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8 Creative Ways to Practice Savasana
The purpose of Relaxation Pose (Savasana) is to enable you to rest completely, both physically and mentally. So that’s why the position you take when you practice it should be comfortable, as symmetrical as possible, and relaxing. And ideally, this position should be one where you do not need to use any effort to stay in the pose.
However, even though the classic version of this pose is very simple and takes no effort to maintain—you just lie on your back on the floor—many people find this position isn’t all that comfortable. For some, this might be due to a physical issue, such as back pain, tightness in the shoulders, or a stiff neck. Then there are those who aren’t comfortable for emotional reasons: some people find lying flat on their backs makes them feel exposed or vulnerable.
Whatever the reasons, if you’re uncomfortable, you won’t be able to experience the benefits of conscious relaxation. So if the pose isn’t working for you, it’s not working for you. There are also some people, such as those who are pregnant, who shouldn’t be lying on their backs at all. Other people tend to fall asleep in the classic position. If you’re sleeping in the pose, you’re missing out on the benefits of conscious relaxation, which are quite different from the benefits of sleep, although, of course, you need your sleep, too.
Why Practice Alternatives to Savasana?
For all of you I just mentioned—and for anyone who would just like to be more comfortable in Savasana—I’m offering eight different ways of practicing Savasana. Some are just slightly different from the classic version and others are completely different. Be adventurous and give them all a try! You may even find that certain ones are better at different times. I myself practice version 2 in yoga classes and version 3 at home.
For those who cannot get up and down from the floor, I am offering the alternative of practicing Savasana in a chair. However, when you’re practicing at home, if it appeals to you, I suggest that you try to find a way to practice lying down so you don’t have to hold your torso erect. Look for a raised surface you can transition to, such as a firm bed, a coffee table, or a dining table, and use that as your “floor.” You can then set up for any version of Savasana that appeals to you. If that isn’t comfortable for you or you can’t make it happen, then of course you can practice in a chair.
For all eight versions, feel free to cover yourself with a blanket, whether for warmth or a feeling of security. In general, if you’re not comfortable in the pose, you won’t be able to relax. So, take the time to set yourself up with whatever props you like.
By the way, Savasana is a practice, not just a pose. Although so many of the poses we practice are modern, Savasana is actually ancient. And from what I’ve read about the original practice, it was a reclined form of meditation. So, to truly practice Savasana, you need to practice with a mental focus, such as your breath, an image, a mantra, or progressive physical relaxation, as well as with a commitment to remaining still. If you want to lie in the position without doing the practice, that’s perfectly fine; you will get a nice rest. However, you may miss out on some of the benefits of the practice, such as reaching very deep levels of relaxation and quietness, honing your concentration, and reducing your stress levels.
How to Modify Yoga’s Savasana—8 Different Ways
1. Support Your Head: In this variation, you simply add support under your head. This is beneficial for people who are tight in the shoulders or chest, who have stiff necks, or who find it uncomfortable to rest their heads on the ground. Most people benefit from a bit of support under their heads, so check it out. Just make sure the support under your head is firm (not soft) and that your shoulders are touching the ground (not the support). Ideally in Savasana, your chin should be pointing slighting down toward your chest (not tipping back away from it).
2. Support Your Legs: In this variation, you use a prop under your knees. This is beneficial for people who have lower back problems or who simply want to rest their lower backs comfortably on the ground. Use a bolster (as shown below) or a rolled blanket under your knees.
3. Elevate Your Legs: In this variation, you use a chair to support your calves, which allows you to relax your entire back on the floor. Because your legs are much higher than your torso, your position is inverted, which can enhance your ability to relax mentally as well as physically. If the seat of the chair is hard, place a blanket on it to make it cushier. When you settle into the pose, make sure that your legs are relaxed and drop comfortably onto the chair seat (if you are tall, you might have to stack blankets on the chair to make the surface high enough). If you can’t get your legs through the chair back, try turning the chair 90 degrees, so that the front of the seat faces to one side.
4. Practice Restorative Savasana: In these two variations, you support your torso and head, so you are at an incline, with your head at the highest point and your feet at the lowest point. This position may be easier for you than lying flat on the floor. It can even be deliciously comfy. Having your head above the level of your heart this way is slightly stimulating, so if you have trouble staying awake in Savasana this might be a good alternative for you. This supported position can also help you breathe more easily because the support helps open your chest. And it may make you feel less vulnerable than lying flat on the floor.
In the first restorative variation, you use a bolster under your torso (shown above) and in the second you use a thin stack of two folded blankets instead. For both variations, place a folded blanket or towel on top of the bolster or blanket stack to use for your head, making sure the support for your head is high enough so your chin can point toward your chest. After you set up your props, before you lay back, make sure that you sit on the floor in front of the bolster or blanket stack (not on the bolster or blankets). The support should be under your torso, but not under your buttocks!
5. Practice Crocodile Savasana: In this variation, you take a prone position with your head supported by your forearms, which is called Crocodile Pose (Makrasana). This alternative is helpful for people who feel anxious or vulnerable lying on their backs and need the comfort of having their front bodies protected. If this pose makes your lower back feel strained, trying placing a blanket that is folded into a long, thin rectangle under your lower belly (below your navel) so your lower back doesn’t arch as deeply.
6. Lie on Your Side: In this variation, you lie on your side with support under your head, between your arms, and between your legs. This is a good alternative for anyone who for any reason—medical or otherwise—can not lie on their back or front. The supports between your legs and between your arms are important because they prevent your limbs from pressing together uncomfortably. You can use folded blankets or pillows as your supports, or any combination of the two.
7. Sit in a Chair: In this variation, you sit on a chair in a position that is comfortable, supported, and as symmetrical as possible, so you can relax your body and your mind in a seated position. This alternative is beneficial for those who cannot get up and down from the floor, those who are taking a chair yoga class, or those who simply don’t have a floor (or floor alternative, such as a bed, coffee table, or dining room table) they can use at the moment.
Sit in the chair with your back resting against the chair back or place a small pillow against the chair back and rest against that.
Position your feet slightly in front of your knees. If your feet don’t easily rest on the floor, place a folded blanket under them so your legs are relaxed and comfortable.
Support your hands, too, so your arms are relaxed, not dangling. You can place a pillow on your lap and rest your hands there.
You might also like to add in neck support as well. If you have an airplane neck pillow, use that or, if not, roll a thin blanket or a towel and wrap it around your neck like a scarf to support your head.
8. Customize Your Savasana: When you’re practicing at home, be creative! If you don’t have the props you want, try to see what else you have around the house that you can use. For example, could you use a couch cushion in place of a bolster or could you rest your legs on an ottoman instead of a chair seat? And if there is something that hurts or feels uncomfortable when you’re in the pose, see if you can figure out how to make yourself more comfortable. Like maybe when you lie on your back, your heels hurt a bit touching the hard floor. Could you use a folded blanket or towel to cushion them? Or put on special fuzzy socks? The deep relaxation you can experience from a good Savasana is worth putting a little extra effort into achieving.
Reprinted with permission from yogafortimesofchange.com
This post was originally posted on the Accessible Yoga.blogspot.com
Nina Zolotow, RYT 500, the author of the forthcoming book “Yoga for Times of Change” and the Editor-in-Chief of the Yoga for Healthy Aging blog, is both a yoga writer and a yoga teacher. She trained to be a yoga teacher at The Yoga Room in Berkeley, California, has studied yoga therapy with Shari Ser and Bonnie Maeda, and is especially influenced by the teachings of Donald Moyer. She also studied extensively with Rodney Yee and is inspired by the teachings of Patricia Walden on yoga for emotional healing. Her special area of expertise is yoga for emotional well-being (including yoga for stress, insomnia, depression, and anxiety) and she teaches workshops and series classes on yoga for emotional well-being, stress management, better sleep, home practice, and cultivating equanimity.
Nina is the co-author with Baxter Bell of Yoga for Healthy Aging: A Guide to Lifelong Well-Being and co-author with Rodney Yee of Yoga: The Poetry of the Body (with its companion 50 Card Practice Deck) and Moving Toward Balance. She is also the author of numerous articles on yoga and alternative medicine.