eyes and slowly deepen the breathing. Concentrate on the breathing and feel the whole body laying its weight on the floor and relax.
- Scan the whole body from the head to the toes. Look for tense, tightened or contracted muscles in any part of your body; release any such tension consciously and allow it to relax. If the need be, you can move or wiggle any such parts of the body to release tension.
- Slowly release all conscious control over breaths, body, and mind. Allow yourself to sink deeper and deeper into a state of complete tranquility. Stay in this state for five to fifteen minutes. Take care not to fall asleep, though. If feeling sleepy, increase the breathing rate and depth.
- To come out of the pose, take a deep breath, move fingers and toes, lift the arms over the head and stretch the whole body. Now exhaling, bend the knees over the chest, roll over to a side like a fetus, roll over to the other side in the same position, come onto the back again and get up.
Shavasana is a relaxation pose that relieves the body, as well as the mind, of any stress, strain, tension or tiredness. However, relaxation is not the only benefit that it provides. It stimulates the endocrinal glands to produce hormones that bring the body to the anabolic state of metabolism. In this state, the body cells can repair and revitalize themselves. This increases the rate of the buildup of organs and tissues, with resultant increased muscle mass and bone density. The opposite state of catabolic metabolism prevails most of the time, especially when we are stressed or tired. Thus, Shavasana brings back the balance in our metabolic states with accompanying benefits of better physical, mental and spiritual health.