Savasana, a Sanskrit term that translates to “corpse pose,” is often the final pose in yoga sessions. There is no bending, no twisting, no moving. Despite a name equating the pose with death, there is also no sleeping. The pose is meant to take students into great relaxation, but only to a point. Still, some students become so calm that they drift into sleep.
Amy Guthrie, 29, of Inner Evolution Yoga in Redlands, Calif., has not had too many sleeping students. When she does, it is usually during restorative yoga, which includes lying-down poses with support from blankets and pillows, or savasana, in which the student lies supine with eyes closed.
If Guthrie notices students sleeping, “I’ll raise my voice just a little bit,” she says. “Usually that’s all it takes.”
Students typically do not fall into deep sleeps, Guthrie says. Other yoga instructors agree. “There’s not long enough for that to happen,” says Shelbi Miles, a co-owner of Crofton Yoga in Crofton, Md., who on rare occasions has seen students sleeping in savasana.
But Becky Jordan, owner of Heart of Texas Yoga in Wimberley, Texas, says students fall asleep during savasana “a few times a week.”
Jordan will try to wake snoring students by speaking in a “soothing voice,” she says. If that fails, she adds, “I have been known to get up and walk over to them and maybe lightly touch their foot.”
That calm approach is typical among yoga instructors. You never want to startle students, says Sharon Tessandori, owner of Barefoot Works, a yoga studio in Lexington, Ky. She has seen students fall asleep in restorative yoga and yin yoga, both of which involve sitting and lying down. “It’s not like you’re standing in ‘Warrior II,’” she says, referring to an active pose. “You’re a lot more calm and quiet and still.”
In high-energy vinyasa classes, opportunities for sleep are fewer. Todd Wyant, an instructor at Be Moved Studio in Lawrence, Kan., has had students sleep during savasana, but not during other poses in his vinyasa classes. “It’s fairly active,” he says. “People are pretty much moving most of the time, or they might be upside down.”
Tessandori has also witnessed — and experienced — sleeping in savasana. “I’ve certainly fallen asleep in my own personal practice,” says Tessandori, who is 16 weeks pregnant. A deep sleep “definitely happens more with pregnancy because of exhaustion and fatigue.”
Rebecca Lammersen, the owner of Yogalution in Scottsdale, Ariz., says that students rarely fall asleep in her classes, even in yoga nidra, also known as “yogic sleep.” “We’re trained to guide people to a point where they don’t actually fall asleep,” Lammersen says.
Becky Jordan of Heart of Texas Yoga has fallen asleep in yoga classes that she has taken, although never into a deep sleep, and describes it as a wonderful experience. “It’s just this real sweet space of crossing over to the other side,” she says.
Some instructors don’t mind a quick snooze, but it can be hard to ignore when a student crosses the line into snoring.
Heidi Audet, co-owner of Chill Yoga in Lewiston, Maine, has heard some snoring in her classes. “Everybody’s on their own journey,” she says. If a student does not snore loudly, she will let him sleep. Todd Wyant of Be Moved Studio also does not mind when students fall asleep during savasana. “That’s the rest and relaxation part,” he says. Wyant currently has one or two students who fall asleep “pretty regularly.”
If a student snores loudly enough to disrupt one of Audet’s classes, Audet will try to wake him or her with a gentle tap on the shoulder or by speaking, to “bring them back to the here and now and not into the sleep world.”
But students’ snoring usually is not disruptive — at least, not for long. “If somebody is that loud, they usually wake themselves up,” Audet says.
Audet has taken yoga for 14 years and taught for 11. When she first started doing yoga, she says, she fell asleep during savasana. Over time, she trained herself to be “very deeply relaxed” without sleeping.
Practicing the behavior — by continuing to take classes — and having good instructors who reminded her of the goal of savasana helped, Audet says. In her own classes, she’ll remind students why they’re in the pose: “I’ll say, ‘Remember that we’re deeply relaxed; it’s not time for a nap.’”