When I first started teaching Bikram Yoga, it was in New York City in 2004. My bosses at the time wanted us to ask the students two questions before every class:
Are there any injuries I should know about?
Does anyone need to leave early?
My issue with the second question is that, truthfully, we all “have” to leave early. We are all busy people, with a laundry list of things to do (including actual laundry). Living in NYC especially, we all believed that we were always inherently SUPER busy, important, and over-worked individuals. Furthermore, many of us felt like we were MORE busy, MORE important and MORE over-worked that our peers. So in yoga class, when given the opportunity to leave before the 90 minute mark, anyone feeling overwhelmed, stressed or, frankly, self-important has the permission to jet out before the final savasana. I saw students leave classes from right before final rest to as early as right after the standing series. Certain students would leave constantly after the same poses no matter how soon we got to the pose: if camel was at the 70 minute mark, the 72 minute mark, the 83 minute mark, same student would be seen rolling up their mat during our back bends. My guess is that it was psychosomatic: that part of class just indicated that they had given enough time to yoga class and it was time for the next thing to get done.
So why does it matter?
Any amount of yoga is good yoga, right?
Well maybe, but one thing that yoga class does is that it equalizes us. We all strip away our days, our lives, our jobs, our troubles, step into our hot shorts and sweat it out. For those 90 minutes, our lives are put on hold, or at the very least, we work to put our lives on hold for those 90 minutes, recalling that our very busy, important lives will still be there when class is over.
The other thing class can teach us is that no matter how injured, sad, preoccupied, at wits end we are, there is someone else in class who is also injured or sad or messed up. In the room, we are all the same, but the moment we start to think that we are MORE than others, we limit our own growth. We are not allowing ourselves to be challenged or disengaged with the outside world. We become only partially present.
So when we think that leaving right before our savasana would make the most sense for our overbooked day, let me remind you of this:
1). We are all equally important. Every time we tell ourselves that we are “MORE” than others we are isolating ourselves and reducing our ability to connect and flourish. If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.
2). We all have the exact amount of hours in a day. It is how we choose to spend those hours that differs. The way to make MORE time in our day is to choose the things that empower us, challenge us and are life giving. While this isn’t always possible, hopefully the very choice to give yourself 90 minutes keeps you from suffering for 90 years.
3). Final savasana, which is 2 minutes long, will not make or break your day, but it may make or break your practice. What makes our practice unique is that in incorporates rest, allowing our muscles to record our work and rejuvenate.
Take your final rest because you’re awesome and your life will wait. You control your life, it doesn’t control you. That ending “Namaste” reflects the teacher’s acknowledgement of your commitment to your practice and your returned “Namaste” acknowledges the teacher’s commitment to you. But also, that final “Namaste” is a thank you to yourself for being present. Your final rest is a chance to say thank you to yourself for making the time to do something important: going to yoga and reminding ourselves that we are all in this together. Yoga is the equalizer, the unifier. We are all looking to better ourselves and we are all equally important beings. Savasana is for you. Savasana is for all. Namaste.