Savasana is an art; something that often takes time, practice and sometimes a lot of support to really achieve its full benefits. If you’re like me, you’ve had students in your classes that cannot find comfort or any sense of relaxation in their final pose. You may have experienced this personally as well, when lying flat on your back is uncomfortable and the bolster under the knees or the blanket under the head just isn’t enough to quiet the body and mind. Fortunately, there are modifications that we can offer our students (and ourselves) to make Savasana the best experience possible every time.
It’s important to think about the reason for Savasana. This is the final opportunity for practitioners to integrate and assimilate the pranayamas and asanas from their class before heading back to the business of life off the mat. If there is too much mental or physical sensation or awareness during this time, that sense of peace and calm (Saatva) is much harder to attain.
Utilizing different calming pranayamas can go a long way in quieting thought and helping us to settle more into the right brain functioning of deeper connection and the sense of oneness. Invite students to try using 1:2 ratio breathing to help them lengthen their exhalations which can lead them to switch out of the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ mode into deep relaxation. Or suggest Sandhi Pranayama (pause breath) which shifts the natural transitions between breaths to become subtle pauses or suspensions of breaths. This pranayama is terrific for slowing down, letting go and allowing rest and release. Incorporating these pranayamas for the first few minutes of Savasana can be incredibly helpful in alleviating mental chatter.
Another option for the busy mind is to repeat a simple Mantra. You can link this back to your theme or their intention for the class or simply invite students to repeat Om or Shanti for as long as it is useful. Mantras can be a really effective tool to bring focus, connect body and mind and allow for space between thoughts.
Offering additional props or inviting students to lie in different positions can help them to relax sore, aching or healing bodies. If students are unable to lie flat on their backs for any reason, you may suggest they try a variation of supine bound angle (Supta Baddha Konasana). Have them place a bolster lengthwise along the middle of the mat – placed on inclined blocks if they need more height. They sit in front of the bolster then recline along it, supporting the head appropriately, and may use rolled blankets or blocks under the thighs or knees if needed to alleviate too much stretch in the inner thighs and hips.
Alternatively, you can invite students to lie on their sides with a rolled blanket under the head, a bolster or additional blankets between knees and ankles and even a rolled blanket hugged close to the chest to support the upper arm. This position is preferable for many of my students who are recovering from back or hip surgery (lying on the opposite hip).
Another option specifically for students with SI issues who want to lie on their back is to have them strap their thighs to help keep their legs in a more neutral, as opposed to external, rotation. Make sure they keep their legs hip distance apart and elongate through the tailbone and lower spine before tightening the strap to a comfortable, secure place. This can be done with the legs straight or with the knees bent and can help alleviate the pinched feeling that often occurs with sciatica.
I hope this gives you some ideas to begin exploring options for you and your students to utilize in Savasana. Have fun. Rest well and be well.