These asanas give the body the rest it so badly needs. The importance of this series cannot be over-emphasized.

Relaxation poses are commonly used at the end of the asana section of a class, providing time to let all the bodily systems return to their normal functioning levels. This ensures that toxins and energy blockages are dispersed and that the breath and heartbeat can return to their natural rate.

These poses may appear to be the easiest but they are in fact the most challenging. To practice them correctly, one must consciously release the tension in all the muscles of the body. Often the muscles appear to be completely relaxed, but tightness still remains. Even while one sleeps, the comfort is elusive.

Relaxation asanas in the prone position help to alleviate postural abnormalities and are especially recommended for back and spinal problems. They can be practiced during any time of the day for any comfortable duration. Full relaxation allows the whole psycho-physiological system to rest. Benefits are bountiful.

Flapping Fish

Matsya kridasana

  • Lie on the stomach.
  • Interlock the fingers and place them under the head.
  • Bend the left leg sideways and bring the left knee close to the left ribs.
  • Keep the right leg straight along the floor.
  • Swivel the arms to the left and rest the left elbow near the left knee.
  • Lay the right side of the head in the crook of the elbow or comfortably on the arm.
  • Close the eyes and relax the whole body.
  • After some time, come back to centre then practice to the right.

Breathing

  • Natural and relaxed.

Awareness

Benefits

  • Stimulates digestive peristalsis.
  • Relieves constipation.
  • Soothes backache.
  • Alleviates sciatica.
  • Rest during pregnancy.

Crocodile

Makrasana

  • Lie on the stomach.
  • Straighten the legs and position the big toes together with the heels falling out to the sides.
  • Raise the head and shoulders and rest the chin in the palms of the hands with the elbows on the floor.
  • Adjust the position of the elbows to a comfortable position.
  • Close the eyes and relax the whole body.

Breathing

  • Natural and relaxed.

Awareness

Contraindications

  • Back conditions.
  • Exaggerated lumbar spine.
  • 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy.

Benefits

  • Helps to rectify slip disk.
  • Alleviates sciatica.
  • Soothes lower back pain.
  • Relieves asthma.

Practice note

  • Bring the elbows together for a more pronounced arch in the spine or separate the elbows apart to relieve pressure on the neck.
  • Experiment with the placement of the elbows to find a comfortable position where the tension is evenly spread between the neck and the lower back.

Superior Posture

Jyestikasana

  • Lie on the stomach.
  • Have the legs straight and feet together.
  • Rest the forehead on the floor.
  • Interlock the fingers and place the palms of the hands on the back of the head or neck.
  • Soften the elbows to the floor.
  • Close the eyes and consciously relax the whole body.

Breathing

  • Natural and relaxed.

Awareness

  • Consciously relax the body.
  • The natural breath.
  • The soothing warmth of the palms melting away any tension from the neck.
  • Manipura chakra.

Contraindications

  • 2nd or 3rd trimester of pregnancy.

Benefits

  • Helps to rectify cervical spondylitis.
  • Alleviates spinal cord related problems.

Practice note

  • If there is difficulty breathing or a sense of suffocation, place a pillow under the chest.

Reversed Corpse Pose

Advasana

  • Lie on the stomach.
  • Stretch the arms above the head with the palms facing downward.
  • Rest the forehead on the floor.
  • Ensure the head, neck and spine are aligned.
  • Maintain a comfortable distance between the legs.
  • Mentally relax the spine and torso.

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Corpse Pose

Shavasana

  • Lie flat on the back.
  • Place the arms beside the body, not quite touching, with the palms turned up.
  • Separate the legs and allow the feet to fall naturally to the sides.
  • Ensure that the head, neck and spine are in alignment.
  • Close the eyes and lips and relax the whole body.

Breathing

  • Natural and relaxed.

Awareness

  • Consciously relax the body.
  • The natural breath.
  • Ajna chakra.

Benefits

  • Relaxes the whole psycho-physiological system.
  • Offers mental and physical relief.
  • Most effective after dynamic practices such as Surya Namaskara.
  • Reduces headache, fatigue and insomnia.
  • Helps to lower blood pressure.

Practice note

  • Keep the body still for the whole practice and consciously let go.
  • If the neck is uncomfortable with the head resting on the floor, place a thin pillow underneath the head.
  • If there is tenderness in the lower back, place a pillow under the knees to relieve pressure in the lower back.