Saturday, 23 May 2009

Corpse Pose - The Yoga Link For Relaxation and Liberation

Corpse pose or savasana is the final pose in many yoga practices that sets the stage for relaxation. While it may be easy to relax the body through progressive steps-from muscular to spiritual-the mind is much harder to tame. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, one of the oldest texts on Hatha yoga from the 15th century, states "with this posture tiredness caused by other postures is eliminated; it also promotes calmness of mind. And it is pleasant to find that no mystery is involved." Final relaxation is thus another tool in the yoga tradition to achieve relaxation and liberation from the negative thoughts and emotions of the mind.

Muscular relaxation is one of the primary goals in corpse pose. This is achieved by scanning the body for tension and sustained muscular contractions or actively tensing muscles and releasing them to teach awareness of tension vs. muscular relaxation. Most yoga classes minimally focus on releasing this kind of tension during the session.

Autonomic relaxation calms the nervous system by reducing the over-activation of the fight or flight response. This includes lowering the blood pressure and heart rate. One way to calm the nervous system is through focusing on the breath during final relaxation. The breath calms the nervous system in three ways: natural diaphragmatic breathing, extending the exhalation slightly beyond the inhalation and natural smoothness. For these reasons, B.K.S. Inyengar in Light on Yoga, recommends to breathe fine and slow with no jerkiness and to concentrate on deep and fine exhalations for 15-20 minutes.

Emotional relaxation involves letting go of negative thoughts and emotions and replacing them with positive thoughts and affirmations. A simple technique often used in the gratitude release. As you lie in corpse pose think of positive thoughts, experiences and people that you have gratitude for in your life. Another way to achieve this is to have compassionate thoughts for someone that you have conflict with or negative emotions. Dwelling on positive affirmations such as "I can relax, "I am loved," or "my heart is open to receive" can help shift the mind to a relaxed and positive state.

Mental relaxation moves beyond letting go of negative thoughts. At this point, the mind may still have thoughts but there is an unbroken concentration that prevents one from attaching to the thoughts. They simply come and go like ocean waves. Mental relaxation can be as easy as focusing one's attention on the breath, counting numbers or repeating or internalizing a mantra such as "relax" or "let go."

Spiritual relaxation occurs when a personal is able to absorb the thoughts and agitation of the mind and connect deeper to the infinite space or Self that lies within. At this point the person, still fully awake and can transcend the senses and connect inward. This means that the personal is fully relaxed whether in a quiet yoga room or experiencing the sounds of a busy city. Spiritual relaxation leaves the body and mind in an energized and renewed state.

The next time you do yoga, think of the crucial benefits that come from corpse pose. It's easy to skip or reduce the amount of time given to this section of yoga practice; however, the benefits are very powerful in that they help achieve the ultimate goal of yoga-liberation of the mind.

For more information on yoga, breathing and meditation, visit our yoga teacher training and meditation teacher certification resources at KCFitnessLink is a registered school with the Yoga Alliance offering yoga instructor programs in yoga, yoga therapy, Thai massage yoga therapy, meditation and holistic health.

Darryl Olive, MBA, MHA, CSCS, E-RYT 500 is a 500 hour certified and registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance. He leads yoga teacher training workshops and is the director of programs for KCFitnessLink. For more information, visit, e-mail or call 816.256.4443 for information about yoga classes, private yoga instruction and yoga instructor certification.

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