Shavasana is perhaps the most important part of yoga practice. Lying on the back, the arms and legs are spread at about 45 degrees, the eyes are closed and the breath deep, using deergha (long) pranayama. The whole body is relaxed onto the floor with an awareness of the chest and abdomen rising and falling with each breath. All parts of the body are scanned for muscular tension of any kind, which is consciously released as it is found, optionally with a small repetitive movement of the area. All control of the breath, the mind, and the body is then released for the duration of the asana, typically 20–30 minutes although often less in Western yoga classes.

The pose or asana is released by slowly deepening the breath, flexing the fingers and toes, reaching the arms above the head, stretching the whole body, exhaling, bringing the knees to the chest and rolling over to the side in a fetal position.

Many, if not most, yoga traditions and yoga teachers regard Savasana as the single most important pose of your practice. For one thing, it allows your body time to process the information and benefits received from the poses (“asanas”) and breathing exercises (“pranayama”). But the benefits of Savasana are much more than just physical — this pose enhances and renews the body, mind, and spirit.

Savasana is not nap time — you don’t actually fall asleep when practicing it. Instead, the idea is to remain present and aware for the complete duration of the pose. Doing so allows the mental chatter to settle, bringing your awareness even deeper into your innermost and highest state of consciousness. As you go deeper, you can begin to release the tangled knots of patterns (“samskaras”), emotions, and ideas that unconsciously guide your life — freeing you to become more whole and complete in your true essence.

Through the process of practicing Savasana, you can begin to view your life with more clarity and new awareness. The rejuvenating and mind-clearing aspects of Savasana provide you with the tools to deal with stress and emotions in your life off the mat.

Many people have a tendency to breathe faster than normal when they are anxious. Sometimes this can make you feel a little dizzy, which makes you more anxious and you breathe even faster, which can make you more anxious, etc. If you practise 'deep breathing' when you are relaxed, you should be able to do this when you feel tense or anxious to help you to relax.

Try the following for 2-3 minutes. Practise this every day until you can do it routinely in any stressful situation:

  • Breathe slowly and deeply in through your nose, and out through your mouth in a steady rhythm. Try to make your breath out twice as long as your breath in. To do this, you may find it helpful to count slowly 'one, two' as you breathe in, and 'one, two, three, four' as you breathe out.
  • Mainly use your lower chest muscle (your diaphragm) to breathe. Your diaphragm is the big muscle under the lungs. It pulls the lungs downwards which expands the airways to allow air to flow in. When we become anxious we tend to forget to use this muscle and often use the muscles at the top of the chest and our shoulders instead. Each breath is more shallow if you use these upper chest muscles. So, you tend to breathe faster, and feel more breathless and anxious, if you use your upper chest muscles rather than your diaphragm.
  • You can check if you are using your diaphragm by feeling just below your breastbone (sternum) at the top of your tummy (abdomen). If you give a little cough, you can feel the diaphragm push out here. If you hold your hand here you should feel it move in and out as you breathe.
  • Try to relax your shoulders and upper chest muscles when you breathe. With each breath out, consciously try to relax those muscles until you are mainly using your diaphragm to breathe.

Practitioners of meditation often include a very simple breathing exercise that tends to relax the mind and body and to enhance their experience of meditation. This technique is called alternating nostril breathing. This is usually done while seated or lying down and with the eyes closed.

One hand is brought up to the face. The thumb and forefinger are used in this technique to alternate pressing on either side of the nose. The focus is placed directly on the breath. Beginning with the exhalation, push the thumb against one side of the nose to occlude, or to close up or block off that nostril as air passes freely through the other.

During the following inhalation, continue to hold the other nostril occluded.

On the next exhale, release the thumb and push against the nose with the forefinger on the opposite nostril closing this one off completely so air can only pass through the other nostril. Inhale holding the same nostril occluded.

This pattern, switching back and forth from one nostril to the other, can be repeated as long as desired.