uttanam savavad bhumau
sayanam tat shavasanam
“To lie flat on the ground, like a corpse, is called shavasana. It eliminates fatigue and gives rest to the mind.” Hatha yoga pradipika (1.34)
The classic posture of relaxation, or shavasana, can be found at the beginning and end of every session of hatha yoga, as well as before and after each posture. Although it may appear extremely easy to many beginners, it is undoubtedly the most difficult posture. To perform it correctly one must learn to place the body correctly upon the floor. It is important to carefully choose the space, which must be completely free of ants, mosquitoes and any other insects. If the floor is very hard or cold, it can disturb our relaxation; therefore we should spread out a blanket or place the body on a carpet.
Instructions for Shavasana- the relaxation posture
1. The asana begins in a seated posture with the legs together and the knees bent and pressed against the chest. Slowly, giving a convex shape to our back, we proceed to place it very gently, vertebra by vertebra, upon the floor. Finally, we let the entire back rest proportionately upon the floor. Placing the hands on the floor beside the hips, we slide the buttocks until they are resting on the floor. Next we turn the palms up, and adjust the arms from the sides. We slowly proceed to stretch the right leg and then the left, until both are straight and slightly separated from one another.
2. Next, we begin to perform some muscular contractions before the relaxation itself. With each inhalation, contract for a period of no longer than 3 or 4 seconds, and release with the exhalation. Raise the right leg 10 or 15 centimeters from the floor and contract it for as long as you can and then let it drop. Next repeat the same process with the left leg. Inhaling, lift the arms 10 centimeters from the floor. Make fists, and clench them with all your strength. Then, while exhaling, drop the arms down, relax the fists and open the fingers. Contracting the buttocks as much as possible, raise the hips from the floor, and then immediately drop them. Separate the chest from the floor, lifting it as high as possible to contract it strongly, and then loosen it. Raise the arms towards the ears and then let them drop. Next, contract all the muscles of the face inwards towards the nose and then relax them. Open the mouth and stick out the tongue, open the eyes very wide, as much as you can and then relax. Turn the head very gently from one side to the other, sensing its weight upon the floor.
3. From this point begin to send clear and direct auto-suggestions to different parts of the body. Begin from the feet (“the feet are relaxed, the feet are completely relaxed”). In this way, continue with different parts of our body in an orderly fashion, working from the feet towards the head. After finishing with every part of the body, and having relaxed our muscles, we can continue sending messages of auto-suggestion to our internal organs, “the lungs are relaxed, the lungs are completely relaxed”, “the heart is relaxed, the heart is completely relaxed”. Finally bring your attention to your nostrils and simply observe how the air enters with each inhalation and exits with each exhalation. Without interfering in the rhythm of your respiration, but adopting the attitude of a witness, just observe the respiratory process.
4. To end the relaxation, breathe deeply three times and slowly turn your hands and feet inwards and outwards. Next raise the arms above the head, and proceed to stretch from the tips of your toes to the tips of your fingers.