When Students Snore


I have at least one student per group who dozes off during this last period of class. They also tend to snore. Some of them say that they fall asleep because they don't sleep at night, or because they woke up very early; and one says she just needs a lot of sleep. I don't mind someone dozing off if they really need to, but when it's every session, it strikes me as lack of self-discipline. But even explaining that doesn't work. Do you have any suggestions?

— Janita

Read David Swenson's reply:

Dear Janita,

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Most of us, to be honest, are not really practicing Savasana (Corpse Pose) but are sleeping to varying degrees during relaxation. To truly practice Savasana properly is quite advanced. We must be patient with our students and ourselves in our quest for self-discovery. Many people do have incredibly busy and stressful lives and probably never really unwind. In most of my classes, someone will begin to snore during relaxation—but they are certainly not the only ones sleeping.

When a student begins to snore in my class (hopefully during Savasana and not when I'm giving a lecture), I simply touch them gently. They will generally then return to normal breathing. I believe that most students are trying their best to remain present and treat the deep relaxation as a meditation, but then fatigue takes over. I have found that, over time, the student will take longer before they drift off into snoring bliss. When they do begin to snore, give them a little nudge.

They must have some level of self-discipline if they are coming to class to practice. Let the yoga do its work over a long period of time. We must think in terms of decades when practicing and teaching yoga. The strongest trees in the forest grow the most slowly—and possibly snore the loudest.

David Swenson made his first trip to Mysore in 1977, learning the full Ashtanga system as originally taught by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. He is one of the world's foremost instructors of Ashtanga Yoga and has produced numerous videos and DVDs. He is the author of the book Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual.