Teachers' Corner

What to Do When Someone Walks out of Your Class

You planned a dreamy yoga class from opening om to closing savasana. You found a philosophical reading passage to match the theme of your class. Gemstones were arranged and incense were burned. Students begin to happily stroll into the studio and gather their props for class. Before long you are all sun saluting and deep breathing in blissful union. You think to yourself, Everything is going great. We’re having an awesome time. I’m doing great. This is amazing.

Then, someone stops, rolls up their mat, and leaves class before you’re even half way through your beautifully designed class. Now you think to yourself, Shit! Shit! Shit! I suck. I’m a bad teacher. I’m so embarrassed. I get it. I used to think the same thing when someone would bail on one of my classes. The good news is it’s not that bad.

When I first started teaching yoga, I would feel devastated when someone walked out on a class. I would agonize over it for weeks and let it impact my self-worth as a teacher. I would re-design my classes and teaching style to be more likable. I would over-analyze my classes, sequencing, and personality. I allowed the criticism of others to re-write how I taught yoga.

After all the agony and analyzing, people still walked out on my classes. That’s when I decided to teach in a way that made me feel good, rather than to please others. I began teaching to experience joy. My playlists got funky. I cracked jokes and told stories about my life and teachings. I let my loud, vibrant personality shine. I stopped trying to be soft-spoken. I encouraged students to ignore me and do what feels good. And, I stopped caring if my students liked me.

What happened next was beautiful.

My class sizes started to get bigger. Students thanked me for my authenticity and vulnerability. We laughed and sang and napped. I witnessed the joy that I was bringing into the lives of others by simply being me. When I stopped trying to please everyone, my tribe got bigger. Those that didn’t enjoy me left. Those that did stayed… and they told their friends.

These days I continue to teach for joy – for my own joy, the joy that bring others, and the joy that we share together. [tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]I teach yoga because it makes me happy, which makes other people happy – and that makes me even happier![/tweet_box]

Truthfully, people still walk out on my classes. However, instead of getting insecure and upset with myself when this happens, I feel joy for that person who wasn’t having a good time in class. If my goal is to bring joy into the lives of myself and others, then it is in everyone’s best interest for this person to leave. In leaving he or she is advocating for themselves and choosing to prioritize their joy – which, as it may be, doesn’t involve hanging out with me. Recognizing that my teaching style doesn’t bring him/her joy means that they are free to discover the teacher and class style that does. And so, in a way, I’m bringing them closer to their joy.

What does this mean for you?

Teach for joy. Teach in a way that makes you happy. Be unapologetically you. In our world of facades, people crave authenticity and vulnerability. Most of the world is afraid of the vulnerability that comes with simply being who they are, which is why we are drawn to the brave folks who are courageous enough to be true to themselves and what makes them happy.

If you teach in a way that makes you happy, students will come and students will leave, and when all is said and done you will be doing the thing you love to do with the people who love doing that same thing with you. That’s the good stuff.

Yoga teachers! Have you ever experienced students walking out on you? How did it go?

Photo: Bad Yogi community member Jennifer Juergens

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  1. Amanda Sides

    Amanda Sides

    June 14, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    I’ve been a fitness instructor and yoga teacher for 15 years, and yes, people do walk out sometimes. I can’t remember the first time it happened…. but now I just let them go and don’t think much more of it. Sometimes there’s something going on: they’re hurt or not feeling well, and of course I wouldn’t want them to stay through that. Sometimes they have somewhere else they have to be, and I’m appreciative that they showed up and did what they could. In those cases, they usually tell me about it at the next class and apologize for leaving. But of course, there are always those people who decide you have nothing to teach them and leave in a huff. 🙂 And they’re missing the point. I encourage all my new yoga students to try several classes with me, and several with other teachers, before they decide whether or not it’s for them, because every teacher is different and it might be that they just don’t like me as a teacher! And that’s okay. I’ve been to many classes over the years that I wouldn’t go to again, but I always stayed through the entire practice out of respect and to explore my own resistance to being there. There’s a lot of value to be had in working through a class you think you don’t like. In those cases, it’s often not me as the teacher: it’s the student and the issues that are arising that day.

  2. Avatar


    June 23, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    I think it’s rude to walk out of a class….not just rude towards the teacher, but also towards the rest of the class. I’ve been to classes I’d never go back to, but I never leave until class is over. I would not disrupt the class. That’s just common courtesy. I have had students tell me before class that they have to leave early. That’s fine with me…I have them set up near the door, so they can gather props to put away & leave quietly.

  3. Chuck


    June 23, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    This is great: “Recognizing that my teaching style doesn’t bring him/her joy means that they are free to discover the teacher and class style that does. And so, in a way, I’m bringing them closer to their joy.”

    I do agree with Pam’s comment, though … stick it out for an hour out of respect for the teacher and the class … if the teacher/class isn’t for you, don’t go back.

    Great post!

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