What to Do When Your Yoga Class Falls Asleep

This entry was posted on Jun 9, 2014 by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

What To Do When Your Whole Yoga Class Falls Asleep

They fell asleep, every last one of them. I could tell people were dozing off when I led them through a guided imagery in Savasana, telling them about the need for rest and replenishment as the seasons changed. They obviously took me at my word. Snoring abounded. Slow, deep breathing took over. Some people’s eyelids fluttered just a bit; others had their tired eyes well hidden under eye pillows.

By the time I was done with the meditation, and it was time to go, everyone was marvelously relaxed, which was good except for the dilemma of how to get them up and out. It was after noon, I had a date with a burrito, and although I gently told them to wiggle their fingers and toes, and to roll to their right side, no one budged.

I stared at my sleeping class on this warm spring day and though about my options. I could lie down and nap with them, which seemed like a great idea except some of them had jobs to return to, and actually, so did I. I could go over to each person and nudge them awake, but that was a little too personal. I could ring a bell, but that seemed too abrupt. I thought of texting a friend something to the effect, “Class asleep in corpse pose. What to do?” but this wasn’t a game show in which I should be calling for help while the TV cameras blared the ringing of the phone, waiting for that magic answer.

I didn’t know what to do, so for a few minutes, I did nothing. I watched their chests rise and fall on this blatantly bright spring day and breathed with them. Communal sleep doesn’t happen often, and it’s more rare in a public setting. I thought about how, years ago, after a colleague and I co-led a workshop for graduate students at Goddard College (where I teach), we realized we were done 20 minutes early and in a room with half a dozen couches and plush carpeting. Everyone was exhausted as we were in the middle of an intensive residency with workshops, meetings and groups from early morning to late night. The dozen students, my colleague and I looked at each other, and it was decided without a word. We shut off the lights, drew the blinds, and spread out across couches or on the floor. Everyone was asleep within minutes. It was one of the sweetest moments I’ve experienced as a teacher, all of us hanging out together while encased in our separate dreams.

Back in the class, I realized it was time to wake the corpse-pose dwellers. I used the remote control to slowly raise the background music, and then said, in a bright tone, “Now, roll to your right side,” as if I hadn’t been watching them sleep, trying to figure out what to do, for the last five minutes. They all heard me at once and rolled, then pushed themselves up to seated. I could tell that most thought they must have been the only ones asleep so I told the group how lovely it was that everyone could rest so deeply at the end of yoga class. People nodded but at least they were done with nodding off.

About Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the Poet Laureate of Kansas, and the author of 14 books, including a forthcoming novel, The Divorce Girl; The Sky Begins At Your Feet: A Memoir on Cancer, Community & Coming Home to the Body (Ice Cube Books); and four collections of poetry. Founder of Transformative Language Arts – a master's program in social and personal transformation through the written, spoken and sung word at Goddard College (Goddard College); where she teaches, Mirriam-Goldberg also leads writing workshops widely. With singer Kelley Hunt, she co-writes songs, offers collaborative performances, and leads writing and singing Brave Voice retreats (www.BraveVoice.com); and she blogs regularly at her website (www.CarynMirriamGoldberg.wordpress.com)

2 responses to “What to Do When Your Yoga Class Falls Asleep”

  1. Avatar Sasha says:

    You’ve described it all so well, and you did all the right things.

    I teach yoga to Croatian swimming team teenagers. Our class is scheduled after 2 hrs of their training in the water, so I can almost count on the fact that they will doze off or fall asleep at the end of our yoga-class.

    Increasing the volume of music is excellent idea. After telling all the instructions about wiggling the toes & fingers, stretching, rolling, etc. I start rubbing my hands together, which is a bit noisy and stirs up the atmosphere in the room, so they wake up and catch up with me, one by one.

    I try not to worry, and am actually happy for them that they can reap benefits of relaxation, which is rare thing when you are a teenager.

  2. Avatar Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg says:

    Thanks so much for your wonderful response, and I like the idea of increasing the music and making other noise.

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