Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why I Hate Savasana...

I know what you're saying: 'What is wrong with her? That is the BEST part of a yoga class!' At least, that's what Andrew says... lol.

Me and the savas...ana (ok, couldn't be that cool), we go way back with our troubles. Yep. Way back to the first time I ever took a yoga class. Our relationship over the past five years has definitely changed, like everyone predicted (give it time... you'll come around) but not exactly for the better.

Savasana originally was a very stressful and non-pleasant experience for my anxiety ridden, high strung self. I couldn't stand being in a room filled with prone people and close my eyes. I used to absolutely dread that last pose and was filled with gratitude on those rare occasions when they only lasted a few minutes. 

So I would lay there, anxiety sky rocketing, telling myself to 'breathe, seriously stop being a weirdy' and wait. Wait for the telltale footsteps of the instructor slowly, slowly approaching. Oh, there she is doing that neck-shoulder thing to the person next to me... shit, I'm next! QUICK close your eyes and pretend to relax! Remember last time when she caught you with your eyes open and told you to just relax?? THAT was embarrassing. 

It goes on... really.

In any case, thank goodness that about a year ago I finally learned how to relax enough to let go during savasana and close my eyes. Most likely because the teachers here don't usually do the whole go to each person for a shoulder massage deal... although it could be I'm growing as a person too- hah!

Sadly, another issue has come up during this time... my sacral area. For the past two years lying in savasana will induce some critical pain in my lower buttal area. Either the sacrum or SI spot. I have tried pillows (in all possible variations) and am continuously working on strengthening my core and lower back. To no avail. 

Should we be in savasana for more than, say 2 minutes, my sacrum is screaming in pain... and trying to get out of it is even worse.

Out of ALL the postures to modify, savasana is the one that I haven't heard *one* other option given. It's like it's a given that you'll automatically adore savasana and should just hang out in corpse (unless you're pregnant of course. Which I've tried the feet up against the wall... also not very pleasant).

Really all I want to do is sit and meditate. Not as easy to let go and relax, I know, but much less painful. How to ask though? I have whispered on a few occasions (twice I think) if the teacher was alright with me having a seated meditation... and of course they said yes. 

Maybe it's just me but I feel like sitting during savasana is a sure fire way to stick out amongst the crowd. To be the yogini 'doing her own thing' and not really listening to the teacher. Plus it's usually UBER quiet... and I've never actually seen anyone else take a modification during savasana. I'm pretty darn positive this is something that just isn't really modifiable, at least directly through corpse.

So that was my late night story on how savasana and I have broken up. At least for now. I think I'll be ok... just need to break the news to the local instructors... 


Article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com


  1. girlfriend, remind yourself that yoga practice is about YOU and no one else! your booty hurt? sit up and chill in your own way! your back hurt? do what you gotta do! the important thing is that you already understand the intention of the pose. you don't need to ask permission to do what makes you comfortable, and if your yoga teacher has the nerve to tell you to do something else, tell her/him they can kiss your sacrum, ahahaha

    as for me, my lower back is not a fan of having my legs out straight, so i either butterfly or just bend them, and its better. i love your 'oh shit' comment, although for me i've always looked forward to it as my teachers always have done it in a way that helps me feel better and more relaxed (i actually hate yoga classes where the teacher does NOT come over to the students and help them get into the right posture, etc., and see other folks completely distorted and never taught the proper positioning).

  2. I agree! My back arches uncomfortably, I find it's better if I lie with my knees bent, feet on the floor. That might not stick out quite as much as sitting up does. When I'm at class I'm like you though, I lie there and bear it, which isn't the point of this final pose at all.

  3. Have you tried savasana with your legs up against a wall?
    makes my back feel so good, esp when I get my butt as close as poss to wall....

    I highly recommend that.
    But if not,bending your knees and placing seet flat on floor may help too....

  4. hmm, I guess my advice would be to give the teachers a heads up before going in (just explain you've tried modifications and the discomfort just defeats the point of relaxation). As for other students judging, aren't their eyes supposed to be closed anyways? ;) You could always take your time getting into a seated position until they are all lying down and eyes closed!

  5. Hey sweetie... So, here's the deal from my perspective.

    #1. Savasana is JUST A POSE. Yep. Take a minute. Think about it. It's just a pose.

    So, that means that you are ABSOLUTELY AND TOTALLY entitled to modify it any way that suits your body.

    Yup. Seriously. There's not a teacher in the world who will tell you not to modify a pose if you need to, right?!

    #2. The main point of Savasana is not to move your body for a certain period of time. To let your body relax. There are actually lots of people who can't do that in a lying flat position. So, try lying on your side (which is actually what we learned in YTT to recommend for pregnant women - curled on the left side with pillows as needed). Or, try bending your knees to take stress out of your lower back. Or, just sit up and meditate like you want to. Seriously, this is the one pose that you can pretty much guarantee that NOBODY is watching - cause they all have their eyes closed!

    And maybe it's just me, but I can't imagine a yoga teacher disturbing every one else's savasana just to ask you to get with the program because you choose to lie in a different position or sit quietly. It's not like you're stomping out of class or chatting on your cell phone or something.

  6. I'm really glad you shared this. I don't think I've ever considered whether some of my students might be hating savasana. I can tell you that, as the teacher, I wouldn't care at all if you did seated meditation or another modification at the end of class that caused you no pain. I can't imagine that savasana is properly meaningful if you're physically miserable.

    But I look forward to what others say about this - I haven't been teaching that long.

  7. If savasana causes you physical pain, it seems like the instructors ought to be able to come up with some sort of modification to avoid stressing your lower back. Bolster under the knees? Padding under the back? I've experienced some very comfortable savasanas with folded blankets under the spine for more support... though you said you've tried many configurations of pillows. From the safety point of view, I think it's the instructor's job to help you find a way to do the pose that doesn't cause you physical pain!

  8. As a teacher, I encourage students to follow their own paths- it’s not about me dictating to them and them doing exactly what I say! You have to do what feels best in your body, and if that is in seated meditation instead of corpse- there is nothing wrong with it! As long as your being relatively quiet and still, resting is resting to me. I think it’s awesome that you found what is best for you and you should just roll with it!

  9. ha ha ha - this was a reason why I don't do yoga classes, I hate being told to lay down and relax. I've not heard of teachers doing the shoulder massage thing here in the UK - which I am pleased about - that would have freaked me out.

    Have you tried drawing your knees up, so your back is pushed into the floor (in a gentle way), its kind of an alexandra (alexandrian??)technique - and really helps with back pain, of all sorts!


  10. Are you kidding me? You've never had any modifications for savasana? Lady there are so many!!!

    Try putting a rolled up mat or bolster under your knees. Or better still bend the knees, place the feet mat width apart and let the knees come together.

    Place the hands on the lower abdomen rather than arms by the sides.

    Put a block or folded blanket under the back of the head.

    Lie on your right hand side with a boster or cushion between your legs to keep the sacrum straight...

    I have more, do you want them? ;)

  11. I agree with many of the other comments here, do the pose as you need to do it, if sitting works better for you do it! Yoga is about you and your health not about being bendy :) and getting into every pose every time. Find a pose that helps you relax and calm your mind. I did like the suggestion that you speak to your teacher before class about it, who knows they will probably help you find a position that works best for you.

  12. I prefer sitting meditation to savasasa, too, even at home alone. I'd say do whatever you can most relax in and go to a "deeper" place.

  13. Savasana is one of the most difficult pose in yoga (and it's not just me saying that ;-)) Have you tried bending the knees with feet flat on the floor while on your back? You can also practice savasana laying on your right side in the fetal pose. Savasana is all about comfort; it's your reward at the end of your routine.

  14. Have you talked to your teacher about what's going on for you in savasana? They might not have any idea that you are having these huge reaction to the pose.

    Some ideas that came to me, if you are feeling crunched in your sacrum, place a bolster under your knees, it will take the pressure off. Or, bend your legs & place your feet flat on the floor. If you are feeling really vulnerable, lie on your right side & hug a bolster.

  15. This drives me batty!

    The fact that the teacher doesn't say, "Come to savasana or any relaxation pose or sitting pose that YOUR BODY NEEDS RIGHT NOW..."

    Or some such thing. Those are the words I use and I can't imagine the point of yoga if we aren't to teach students to LISTEN to their OWN bodies. OYE.

    YOU shouldn't have to ask or tell the teacher; they should know.

  16. the three modifications I tell students to use if their back hurts are:

    1. roll on your stomach, turn toes in or out depending on YOUR bone structure in your back, arms folded under forehead

    2. on your back, knees bent, feet at edges of your mat or beyond, knees fall into middle

    3. using a bolster: turn sideways, bolster at your hip, knees bent, then lie down on the bolster. comfy!

    really can't believe no teacher ever gave you modifications!

  17. So if savasana is impossibly painful, why not do another resting posture like child's pose? I know it's not the same benefits exactly, but you'd still be resting...

  18. corpse pose makes my soas go tight like a rubber band - i've never been able to do it! i've always modified and have never had anyone look at me strange. the only way i can get through the class is with my legs bent. it's not relaxing. but corpse pose is important! the only way i've ever been able to get the full 'aaaah' of the pose is to lie at the foot of my bed and go like i'm doing legs-up-the-wall and then rest my calves on the bed. my back is flat, my legs are at a 45 degree angle and supported. it's lovely - give it a try!

  19. wow... i'm so glad you finally said something cuz there really are so many options...

    Sitting is always one... sitting right up against the wall with legs straight out at least hip width or more apart and palms facing up on the thighs is always a really nice resting place for the lower back that i sometimes use for some pregnant people who just can't get comfy on the floor by the end of the class... not slumped back into the wall but really supported by it so you get that nice wide back feeling that you would get lying down.

    I totally second everything La Gitane and Rachel already said... it's meant to be relaxing, not excruciating and how to get to that comfy place can be different for different people. Many teachers would probably be thrilled that you're willing to take your most restful pose on your own initiative, you know your body best and it shows that you're taking the time to figure it out and honour it which is the whole point of the practice. Going regularly to the same teacher - not all the time but regularly enough - can also be quite useful. Most teachers again would be happy to work with you a little after class to find a few options that work and because they are seeing you in different postures over a period of time they can also help you figure out where the discomfort might actually coming from... lower back discomfort does not automatically imply a weak core in the standard sense.

    There are so many suggestions already here I hesitate to add more... try them all and let us know what works cuz if nothing works, like Rachel said... there's a whole lot more where that came from.

    At the end of the day, every single body is unique and wonderful and deserves to rest... thank you for bringing this up, I'm sure it will help all those other standard savasana sufferers too and good luck!

  20. As a teacher I definitely don't see a problem with a seated meditation instead of savasana. I struggled with savasana for a long time, too. But, now it is my favorite. I think restorative yoga is amazing. But, obviously not amazing if it hurts you. Do what feels good to you!

  21. This post is SO real! I think you should do whatever makes you feel good in savasana. The way I approach it in my classes is to say "the traditional savasana pose is (blah blah blah), but please come into any position that is relaxing and comfortable to you."

    It's YOUR yoga practice after all. : )

  22. I was totally going to give a list like Rachel... and I especially recommend trying the one with your feet mat distance apart and let your knees relax together. Of course, if you have an extra wide mat you won't want to take your feet that far apart... just somewhere a little wider than hip distance.

    Also... as a teacher I've had students ask before class even began if they could sit out savasana... and I'm totally cool with it. I had one student who would sit and cry throughout savasana for the first couple months she took my class. Eventually she was super-blissed out, lying in savasana every time.

    So just do your own thing - it is YOUR practice. Besides, no one else in class will notice you're sitting because they've got their eyes closed in savasana.

  23. I agree with Rachel-

    the possibilities are endless for savasana modifications, if you are creative with your props :)

    My favorite is to sometimes just take savasana ON MY BELLY!! (crazy, I know, but it works!) it is soooo freeing, coming from another yogi who lays there with her eyes open counting down the minutes "rolling onto my right side". (right side, i agree, is a great place to take savasana as well)

    You can also fold a blanket into a "mild" bolster (fold fringers to the bottom, fold in half with fringes still to the bottom and then in half again) and place the "bolster" in the middle of your mat and lay with your pelvis and everything north of your pelvis on the blanket and your legs and everything south of your pelvis off of the "bolster". You can do it with 2 or three "bolsters" and create some amazing sensation and release.


  24. holy moly!! so many suggestions and comments- thank you SO much!!

    What I would like to say (I meant to answer tonight, but thought I'd msg quickly from work (gasp!) before more comments arrive)

    is that the "modification" i meant was another posture option...

    I have tried the bolster, pillows, feet on the floor, legs up against the wall etc... (bolster sideways, under my lower back, under my bum) and they've all added pressure and been painful... :(

    Any of the other more non-traditional modifications would be greatly appreciated!

    I really love the idea of trying to sit with my back against the wall and legs out- supported, not slumped. I think that might work!

    Also- I think I'll try talking to the teacher prior to class, explaining that I've tried all the usual stuff (cuz what has happened so far is that I've announced the pain, they give me a bolster... which isn't enough) and that maybe I could sit during today's and if they had time at the end to help that would be great.

    Again, so many thanks for such practical and thoughtful advice. it's so nice to read the support!! :)

    Any and all suggestions are welcome!

  25. my two cents would be to maybe try child's pose if a laying on your back position is uncomfortable. I can get a good deep relaxation in child's pose as well as savasana.

    hope that helps,

  26. Just a question,wondering how do you lie when you sleep at night?(curious how you deal with the back pain?)
    Have you thought of going for massage therapy?

  27. Anonymous:
    actually Andrew asked me the same thing after reading my post.

    It only seems to be an issue when laying on the harder floor... but then, I usually sleep on my side... :)

    I do think that perhaps a doctor's visit is in order- I probably should see a PT to see if there is something specific I should be doing.

  28. In YTT we were taught to end classes with some pranayama, which meant people were sitting and then offer people the option to remain sitting or lie down, whatever suits them best.

    Then, have you ever tried legs up the wall? Basically, you lie on a blanket or mat and scoot your backside as close as possible to the wall. Legs go up the wall, upper body relaxes into the floor.

    Another beautiful option I've learned is to lie on top of a bolster with head and shoulders on the floor, and feet are resting on a block. That's really quite relaxing and gives a nice opening through the chest. :)

  29. I've definitely had my problems with savasana, but far more on my own, when, unless I've really given myself a workout, it can be incredibly difficult to stay still for long (meditation's always been difficult, too, for the same reasons, though at least then I'm at least keeping my back engaged, etc.) problems than in a class where it's more like the teacher gives me permission to be lazy...though even then, unless the teacher's really given me a workout, I'm usually glad when it's over.

  30. This one is hard for me, too. I don't know why, but I cannot seem to relax at all. Also, I can't keep my hands and arms on the floor - I have to fold them over my stomach and chest. I'm trying to lay there for 2-3 minutes after yoga, but...it is a struggle.

  31. What I find so difficult with Savasana is just getting my monkey-mind to settle down. That's what distracts me. But I also get the listening to a teacher make her way around the room--I don't mind the adjustment, but listening to it happen is really pulls me out of my own body...
    So interesting what a response your post got!

  32. What a wonderful, honest post and the responses are great. I can't really expand on them as I think all options have been explored. However, I will say, find a way to be comfortable. Savasana is about "being" not "doing" and if you are uncomfortable, what a terrible way to end practice! Can't wait to hear about how you approach it. ;-)

  33. Wow - hot topic! I like to tell my students to get comfortable in whatever position supports them. Some take supported Reclining Bound Angle, some take supported Bridge, some take traditional or supported Savasana, some sit up, and last night one student laid on her belly. It's all good. The important thing is the rest, the finding ease after working hard, focusing on the breath and quieting the mind. I just posted an article on Do Restorative Yoga called "Nap like a Yogi" which details a way to rest while sitting up against a wall. Come on over and check it out.

  34. Hey there! I have a modification you might try to see if it makes savasana more comfortable for you! Instead of keeping your legs straight along the floor, bend both knees, feet flat on the floor and allow your knees to rest in against each other. Also, try using more than one yoga mat for padding in this pose. And if that doesn't work, I agree with prior comments - take care of yourself regardless of what everyone else is doing! Rest in a comfortable seated position, or with your legs up the wall. Heck, lie on your stomach if you need to! It's all about you :)

  35. If its uncomfortable to lay completely flat you can also bring a blanket that you can place under your lower back for support. More than a few people do this in my classes.


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