For 30 minutes, they resembled corpses as the instructor, Millie Laws, 22, banged on a shamanic drum inside a room lit only by the golden glow of candlelight. The scene was meant to be relaxing — but for a couple walking their dog outside the building, it resembled something far more sinister.
“They reported to the police that they’d seen somebody walking around in a room lit up with candles and what looked like dead people lying all over the floor,” Laws told The Washington Post. “The couple thought it was some sort of ritual mass killing.”
By 9:30 that night, a cacophony of wailing sirens and police cars had descended upon Seascape Cafe in the North Sea Observatory building. At that point, the class had already ended, and the yogis had headed home after a “lovely relaxation session with no interruptions, thankfully,” said Laws, the owner of a yoga company called Unity Yoga.
Despite there being no corpses in sight when police arrived, Seascape Cafe thanked the officers for “their prompt response.” Lincolnshire Police didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post. In a statement to the BBC, they said the 8:56 p.m. call by a concerned citizen was made “with good intentions.”
“I can’t imagine for one moment what would have [been] going through their minds on the way,” the cafe posted on Facebook. “Dear General Public, please be mindful that the Observatory has lots of Yoga classes happening in the evenings. We are not part of any mad cult or crazy clubs.”
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In Chapel St. Leonards, a small seaside town in the county of Lincolnshire where yoga classes abound, Laws said she never imagined she’d be mistaken for a mass murderer — though she “can see where the confusion came from.”
That evening, she guided the seven students through a slew of asanas during the hour-and-a-half-long restorative yoga session meant to deeply stretch the muscles through different poses held for a couple of minutes each. The sun began setting as the yogis shifted into the meditation portion of the class. Inside the glass-paned room, the group lay with pillows and blankets as Laws began a sound bath — a calming ritual accompanied by the gentle metallic vibration of a drum.
At first the drumming was slow-paced, mirroring “the vibrations that the Earth gives off its core to get people into a state of relaxation,” Laws said. The beats then crescendoed to induce a trance state. But at the point she had to once again slow down the sounds to “bring people back into the present moment,” Laws said she noticed a dog-walking couple peering into the glass.
“I didn’t think anything of it,” she said. “But because it was sunset and it was dark, I think all they could see were shadow figures of people lying on the floor with their eyes closed.” It didn’t help that Laws was the sole figure moving around, wearing a flowy top that resembled a robe.
When news about the police response began to spread, Laws said she couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought that someone believed she could be a cult leader.
“It’s hilarious,” she said. “On the flip side, these people were managing to enter such a deep state of relaxation that — although it’s awful to compare it to death — they look so relaxed and comfortable.”
“I mean, you can say the meditation worked, though it’s definitely ironic they were in corpse pose,” she added.
Corpse pose, also known as shavasana and mritasana, is the yoga equivalent of walking after a heart-rate-boosting run. It’s like dropping dead on the floor, but it helps decrease the heart rate, reduce blood pressure and slow down breathing, experts told Healthline, helping the body “absorb the full effects of the workout,” lowering stress and boosting the mood.
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After the kerfuffle over her students’ corpse pose, Laws said she hopes the episode brings more attention to the benefits of yoga.
“If anything, I’d like just more awareness to be brought to the great things deep meditation and entering this deep restful state can really bring into the mind and also the body,” she said.
More people need that, Laws added — especially when “we’ve just been fed so many horror movies and terrible news that we’re in a world where the first reaction is to think something terrible happened, instead of thinking it could just be the really wholesome evening it actually was.”
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