The Yoga Tutor

Shava Asana

[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 33 ]

Shava asana, pronounced sha-wa asana, means the "pose of the corpse." It is the primary position used in yoga for relaxation, one in which we attempt to literally mimic the 'lifeless state' by completely letting go of all conscious tension.


  • Lie down on your back with your legs and feet together and the arms straight down along your sides with palms facing upwards.
  • Ideally, the head should be directed toward the north. If that is not possible, then toward the east (more on this later).

Many teachers often direct students to separate their legs and to keep their arms away from the body in shava asana. This looser posture is actually known as mritya asana, and although it is similar to shavasana and can be a useful position for certain relaxation-related practices, shava asana is the preferred position for the final relaxation.

Starting the Relaxation

In shava asana, begin by observing your breath. Become a passive witness, focusing your attention on the act of breathing without influencing it. This can be difficult because the mere fact of becoming aware of the breath causes us to change it unwillingly.

So proceed by breathing as passively as possible. Simply note where and how the breath moves into the body and the rhythm with which it happens. Perceive the depth of the inhalation, the pace, and the area of distension of the body as it continues (i.e. the shoulder area, a particular region of the chest or abdomen, etc.).

After a few moments of observing, begin to adjust the breath into a uniform rhythm, allowing the abdomen to rise and lower, and the chest to expand and contract calmly and regularly.

Continue like this until you feel the inner calmness of this pleasant breath. When you have succeeded in this alone, you will already feel very relaxed!...


NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.

"The Science of Yoga is a course worthy of

leather binding and an honored place in the
finest libraries in the world 
... It is indeed a masterful work."


Dr. John Michael Christian


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