The sweet surrender of savasana

By Ann Grace MacMullan

In our yoga asana practice, we save one pose for the end of every session: savasana, or corpse pose. Lying still and resting, often on our backs, our teachers encourage us to let go and practice the art of surrender. 

Honestly, when I first started with yoga, this was my least favorite pose. I couldn’t lie there doing nothing, alone in silence with my thoughts racing! After years of yoga, savasana has become one of my favorite poses, and through its valuable teaching I recognize that it could be the most important one.

It’s clear to me when I practice this pose of letting go that I’m more than just a body. I can imagine myself dancing joyfully or flying like an eagle. My “me” becomes lighter. Some believe that this essence, soul, or true self is in fact eternal and will live on beyond the loss of the physical shell we borrow for this lifetime. Although corpse pose helps us recognize that we have to let go of certain aspects of our human experience, paradoxically, lying on the ground doing nothing may also connect us with the bliss of the infinite in the here and now.

Looking to nature often provides me with a deeper connection to “all that is,” as well as inspiration for my practice and teaching.

The autumn leaves fall like embers, floating earthward with a fizzle. I imagine the tenuous connection between leaf stem and branch growing more fragile, over the course of . . . days? Hours? Until that sweet moment of release, when the leaf springs free to its delightful descent. It’s the time of beautiful decay; a time in which to witness the beginning of the end. Winter is coming. How many autumns have you seen in your lifetime? How many times have you observed this elegant process of letting go? 

Despite witnessing this perpetual change, this relentless turning of the seasons, we somehow think of our own lives as immutable, permanent. We hold on so tightly—to our health, homes, or families—and we can’t fathom letting go. And so, when goodbye comes, we have never practiced it, and it’s unfathomable.

Try this powerful pose for yourself. Lie on the ground or your bed or couch and make yourself comfortable: pillows under the head and knees, a blanket for comfort, maybe even a lavender eye pillow over your eyes. Breathe in, then follow your exhalation all the way out. Feel the imprint of your body on the ground and, little by little, try to soften into the support below. Take a breath in, and on the breath out, let go of one body part at a time, moving from head to toe. Imagine the earth receiving you, holding you. Stay for anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes.

Being guided through savasana by a teacher can facilitate letting go. Try this 15-minute practice that includes Himalayan singing bowls. 

Ann Grace MacMullan, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT, enjoys creating trauma-informed spaces for rest and healing, and guiding diverse populations toward transformation in body, mind, and spirit. Her work centers on supporting the aging process and empowering those affected by cancer.