It’s been a strange week. In more than one class I’ve had students either leave loudly in the middle of savasana and/or fidget loudly with props - one person even listened to music on their phone (yes we can all hear your earbuds on while we’re trying to meditate), got a call, stomped out of the studio and slammed the door loudly. Cue #deepsigh.
When these things happen I try to remember that some people don’t know or understand the purpose of the pose and/or it’s significance in the practice. But I also have a responsibility to the other students who come to my class seeking a safe container for movement, breath and peaceful meditation. So here’s some information on why the pose is important, etiquette tips and alternate options if you can’t stay or sit still :)
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO REDUCE DISTRACTIONS IN YOGA?
One of my teachers used to say, “Distraction is a form of doubt - when you distract yourself you’re saying that you don’t know how to be okay exactly as you are.” In yoga - we’re trying to remind you that you are perfect exactly as you are. In most classes, we’re moving the body and the breath and still - the whole way - saying “you’re still okay, you’re still okay.” At the end of the day - the body and the mind learn to be okay no matter what position they are in. So you feel better, you function better and you act and speak from a more balanced place. If you are distracting yourself, you are doubting yourself. You are also very likely distracting the people around you. Then the quality and fullness of the practice becomes somewhat downgraded.
For most people, savasana is the only moment of peace and quiet they will get all day - potentially all week - respect that the container of the classroom environment is there for everyone. Strive to be a part of it, or at least not a detraction from it.
FIVE TIPS FOR SAVASANA ETIQUETTE
DITCH THE CELL PHONES: Unless you are medically on call, have sick loved ones or very small children - leave the phones outside. If you have a smart watch and want to track your workout - that’s okay - but don’t start texting on it in the middle of class. It’s distracting and disrespectful to the teacher and your fellow students. If you can’t be without your phone, ask yourself why and examine that a bit.
LEAVING EARLY: If you have to leave early, most teachers don’t actually mind. Just leave BEFORE savasana starts. Also, LEAVE your props. The sooner you exit, the sooner the teacher can bring the students into savasana. We will happily clean props for you if it gives everyone else 60-90 more seconds of peace in their day.
IF YOU MUST LEAVE DURING THE ACTUAL MEDITATION: Ok, so you forgot you have that call / meeting / need to pick up your kids - whatever it is. What do you do? Again, don’t pack your props, just get your own stuff and quickly / quietly exit. Try to be conscious of loud doors as well - close them quietly if you can.
SLEEPING: Many people fall asleep in savasana. Even seasoned practitioners. It’s just information that your body is exhausted and it’s probably worth while to investigate what you could do to get higher quality sleep. Unless you snore and start to distract others, most teachers don’t mind. If you do snore, know a teacher might tap you on the foot lightly in the interest of keeping the space less distracting for others. If you know you snore, ask your teacher to show you a slightly inclined relaxation pose on a bolster as it may help - or tryin meditating in a seated position.
IF YOU CAN’T SIT STILL: Plenty of people aren’t ready for a still, silent meditation. But fidgeting / fiddling / sighing loudly takes others out of their meditation. I once knew a guy who would, after a hot sweaty vinyasa class, put his finger in his ear and wiggle it around so loudly and for so long, others across a large studio would sit up and glare at him - ha ha. Try figuring out what to say to THAT person. “Ummm… can you chill on the moist ear noises buddy?”
So what CAN you do?
Gaze at the Ceiling: count ceiling panels, notches in the wood, bricks, lights, fan rotations, clouds if you can see the sky notice deeply the nuances of the upper environment and catalogue it in your head.
Finger tips touching: Bring the tips of your fingers to touch. Release and then bring together pinkies, ring fingers, middle fingers - etc. Similar to the way you envision the Godfather or Mr. Burns from the Simpsons when they’re hatching an evil plan - same tapping of the ole finger tips - omit the evil intentions. This is something you can do quietly with the body that will keep your mind engaged.
Seated Meditation: Sometimes harder than reclining physically, this seated version can sometimes help you by allowing you to manage the sensations of posture and spinal strength / alignment .
Leave: I don’t mean it in a rude way. Savasana isn’t right for everybody. And that’s fine. Don’t stay and be a distraction to everyone else though. Kick out a little early and take a slow walk around the block, sit on a part bench for 3 minutes and notice the layers of sound - there are plenty of ways to practice mindfulness if savasana isn’t right for you. I’ll write an “Alternates to savasana” post soon and link it up here.
It’s also important to say, if you are new and you don’t know how to approach meditation / where to start / find it to be too much or not in your interest - your teachers are here for you. We can typically offer tools or techniques that help you access stress reduction at your own pace. Simply ask and we’re more than happy to help you. What we can’t do is ignore behaviors that take away from the experiences of others. So if a teacher does say something to you, you can still come back to class, you can still leave early if you need to. Just know that all feedback comes to you in the interest of your own growth and that of the others in your class.
So there you have it - I’m sure some teachers will have other stories, suggestions or disagree with what I’ve said here. But I’d say that these are pretty safe generalizations. Would love to hear your feedback if you have other ideas / comments or questions!