Facing Our Fears

What if someone walks out of your yoga class?

We talked about this the other day briefly in our YTT group coaching session, and I thought I’d share a few notes from that discussion.

For yoga teachers, or any teachers I suppose, the fear of people walking out can be a source of anxiety before it even happens (it might never happen!), and if it does happen it can be a cause of great distress.

I have had someone leave my class abruptly in the past, and while of course I wanted to be equanimous about it, I was decidedly not. Part of my brain chewed on that problem while the rest of my brain finished teaching my class. I stewed on it for days afterwards– why did they leave my class? Did I say something wrong? Am I a terrible teacher? Am I a terrible person?

AAHHHH imaginitis out of control!

So…why do people leave?

Here’s something I’ve learned over the years. People leave for a variety of reasons, and it’s usually not about you.

  • feeling unwell
  • remembering they have an appointment
  • getting an emergency text
  • feeling too restless to settle into class
  • being too hot, cold, hungry, thirsty for practice
  • having grief, anxiety or distress suddenly arise
  • feeling this class isn’t for you, or your body doesn’t want this practice today
  • onset or recurrence of pain, injury, overload
  • unprepared for a sudden onset of menstruation
  • discomfort in Savasana – restlessness, physical pain, ran out of time, doesn’t value rest (yet!)

None of these have anything to do with you as a teacher.

And if they did leave because they don’t like you, your class, your teaching style – what are you going to do about it?

So…what are you going to do about it?

Take some time to really think about this. If one student doesn’t like you or your class, what are you going to do about it?

Self-reflection is a key part of the practice of teaching yoga. We are always self-assessing our teaching, what went well, what we would improve etc. But are you going to adjust yourself, change your personality, rearrange your classes entirely because one person doesn’t like it?

For me this was a big step in being able to manage myself amidst walk-outs or people making those ‘I don’t love this class’ faces during practice. If they don’t like me, what am I going to do about it? The answer is usually nothing. If I see areas where I can improve as a teacher, I’ll work on that. If I get feedback that can help me grow as a teacher or meet a need that I wasn’t meeting, I will address that. But I won’t squander my energy trying to deduce what one student doesn’t like and then adjusting myself according to this imagined shortcoming.

If they don’t like me or my class, that’s okay.  There are other yoga teachers out there that they will love!

Facing that big fear (someone doesn’t like me!) has allowed me to be more equanimous about these situations and, importantly, has helped me in being able to be more present for a student potentially in distress, and for a class that might be distracted.

So…what should we do?

If someone looks distressed or unwell and abruptly leaves your class – check in with them if possible. Put your class in a safe position (Child is a good option) and make sure that the person leaving is okay. You can assure them they are fine to leave, you just don’t want them to be alone if they are feeling unwell. If it is a medical or mental health emergency, respond accordingly. If they just want to leave, assure them again that there’s no problem with them leaving, and wish them a good day.

If someone leaves and you don’t know why, a quick text to check in that they are okay would be a nice thing to do. Again, assure them that leaving class is okay, you just want to be sure that they are alright.

If someone leaves and there is an opportunity to check in with them, perhaps at the next class, you can ask for feedback. It might be about you or the class or the space and be really useful feedback.

But, it’s likely not about you at all.

Let’s talk about it

Okay, those are my thoughts this morning. I wonder if you have something to add to the discussion.

Have you had a walk out?

Have you walked out of a class?

Do you have some experience or ideas to share?

Please join the discussion on our socials so we can all keep on learning together.

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