Is It OK To Leave Bikram Yoga Class Early?

In my morning Bikram Yoga classes a handful of people usually leave early — some after the standing series and some about 15 minutes before class ends. Hey, I get it — 90 minutes plus shower and travel time is a lot in the morning, especially if you need to be at work at a particular time. Teachers at my studio do not seem to mind — too much — and I often hear them say that some class is better than no class. But is that really true?

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While out-of-town this summer I practiced at another studio where leaving early was not an option. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t remember ever seeing anyone leave early from a Bikram Yoga class at any studio other than my primary one. I know we all appreciate the flexibility to leave early on occasion, particularly in NYC where everyone has a crazy schedule, but is leaving Bikram Yoga class early a good thing to do for your body?

I am lucky enough that I am typically able to stay for the entire class, and never gave leaving early much thought, until last week when I actually needed to leave early. It was a Monday class, which is always a littler bit tough for me after a weekend away. Even so, everything during class was fine, and after Half-Tortoise, I took my Savasna, which I then extended into a Final Savasna while others were doing the first set of Camel Pose. When Camel was over, I collected my things, headed home to shower and the day went on.

But the next day, I was incredibly sore. Not your typical Bikram Yoga sore, but sore enough that I was wondering how I was going to make it to class. In particular, my legs ached, especially my quads, and my lower back. Had I worked particularly hard in class the day prior or was something else going on? I wondered if maybe skipping the end of class stretching postures like Camel, Rabbit, Head To Knee Pose and Stretching Pose, and Spine-Twisting Pose had taken their toll.

Despite the soreness, I went to the full class the next day, and the next, but I remained somewhat uncomfortable until after class on Thursday, when things finally seemed to release. Maybe I was fighting a virus, or maybe I was just tired because it was my children’s first week back to school. But, maybe it was because I left class early on Monday. I am curious if others have had the same experience.

Readers, are you more sore when you leave Bikram Yoga class early?

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9 thoughts on “Is It OK To Leave Bikram Yoga Class Early?

  1. I just don’t do it: I actually think no class (so I do some other form of exercise) is better than a partial class. When I first started practicing, I did it a few times, and not only did my body feel achy and stiff (funny, right?), but my mood was off.

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  2. Interesting post. We’re definitely privileged that we can find the time to fit Bikram classes in our schedule, but that being said, I am so surprised to hear there are studios in which leaving early is commonplace. I have taken classes in 4 different countries and never seen that happen. I’d think that it would be quite a big distraction for everyone in the room when some people leave early. Even if you’re focused on your own practice, I find that it does give a lot of support that there is a silent agreement that you’re all in that hot room together, for 90 minutes, even if you can’t participate in all postures. So I don’t have the experience of leaving earlier, but the sequence is a very smart puzzle and I can imagine if you leave out some pieces at the end, you’ll notice it, and it may actually drain more energy than you’d gain from it. Especially the last breathing exercise, kapalbhati, brings back a lot of oxygen in your body, which really helps with good recovery in final savasana in my experience.

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  3. Great post, as always.

    Interesting question about stiffness, which i can’t really answer because I’ve never left class early. I find that I become staff when I miss a couple of days. Interestingly, I took part in a two-day stretching workshop at our studio over the weekend. I showed up for practice yesterday after work and my back seized up on me in pranayama. I tried to see if I could stretch through it in half moon, but the pain only increased. I went into savasana, and never thought about leaving the room until the class was over.

    I think if you need to leave, because of a known scheduling conflict, it’s worth thinking about just passing on the class. At the very least, let your instructor know, as well as those around you, and position yourself near an exit. I was in the studio last weekend and a woman, abruptly, got up and started to walk out just before camel posture. The instructor asked the woman if she could stay and shared that we only had a few postures left. The woman replied, rather sharply, “No! I’ve got a headache.” Perhaps it goes without saying that her departure from the class was quite disruptive — particularly since she was in the middle of a row — and it required focus to keep my mind from getting tripped up on the exchange. I have been practicing for almost a year, but I fully remember what it was like at the beginning. The heat can be be overwhelming, if not intimidating. The fight or fight thing is real, and we’ve all had to fight it; even after practicing for a while.

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    • Interesting. At my studio, the folks who leave early always inform the teacher and leave during a savasna to minimize disruption. It doesn’t bother me very much — I guess I have gotten used to it. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

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  4. No….you don’t leave Bikram class early. Wouldn’t be tolerated in my studio at all (unless maybe if there was really specific and special circumstance that the teacher knew in advance…allowing for the possibility but never witnessed it….)

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