Shavasana, or corpse pose, is typically done at the end of each yoga class or practice. While the pose may seem easy (yes, you are just lying down with your eyes closed) this pose has benefits for athletes, including runners. Practicing shavasana requires concentration (try not to fall asleep), can help to relax your body, relax your muscles, decrease stress, improve circulation, increase focus, and improve control your thoughts.
B.K.S. Iyengar founded the style of yoga named after himself, Iyengar yoga, and was considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world. He said “By remaining motionless for some time and keeping the mind still while you are fully conscious, you learn to relax. This conscious relaxation invigorates and refreshes both body and mind.”
We have busy lives and our minds are overloaded with things to do. This can create stress and anxiety. Running introduces another level of stress. As runners, we are constantly pushing our bodies and increasing heart rates. While we may use running as a way to relax, those who train for races, particularly long distance runs, aren’t really giving their minds a break. A half-marathon, for example, is over two or three hours of concentration. On your breath, your body, and what is going on around you. The experience can lead to mental exhaustion.
In shavasana, runners can give their body and mind a break. to control their thoughts, practicing breath and even training themselves to slow down their heart rate.
To practice shavasana:
- Lie flat on your back, comfortably
- Allow your legs to be separated and toes to splay outwards
- Keep your arms a few inches from your side with palms facing up
- Gently close your eyes
- Slow your breathing
- Bring awareness to your body
- Attempt to equalize your inhales and exhales
As you practice shavasana, concentrate on the top of your head and moving through each body part until you reach the souls of your feet. With each part of your body notice how you feel and consciously attempt to relax that part of your body. While it is still important to concentrate, you will have the benefit of very little additional stimulation around you.
As you feel more comfortable with the body scan, turn your attention to your breath. Consciously practice both speeding up and slowing down your breath. Next, turn your attention to your heart. Close your eyes, listening and feel your heart beat. Visualize your heart and imagine its movement as it pumps blood through your body. With each exhale, imagine your heart beat slowing, still sending your body all of the nutrients it needs, but using much less energy!
Using shavasana to help train your mind and body during your next run can lead to huge gains during your next race. Begin doing this pose for five minutes after each run or yoga practice. Once you have mastered the breathing and body scan, use shavasana to notice and control other parts of your body and mind. Being in control has a lot to do with being aware.