Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Cama Hall, Bombay, February 1963, originally printed in YOGA, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1964

Shavasana, or deep relaxation, is an easy and useful method of giving peace to the body and mind. It is a unique method of complete relaxation, and also an aid to sensory withdrawal. Many of our tragedies belong to the sphere of the psyche. We suffer due to self-hypnotism created by opinions, self-consciousness, prejudices, false notions of poverty, pomp, delusions and so on. Shavasana is a process of de-hypnotism which counteracts many negative autosuggestions. Those who want to reform their lives and realize their potential may do so by this practice.

Those who sincerely want to mould their character and give up bad habits will also be greatly benefited. If you have the bad habit of abusing others as if compelled by some unseen force, you should take up shavasana regularly, and at the end of deep relaxation superimpose positive resolves upon your astral body by taking recourse to certain reflex conditioned formulas. Do it regularly for fifteen days and you will see that the instinctive habit goes away without the least struggle.

Doctors, lawyers, teachers and businessmen accumulate muscular and mental tensions in their daily profession. They will be greatly benefited by the practice of shavasana. It is also a wonderful psychological cure for those who suffer from insomnia as well as sleep disturbances.

What is the difference between sleep and shavasana? Normally we go to sleep without quietening the mind. The influx of blood, tensions and congestion remains unsettled in our being. In normal sleep our day-to-day irregularities remain unsettled and unadjusted. Shavasana is really attained when our tensions are eased, blood circulation calmed down and other congestions rendered clear by this scientific method. Shavasana brings good quality sleep. One who practises shavasana does not feel sleeplessness at all.

Practice of shavasana

Remove all tight clothing and get ready to practise shavasana. Lie down flat on your back on a carpet. Interlock your fingers over the head and stretch yourself as much as possible. Then place your hands by the sides of your body with the palms turned upward. Make sure your body is straight, then close your eyes. When you are ready, start relaxing yourself part by part.

Start with the right big toe. Think of it for some time. Then go to the second toe, third toe, fourth toe, fifth toe. It may not be possible for you to visualize them, but you can think of each one in turn. You will have to move from point to point quickly, otherwise you will fall asleep.

Now go to the sole of your right foot. Try to feel the cold, hot or numb sensations there. Then come to the right ankle, then the calf muscle. Be aware of the sensations. Now come to the knee joint. Feel a pressure as if the knee has become very heavy. Then come to the right thigh. Pause here and meditate on the totality of sensations. After that come to the right pelvis.

From the pelvis come directly to the right palm. Be aware of the entire palm, be aware of the sensations in the palm due to blood circulation. Then come to the right thumb. Be conscious of the right thumb. Be aware of increasing heaviness. Experience the sensation. You will feel as if your thumb has become heavy and stiff. Now go to the second, third, fourth and fifth fingers. Then be aware of the whole hand, including the fingers. Next come to the wrist, the elbow and the right shoulder.

After this, repeat the same process on the left side. Then take the consciousness to sahasrara. Here you will be able to feel some sort of centralized sensation at the crown lotus. If you can experience some sort of sensation at sahasrara, it means you are getting success in shavasana.

Now come down to the forehead. Be mindful of the entire area. Then come down to the space between the two eyebrows. There is one point; try to apprehend it. One who knows this point knows psychic sleep. Now descend to the eyelids, then down to the tip of the nose. You will distinctly feel a peculiar sensation there. Then go down to the heart centre and experience the feeling here consciously. Next come down to the navel centre and be aware of the feeling in this region.

After this, relax the major parts of the body. Start with the right leg from the waist down to the toe, then the left leg. Relax both the legs. Relax the right arm from the shoulder to the fingertips, then the left arm. Then relax the whole body from head to toes. Be aware of the physical presence of your sleeping body.

Now that you are lying quietly, mentally visualize the whole body at one glance. Feel as if you are looking at a sleeping body that is reposing in calmness. Thus you should try to separate your physical and mental bodies and project the awareness outside the body. There should be a clear vision that you are standing at the side and looking at the body. Look at yourself well for some time. You must project yourself out and after you have done so, visualize yourself from head to toe in parts.

Finally, during this state of utmost introversion, superimpose healthy resolves, autosuggestions and reflex conditioned formulas upon your astral body. The resolves should be stated as simply as possible and up to thirty times.

The higher and more intensive practices of yoga nidra, psychic sleep, should be learned properly under an adept yogi who can explain to you many of the psychic processes beyond the power of pen and speech. If you have a guru to instruct you in shavasana, he can lead you to the highest meditative state through this practice. Although it does not lead to samadhi, it can be used as a preparation.