Your Personal Yogi: The corpse poseWritten by Jennifer S. White | | email@example.com
Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Regardless of your religious affinity, childhood costumes or opinions on chocolate, it’s very difficult to avoid conjuring up images of skeletons and ghosts around the Day of the Dead (which, by the way, is Nov. 1 and 2, not Oct. 31). In celebration of Halloween’s ghoulish apparitions, we’ll dig a little deeper into corpse pose.
Corpse pose is the most difficult yoga pose that exists, and no, I’m not kidding. Lying on your back as still as death is yoga’s most complex posture. Let’s look at why.
For most of us, getting into this posture is simple, but accessing that limbo-state between awake and asleep is what presents the challenge. Savasana is typically, and more pleasantly, translated from Sanskrit as “final relaxation,” but sava literally means corpse. However, the real problem arises when we begin to define “corpse.”
Not all belief systems see a corpse as something completely inanimate. Many believe in the existence of something more, something less tangible. Obviously, though, most would not argue that when dead you are not truly “alive” in the common physical sense. This is the general idea behind corpse pose. When taking corpse pose, the yoga practitioner is trying to drift away from being actively mentally and physically alert, without falling asleep. With this in mind, corpse pose’s difficulty becomes more understandable.
Let’s take a stab at corpse pose. Lie on your back with your heels a few inches apart and let your toes simply fall out and away from each other. Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels, but retain your spine’s natural curvature. Momentarily reach your arms up toward the ceiling to help broaden your back body. Allow your shoulders to drop away from your ears as each arm rests alongside your torso at a 45 degree angle, palms facing up. Tuck the chin slightly and find length in your neck as you lift the base of your skull away from the release of your shoulders. Consciously find symmetry throughout your entire body before letting go. Make sure your nose points straight up and is not tilting to one side, feel both hands rest on the same knuckle; experience openness in your collarbones and a slight lift of the heart.
Scanning your body slowly, let tension go from every cell of your being —including but not limited to your forehead, cheeks, tongue and jaw. Scan your body a second time, and this time let each soft inhale bring new life into your still body. With each exhale imagine residual stress and tension leaving you. Feel your body become heavy, your eyelids so heavy that you cannot open them.
As your body becomes more relaxed, allow yourself to welcome the thoughts and emotions that come to you. Without judging, feel every sensation and then let it go.
Corpse pose has more to offer than any other pose, hands down. Letting go of attachment to our bodies is not easy, but we are so much more than our physical selves. We play dress up every single day, whether it’s in a princess costume, suit and tie or yoga clothing. This Halloween, I invite you to take a moment (even if it’s in bed right before you fall asleep) to welcome awareness of the deeper you with corpse pose.
Jennifer White is a certified yoga instructor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.