Progression of Shavasana

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

There is a sequence to the practice of shavasana. Generally, people simply say, “Lie down and relax,” calling that shavasana or the relaxation pose. Lying down and relaxing can be the pose, but it is not the experience of shavasana. It is not the pose which is important, but cultivating a deeper experience in shavasana. Therefore, shavasana has a progression.

For example, when we practise the first form of shavasana, the breath is experienced in the nostrils. In the second shavasana, the breath is experienced as expansion and relaxation in the region of the navel. In the third shavasana, you breathe up from the left foot through the left side, down through the right, up through the right, down through the left. In the fourth progression, the breath is visualized in the colour blue on the left side and red on the right side.

An arrogant yoga teacher starts straight with the advanced colour visualization. The simple yoga teacher follows the progression. I want you to be a progressive teacher and for that you need to control your own desire to teach. You should recognize the need of the people you are teaching rather than what you want to teach. This is a crucial point in teaching.

People like to teach what they themselves enjoy practising and not what the student needs. You might feel happy doing a particular asana, but that asana is not for the other person. You have to follow the progression in your teaching. The same applies to a simple practice like shavasana for with each experience of shavasana, you are sensitizing your awareness to recognize a condition of the body which is deeper than the previous condition. The more you are able to sensitize your awareness, the more understanding you will have of the different koshas.

Thus, shavasana is not just a pose of relaxation; it is also a progression. In the first stage, it is simple relaxation with breath awareness and observation of the cold and warm sensations in the nasal passage. The second stage is the expansion and relaxation of the region of the navel. In the third stage, the awareness is on the breath moving from the left to the right side, and from the right to the left side in the form of a triangle. The fourth component introduced is the colour of the breath. There are many other components that we will deal with as we practise them.

Visualizing the colour of the breath is an important component, and useful in the practice of pranayama. Generally, people simply plug one nostril, breathe in and breathe out, and call that pranayama. When you add visualization of colour to the breathing process, you are not only observing the breath; you are trying to sensitize your nature to experience the prana shakti.

On the left side prana is blue in colour, and on the right side prana is red: ida and pingala. Visualizing the colour, you are developing sensitivity and awareness of the flow of ida and pingala. That becomes useful in the practice of pranayama. It is also applied in further stages of nadi shodhana pranayama when you have gained mastery over the normal breathing pattern and are able to control and regulate the flow of breath.

Published in Progressive Yoga Vidya Training, Series 4 (2016)