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Deep-relaxation pose (Savasana)

This is an excerpt from Big & Bold: Yoga for the Plus-Size Woman by Laura Burns & Laura Burns.

Some folks say they attend class only for the savasana at the end. I’m certainly a fan of the deep-relaxation pose, although other people find it to be the most difficult of all the postures! As a teacher, I can attest to the fact that many students struggle with stillness and being at rest. It can be very challenging to ask yourself to release the racing thoughts that occupy your mind throughout the day. This is exactly why we need the deep-relaxation pose at the end of class. It’s the perfect time to give yourself a moment of calm to get centered before you leave and return to the rest of the world.

Don’t be tempted to skip this pose! This part of your practice is so important that, if you have only a little time, I recommend selecting a couple postures to move the body and work out tension and then spend the remainder of your time in the deep-relaxation pose. The movement prepares your body for stillness, allowing you to release tension and feel refreshed. They work together to create a balanced practice and to give you all the benefits available!

Traditionally, deep-relaxation pose was practiced on the back, but there are tons of positions that can bring ease and relaxation into your body. Check the Pose Options section for ideas!

Alignment Checklist

  • Lie on your back with your legs out long. Place a folded blanket or small pillow under your head for softness and support (see figure 7.11).
  • Check in with your lower back and see if it feels relaxed or uncomfortable. If it’s arching away from the floor, try placing a block under each knee or thigh. If it needs a higher support, replace the blocks with a bolster or even bring your legs to rest on a chair seat.
  • Arrange your arms in the most comfortable position. Know that you can always change your position if you stop feeling comfortable. Cover yourself with a blanket to help promote feelings of comfort and safety. Place an eye pillow on your eyes to block the light and stimulate your vagus nerve to help you relax.
  • Soften the muscles in your face, wiggle your jaw, and allow your tongue to rest against the roof of your mouth.
  • Hold for 5 to 15 minutes or longer if you want. To come out of the pose, roll gently onto your right side. Stay here for a few breaths and then slowly bring yourself up to a seated position.

Figure 7.11 Deep-relaxation pose.
Figure 7.11 Deep-relaxation pose.

Pose Options

  • Try the pose on your side, with something soft under your head and a folded blanket padding between your knees and feet (see figure 7.12a).
  • Experience the deep-relaxation pose from a seated position on the floor (see figure 7.12b). Sit on a folded blanket with your legs out wide. Place a bolster vertically in front of you and tilt it toward you. Rest your head on top of the bolster and wrap your arms around it. You can turn your head either direction or rest your chin on the bolster.
  • Practice the deep-relaxation pose from a seated position on a chair (see figure 7.12c). Sit with your back to the chair back for support. Make sure your feet are supported by the floor, blocks, or a bolster. Roll a blanket into a long tube and place the middle around your neck with each end hanging down and tucked under your arms. Rest your head back on the blanket and soften into the posture.
  • Practice the deep-relaxation pose from a seated position on a chair, but with your legs elevated (see figure 7.12d). Sit with your back to the chair back for support. Bring your legs up onto the seat of a second chair. Your legs can be straight or bent with soles of the feet together. Roll a blanket into a long tube and place the middle around your neck with each end hanging down and tucked under your arms. Rest your head back on the blanket and soften into the posture.
  • Try the pose from reclined on the floor with your legs resting on a chair seat (see figure 7.12e). Come to your back and bring your legs up to rest on the seat of a chair. Drape a blanket over yourself and tuck the end around your feet for support and warmth as you soften into the deep-relaxation pose. Don’t forget to add a folded blanket or small pillow under your head and place an eye pillow on your eyes if you have one.

Figure 7.12 Deep-relaxation pose options: (a) on the side; (b) seated on the floor; (c) seated on a chair; (d) seated on a chair with legs elevated; (e) legs on a chair with blanket on top and tucked around feet.
Figure 7.12 Deep-relaxation pose options: (a) on the side; (b) seated on the floor; (c) seated on a chair; (d) seated on a chair with legs elevated; (e) legs on a chair with blanket on top and tucked around feet.

Accessible Challenges
Add a breath work element by integrating one of the pranayama techniques in chapter 3 into the pose.

Tips for Plus-Sized Bodies
If lying on your back isn’t working for your body, allow yourself to experiment with the side-lying and seated options. Just because the most taught version is supine, it doesn’t mean that’s the way you have to practice it!