The corpse yoga pose is a position of rest and relaxation. It’s usually practiced toward the end of a yoga session. This pose is ideal for beginner, intermediate, and advanced yogis, but it requires an immense amount of concentration to do it correctly. Like many other yoga poses, the corpse pose offers several mind and body benefits.
What Is a Corpse Pose?
The corpse pose is a position of relaxation that allows for rest and healing to occur. It's named after the posture of a dead body. In Sanskrit it's called Shavasana and is pronounced: “sha vah sana.” "Shava” means “corpse” and “asana” means “pose”.
Each yoga session typically begins with movement or activity and ends with rest. The corpse pose is an ideal way to end a session, encouraging participants to relax after working through other poses. Similar to completing a cool-down exercise after aerobic activity, the corpse pose allows you to relax and rejuvenate the body.
Anyone can practice the corpse pose, even those who are brand new to yoga. You don't need anything to practice this position but a space on the floor. A yoga mat will provide extra comfort.
What Muscles Does the Corpse Pose Work?
The corpse pose consists of lying flat on your back with your eyes closed and your limbs spread apart from your body. It isn’t intended to be a strength training exercise. Instead of working specific muscles, practicing the corpse pose gives your body rest as you focus on your breathing and wind down after exercising.
Directions for Doing the Corpse Pose
Follow these steps to practice the corpse yoga pose correctly:
- Set aside a few minutes after your workout and find a quiet area with enough space to lie down.
- Lie flat on your back and close your eyes.
- Relax and make sure your legs are a comfortable distance apart. Allow your feet to rest naturally, with your toes pointing out toward the sides of your body.
- Stretch your arms out straight alongside your body. Leave a little space between your arms and body and open your palms so they face up to the sky.
- Slowly relax your entire body and let each body part become heavier. Start with your feet and gradually move upward toward your head. Take note of how each part of your body feels.
- Let your thoughts and worries fade away, and focus on your breathing. Take slow, deep, and smooth breaths. Be in the present moment and try to clear your mind of all its clutter.
- Hold the pose for several minutes.
- Slowly roll onto your right side and sit up gently.
- Keep your eyes closed and inhale and exhale a few times as you gradually regain awareness of your body and the things around you. Gently open your eyes once you feel ready.
You can hold the corpse yoga pose anywhere from a few minutes to 20 minutes or longer. Do what feels best for you and enjoy the relaxation.
Corpse Pose Adaptations
The corpse pose is suitable for yogis of any level. However, pregnant people should avoid lying flat on their backs during the third trimester to avoid compressing the vein that returns blood to the heart.
Pregnant yogis can practice Shavasana safely by elevating their heads and chests. Simply place a rolled-up blanket or pillow behind your neck and arms to support yourself.
Other modifications for the corpse pose that can increase relaxation and comfort include:
- Wearing an eye mask to block out light
- Resting your head on a pillow
- Placing your legs on the wall or a chair
- Putting a folded blanket or pillow under or in between your knees
Benefits of the Corpse Pose
This pose may be an easy and straightforward exercise, but by doing it correctly, you’ll reap several corpse pose benefits. Specifically, Shavasana:
- Is suitable for all fitness levels. Whether you’re new to yoga or you’ve been practicing for years, the corpse pose is an easy position of rest that requires no equipment. You can practice this pose anywhere there’s enough room to lie down.
- Helps reduce stress. Physical exercise increases your heart rate and breathing rate, much like other sources of stress, such as having a long day at work. The corpse pose is a form of mindfulness meditation, which counteracts the body’s stress response by decreasing heart rate, slowing breathing, and reducing blood pressure. Shavasana helps your body return to its regular state of functioning after a workout.
- Rejuvenates the body. Taking a few moments to rest and relax at the end of a yoga session may help you feel refreshed and balanced. This is especially true if you just completed a fast-paced yoga session or another type of vigorous exercise.
- Lifts mood. Physical exercise produces a rush of feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which trigger positive feelings. Research indicates the corpse yoga pose may help prolong this natural high, especially when combined with aerobic exercise.
- Promotes the union of mind, body, and spirit. The practice of yoga is all about enhancing the connection between your mind, body, and spirit. As you relax and clear your mind, the corpse pose allows you to connect with your inner self, relax, and gently end your exercise session.
The corpse pose is an excellent yoga practice for people of all ages and abilities. Due to its rejuvenating qualities, Shavasana may be especially beneficial for anyone who wants to improve their overall mindfulness, reduce stress and anxiety, or address symptoms of depression.
Corpse Pose Mistakes to Avoid
As with all yoga poses, the correct form is essential for your safety and comfort. Although the corpse pose is easy to practice almost anywhere, a few guidelines will help you avoid any unnecessary discomfort.
Make sure you are lying on a flat and supportive surface. Using an uncomfortable yoga mat may cause body aches or general discomfort, so consider investing in a high-quality yoga mat that provides proper support.
Practice Shavasana in a quiet and relaxing environment to avoid distractions and disruptions. Avoid moving around and, instead, focus on lying still and quietly. Do your best to relax your mind, notice your thoughts without judgment, and then let them go. This process takes time and practice, so don’t get frustrated if you don’t get it right away. Keep trying.
If you are 7 to 9 months pregnant, don’t lie flat on your back for the corpse pose. Instead, use one of the recommended modifications listed above.