Even though I've been practicing yoga for a few years now, I’m not ashamed to say that I'm just okay at it (and if I’m being honest, "okay" is probably a generous assessment). Despite my best efforts, I remain extremely inflexible, which means that instructors are constantly adjusting even my basic Downward Dog. But I struggle through Vinyasa Flow once a week in part because I know that yoga can offer impressive health benefits, from helping to relieve stress and anxiety to improving flexibility (here's hoping). But mostly, I keep going back because I love Savasana.
For the unfamiliar, Savasana (also known as corpse pose) is the final restorative pose in most yoga classes that involves lying flat on your back with your palms facing up. It may sound like the simplest pose there is, but don’t be fooled—"just lying there" is more difficult than it looks.
"Savasana can be the most challenging part of our practice because we're required to do nothing but breathe," says Chelsea Jackson Roberts, PhD, a yoga instructor who leads teacher trainings and blogs at chelsealovesyoga.com. Unlike other poses, Savasana requires you to quiet your mind (so no thinking about work emails, or reviewing your dinner options) and relax your entire body.
In my experience, a good Savasana is key to leaving class with that blissed-out, floating-on-a-cloud feeling that yogis are always talking about. Here, a few mental tricks and physical adjustments that can help you relax more deeply into the pose.
First things first: Get comfy
You may be sweaty after your flow, but once you stop moving, expect to feel a bit chilly. "Our temperatures tend to drop during Savasana, so you may want to prepare by picking up a blanket if one is available," says Roberts. If your studio doesn't offer blankets, consider bringing a lightweight sweatshirt to class. And before you lie down, make sure any potential distractions, like your watch and cell phone, are stashed away. "You want to be fully present," Roberts adds.
Let your hair go
If you have a clip or ponytail holder in your hair, take it out. "Make sure your hairdo isn't inhibiting the magic that can happen during Savasana," says Roberts. This is especially important if you're wearing a tight bun that could cause pain in your neck.
Keep your eyes open if you want to
"Sometimes closing the eyes is uncomfortable and even a little scary in unfamiliar territory," says Roberts. If that's true for you, she recommends closing your eyelids three-quarters of the way and softening your gaze while you look at the ceiling.
Consider an eye pillow
"A good eye pillow is fabulous for Savasana," says Roberts. I can personally recommend the Happy Wraps Lavender Eye Pillow ($25; amazon.com). An instructor handed these pillows out to everyone in a recent class I went to, just as we were settling into corpse pose. I went home and ordered my own. Between the calming scent and silky fabric, I am obsessed. Bonus: It also makes a great sleep mask.
Picture something that calms you
Roberts is a fan of visualization meditation: "I love to visualize my favorite color filling my body, like a thermometer rises and falls," she says. "It sends me into a deep state of relaxation."
Make an adjustment
Lying flat on your back in a traditional Savasana pose isn't for everyone—and that's okay. "If you know you experience lower back pain when lying flat, you can place a bolster or rolled blanket under your knees," says Roberts. Another option: Bend your knees, place the soles of your feet on the ground, and spread your feet apart. Allow your knees to fall together in a supportive position.
BYO essential oil
Some instructors will walk around the room during Savasana with a bottle of a relaxing essential oil, like lavender or Frankincense, so students can breathe in the scent. If your teacher doesn't do this though, you can place a few drops of your favorite oil on a cotton ball before class and bring it with you. Inhale the scent right before Savasana to help your body unwind.
Stay in the moment
"All too often, when the body gets still, the mind will try to make up for it [by speeding up]," says Roberts. But it doesn't necessarily help to command yourself, Stop thinking right now so I can enjoy Savasana! Instead, when you catch your mind wandering, simply think the words "not now" as you exhale; then return your focus to your breath.