The big question of the day is… is it shavasana or savasana? By the time I did my own 200 hour yoga teacher training I was thoroughly confused. I had heard both pronunciations of śavāsana and I had never seen it spelled with all of the diacritical marks. Most of my previous teachers had pronounced it shavasana, but my YTT teacher pronounced it savasana, so which was correct? Shavasana, or corpse posed, is beloved by all and deserves to be pronounced correctly.
Well, both shavasana and savasana are a little correct and a little wrong. Phonetically, shavasana is the correct pronunciation and spelling of our beloved Corpse Pose. However, “savasana” is missing its diacritical marks, so we’re lacking the pronunciation info found when it is translated from the Sanskrit. Follow the pronunciation guide below for spelling. For writing, choose either the phonetic spelling or the transliteration, but don’t spell it “savasana” — it just leads to more confusion for your students and fellow teachers. I’m totally guilty of this. Please tell me I’m not the only one.
Phonetic spelling: shavasana
Pronunciation guide: sha-VAH-suh-nuh
- ś = pronounced as the “sh” in “shoot”
- a = pronounced like the “a” in “about”
- ā = pronounced like the “a” in “yacht”
śava = corpse
āsana = seat
If you really want to geek out on your Sanskrit pronunciation, Graham Schweig has a great pronunciation guide in his version of the Bhagavad Gita. So it’s a win-win, a great copy of the Bhagavad Gita to help you deepen your understanding of yoga philosophy and a Sanskrit pronunciation guide. Graham is an amazing yoga philosophy teacher and frequently gives lectures for the Smithsonian, Embodied Philosophy, and at other venues.
Alright yogi, now go get your shavasana on! And give yourself this opportunity to rest into your essence. If you find that your lower back tends to get cranky during savasana then slide a bolster, (I love Hugger Mugger for restorative yoga and shavasana — they’re a little pricy, but totally worth it) or rolled blanket underneath your knees (like in the illustration above). If your mind tends to race during shavasana try lengthening out your exhales before you settle in, this simple technique can help calm your nervous system. I also have a great yoga nidra script inspired by nature that those with busy minds tend to find helpful. You could record the script yourself and play it back during shavasana or have a friend or partner read it to you.