In this posture, the body is made to relax. As there is no effort or movement in a corpse (dead body), endeavour is made to make the whole body relaxed. When the body is in a completely relaxed state, full rest is received by the body and all the veins, arteries and muscles collect power during this period. This is a posture performed in a supine position i.e. lying on back with face upward. This yoga posture makes true the old saying that a best posture is the one, which makes the body relaxed.
The main characteristic of this posture is that the whole body becomes like a corpse, thereby making the life-energy flow in the body. As you can clean a substance by passing it through a sieve, in the same manner when you act as a dead person, then your body and mind becomes completely free from tiredness. Just check out the method of this yoga asana and exercise below.
Method of Shava Asana
Although this posture appears to be a simple one, but actually it is a difficult one because together with relaxing the body completely, one has also to make his mind though-free. Lie on a carpet, divan or hard bed with your face upwards and your legs fully stretched. Place together the heels and toes of both your feet. Slightly draw your head backwards. Your palms should rest on the surface on which you are lying and should be near your body. Eyes should be open and mouth shut. Inhale deeply from your nostrils and then exhale. While inhaling there should be movement only in the chest and not the stomach. In this posture, first relax your feet so that they fall sideways. Then relax your arms. You may bend your arms at your elbows if you so desire, but the palms must face upwards. Keep your eyes closed. Let your head also fall sideways – to the left or the right as you like. Let the process of inhaling and exhaling continue automatically, without any willful effort on your part.
Mentally inspect your right toes. Then think about toes of your right foot, then its heel, then its calf, knee and then mentally put them in a complete state of relaxation. Thereafter, mentally perform the same process beginning, with your left foot then with your right and left hands, stomach, chest, neck, mouth and all other parts of your body so as to mentally achieve a complete state of rest and relaxation. In the whole process, instead of concentrating on the process of breathing, just try to concentrate on relaxing your whole body and try to have no other thoughts in your mind.
Then concentrate on your chest. Mentally observe the rise and fall of your chest as you inhale and exhale. You do not have to actually look at your because you already know that the chest rises when you inhale and that it falls when you exhale. Simply observe this process mentally. Do not try to restrict the movement of your chest while you are mentally observing the same. Then shift your concentration to inhalation and exhalation process. Concentrate on the air coming into your lungs and leaving your lungs. Observe this process mentally. Take care that no other thought should enter your mind.
Then concentrate on the front part of your nose. Feel that while you inhale, the air is cool and when you exhale, the air is warm. During this process, breathe as usual and noiselessly.
Thereafter, consider yourself as a Part of the infinite void (or sky). Consider that there is void inside you and outside you or, greater than the void, the endless universe, which is present everywhere. Consider that you are losing your identity and becoming a part of the void. Thinking so, be totally motionless and relaxed. While you are performing this posture there is a possibility that you will fall asleep. However, the purpose of the Corpse Posture is not to induce sleep. When you are asleep, you lose control over the breathing process. On the contrary, the aim of the Corpse Posture is to regulate the breathing. That is the basic difference between this posture and sleep. It is sufficient to practice this posture for half a minute to one-and-a-half minute. Those suffering from high blood pressure, should do this for half an hour to one hour. It is sufficient to just relax your body and observe the process of inhalation and exhalation. The remaining activities are necessary from spiritual point of view, in that these completely put the mind at peace.
Benefits of Shava Asana
- This posture is unique for conservation of energy. The body gets peace and relaxation. Those suffering from nervous disorders, high blood pressure and neurasthenia can greatly reap benefits from this posture. While performing a number of Yoga postures, the Corpse Posture must be included in it. This posture relieves mental tension and helps attain a state of mental equilibrium. During this posture, none of the body part has to work against the gravitational forces. When muscles are relaxed, tiredness goes away and the body becomes more active and energetic.
- The heart does not have to exert much effort to pump the blood. The body being parallel to the ground, the impure blood easily flows towards the heart. The heart gets some rest, thus reducing high blood pressure.
- Mental tension is one of the reasons attributed to diseases like high blood pressure, heart ailments, asthma, diabetes, etc. The Corpse Posture reduces mental tension, thereby reducing seventy of these diseases.
- Physically evidencing the process of regulated inhalation and exhalation has very calming effect on the nervous system. When nervous system is tense, all bodily activities become chaotic. As against sleep, Corpse Posture is a posture during which the person is in a state of complete, yet conscious relaxation. It has been experimentally observed that during this posture, both body and mind are more relaxed than they are during sleep. With this posture, blood circulation, inhalation-exhalation and digestive organs become slow and, with the calming down of the nervous system, both body and mind get complete rest. Napoleon Bonaparte, by performing this Yoga posture for just five minutes, was capable of working for twenty-four hours at a stretch.
The point to note here is that you must completely loosen or relax your body. This posture appears to be very simple to look at or do; yet very few persons are able to perform it correctly. One must completely understand this posture before trying to perform it. Only then one can reap its full benefits. This posture is so connected with the Headstand Posture (described later in this Chapter) that one should do the Corpse Posture for a period equivalent to one-half of the period for which one has been in the Headstand Posture.
Not only this, the yogis use to even sleep in the Corpse Posture. Moreover, this posture is also extensively used while performing samadhi (a form of meditation described later in this book). The mind and the body get complete rest with this posture. That is why the importance of Corpse Posture has been so much emphasized in Yoga literature.
Point to Remember
It is essential to concentrate on breathing. One must try to get rid of all the thoughts and calm down the mind. While performing this posture, a time will come when you will feel your body to have become light in weight and that you have attained a greater degree to consciousness.