A Class Act: Leaving Early

a class act2You’ve made it your New Year’s Resolution to get to class no matter what, but somehow your work and family obligations haven’t changed just because you have. What if you’ve found the perfect class to fit your schedule, but you’d have to steal away 10 minutes before it ends? Is leaving yoga early ok?

The answer is: Maybe.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind if you’re considering leaving a class early:
  1. Before class starts, check in with the teacher. Years ago there was a class I used to love, but I would always have to leave early to make it to a class I was scheduled to teach. One day the teacher came up to me and said “Sara, if you’re going to take my class, I’d really like it if you would stay for the whole class.” I responded, “Well if that means that I can’t come would you really rather me not practice at all?” His response was “Yes, I’d prefer that.” I haven’t made it to his class since – and that was 15 years ago! While it was a bummer for me, I had to respect that he was clear with the way he wanted to run his program. Some teachers are simply not ok with this. It is not up to us to argue, negotiate or judge. If it’s not ok with the teacher to leave early, find another class.
  2. Put your belongings near the door in an organized pile so you don’t have to “futz” with them on the way out. It’s the worst when someone is leaving early and we have to watch them check their phone, put their towel in their bag, put their water bottle in their bag etc. – you should be able to “Grab and Go.”
  3. Set your mat up in the back of the room so that you can find a smooth exit. If the back is filled, look for a spot on the side of the room to limit the number of students that you’ll have to crawl over to get to the door.
  4. Limit your props and place them near the door on your way out – or do without. While it may seem like the most respectful things to do (we’ve all been told to put our props away), stumbling through a full classroom of students with blocks draws attention to yourself. When you have to leave early, you should look to make the least amount of “energetic noise” possible.
  5. Find a natural break in the flow of the class if possible. For instance if everyone is moving their mats to the walls for inversions, this is a great moment to “Grab and Go.” Another natural break is the transition from standing to the floor. Be aware and do the best you can.
  6. Don’t leave in the middle of Savasana or meditation – we can hear you! During Savasana, all sounds in the room can be heard. It doesn’t matter how quiet you think you are. We hear you rolling up your mat, stepping quietly, the door creaking open, the roar of the next class while the door is open, the door closing – and then the whole room breathes a sigh of relief knowing that you’re finally gone. This process takes at least a minute (often more) and Savasana is over by the time you’re gone. Personally I encourage all students to come late and leave early if they want to, but not leaving in the middle of Savasana or meditation is my only rule. If you need to leave early, please leave before Savasana starts. If Savasana comes seemingly out of nowhere and all of a sudden everyone is lying down and you didn’t prepare, it’s your responsibility to get out of the room and get out quickly.
  7. Should you take a Savasana before you go? Every teacher will give you different guidance on this. Some teachers say that you absolutely must take one before you leave, and others find that a student taking Savasana while others are doing a handstand is too distracting. Some teachers suggest leaving the classroom and taking a few moments of Savasana outside in the lobby. Others say that just a moment of sitting in Sukhasana with the hands in prayer will suffice. Please honor each class on an individual basis by clearing this with the teacher.
  8. Simplify your exit. Yes, you may leave early, but please do not linger by placing your mat into your mat bag, taking a last drink of water, putting your sweatshirt on so you don’t get a chill, etc. Roll your mat up and leave. You can get organized outside in the lobby.
  9. Don’t wave the teacher down on the way out and mouth an “I’m sorry” or “Thank You.” While well intentioned, once again, this is you taking the attention off of the class and onto yourself. You’ve already spoken with the teacher at the start of class. They need to be focused on teaching, not on you leaving.
  10. Try to be invisible. If you don’t make a big deal about leaving early, others won’t think it’s a big deal either. Keep your energy small and hopefully no one will notice you.

I’m aware that some of these guidelines might sound a bit harsh, but I’ve heard so many complaints over the years. And while this may feel like a lot, with practice it flows smoothly. Hope this helps you keep your New Year’s Resolutions!

Agree with Sara? Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below! And be sure to check out her last post about what to do if you’re running late to class.

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PROFILE PIC 5.11.15Sara Elizabeth Ivanhoe, M.A. is celebrating her 20- year teaching anniversary this year. To mark the occasion, she completed Graduate School with Loyola Marymount University’s Inaugural Class in Yoga Philosophy. She is the Yoga Spokesperson for “Weight Watchers,” “Yoga for Dummies,” “Crunch Yoga,” and has appeared as a series regular on “Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab,” as the therapeutic instructor. Her mentor for Jnana Yoga is Dr. Christopher Key Chapple, for Bhakti Yoga, Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), and for Hatha Yoga, Erich Schiffmann. For most of that 20 years, she can call YogaWorks her home.

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