There are many thoughts and opinions around the idea of people sleeping during a yin yoga practice and I can only say that my thoughts around this are still evolving.
Personally, if I'm in a class practicing and someone starts snoring I find it incredibly irritating because I just cannot block it out and it becomes all I notice or think about. I also sometimes find it kind of funny but I feel rude when I laugh...
Anyway, that's enough insight into my personality for now!
So, as a yoga teacher, where do I stand on people sleeping in a yin yoga class? Well, I don't stand on them, but here's what I think about it.
People come to a yin yoga practice for many different reasons. Everyone who comes to a class has had a different experience in their day, week or months leading up to it and it's not my place to judge them for what they need. If someone needs to sleep and they feel comfortable enough doing that on their yoga mat, then I'm not going to stop them. I'm not going to wake them up (until, you know, I really need to... in saying that, most people wake themselves up at the right time).
Now, here's the caveat to everything I just said:
I don't think it's a good idea to let yourself fall asleep while you're IN a yin yoga pose. In the rebound, fine, but not in a pose.
In our yin yoga practice, we are asking our muscles to take a backseat, not to necessarily switch off, but to be less active in being warm & protective for our fascia and deeper tissues, like the joints and ligaments that we target here. Now, I want you to think back to a time when you've been slowly falling asleep (maybe while you're watching tv or something). Your head starts nodding forward and you feel like you're falling and you suddenly JOLT awake.
We all know what that feels like.
Going back to our muscles being less active & protective, we see here that if we're in a deep, passive yin pose that is placing some stress on our body and we start to fall asleep and then get that jolt to wake up, it's very possible that our body won't like that very much.
When I teach yin the first thing I say when a pose is ending is 'move slowly to start coming out of the pose', and that waking up jolt is almost the exact opposite of what we need. Targeting these colder, deeper tissues means we move slowly, intentionally and we pay attention to what we're doing. Moving too fast just doesn't suit this practice.
So, that's a very simple explanation of my current thoughts around sleeping (or not sleeping) in a yin yoga practice. Come into the poses and stay aware, and then if your nervous system has calmed down enough for you to have a little nap once you're out of the pose, go for it.
What do you think? Are you a yin sleeper?