Shavasana or the corpse pose is one of the most classic and important asanas in the whole system of yoga. The translated name corpse pose is maybe not so flattering, but so descriptive of the amount of energy and movement that should go into it.
Shavasana looks and sounds like an easy pose. You lie on your back on the mat with your feet apart, your arms down your side a little away from the body with palms up, and your head in the middle of the back of the head. The positions of the hands are important to maintain an energetic openness, but if it is really uncomfortable you can turn your hands. If, and only if, you have a sensitive and/or sore lower back you can place a blanket, pillow or block underneath your knees or thighs.
The idea behind the Shavasana is that you do not do anything; you simply let your body settle there, which, in itself, can be difficult if you happen to be out of practice with doing nothing. Even though this sounds rather straightforward, it becomes difficult because of that expectation that something more is supposed to happen. The easiness and simplicity are also why we forget the importance of it, we tend to think we know the pose. We forget that it is something more to it than achieving the physical pose, so we move on as quickly as possible.
We do nothing in the Shavasana, on purpose, as it is a neutral pose–a pose where your pulse can settle and your mind can settle, in general, and especially after dynamic practices. When you let your mind and body settle in-between the exercises, you allow the benefits of the pose to work in your body before going on to another pose or exercise. Feeling how long it takes your pulse to settle is easy and you can feel how your heart beats slow down to a normal rhythm.
Your mind settles in a different way and it takes a finer adjustment to remember and to register. Your mind is ready to go on when your attention is somewhere else. If you pay attention next time you practice yoga on your own, in a group you might not get enough time, you will realize after staying in the Shavasana that your attention is on what you just did and what goes on in the body. Suddenly, your mind will shift and other thoughts or worries appear–that is when you are ready to move on.
The Shavasana is also useful for relaxation, which reflects back on the neutral qualities of the pose. There are no strains or strange positions for any of your body parts, which gives the mind space to go somewhere else.
Practicing Shavasana before you go to bed can also prepare you for sleep and helps settle your mind so it is easier to fall asleep. For a snug Shavasana experience, make sure you wear comfortable leggings or yoga pants and wrap up in a blanket afterward.