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We’ve all experienced that moment when you transition into a yoga pose during class, and suddenly, you really have to pee. In my personal experience, ironic four-letter expletives tend to cascade through my head at this particular moment, as I decide whether to leave the room or wait it out. Will I disrupt the class if I get up to leave? Am I risking a urinary tract infection from holding it too long? Am I about to pee… on my mat?
Ultimately, these questions do more than stress me out. They also steal my attention away from the class. To figure out the ethics, and er, mechanics of holding your pee in during a yoga class, I reached out to a urologist and a yoga teacher for their thoughts.
First (and importantly): Is it bad to hold your pee?
“Holding once in a whole shouldn’t have any long-term consequences,” says Dr. Rena Malik, a urologist and pelvic surgeon. However, Malik says that holding your pee repeatedly can potentially lead to bladder dysfunction. She says this is more common for women working in professions without regular bathroom breaks. “In those circumstances, your bladder can get stretched out and start making a weak contraction when you do urinate so that not all urine is emptied when you finish,” she says. This contraction can potentially lead to urinary tract infections (UTIs) or, in worst-case scenarios, urinary retention—a condition in which you’re unable to empty your bladder fully.
I need to pee in the middle of class! What should I do?
First of all, don’t panic. Next, tune into your practice. Malik suggests distracting yourself by focusing on something else—like the teacher or the pose you’re practicing. If you still feel the urge, Malik recommends doing a series of quick kegel exercises to ease that intense “I gotta go” feeling. Of course, if the urge is too great or you’re feeling any kind of pain, you can always excuse yourself. While it’s not the worst thing in the world to hold your pee for a short period of time, you don’t want to do so at the risk of harming (or soiling) yourself.
I need to leave class to go to the bathroom. How should I do that without being rude?
You may be able to hold your pee sometimes. Other times, you may decide that doing so is not feasible. If you decide you need to leave to go to the bathroom, try to pick an opportune moment. Instead of climbing over fellow students right as they settle into Savasana, Lisa Jang, a Yin Yoga teacher and trainer, suggests leaving the room during a more active sequence. During those times of active movement, Jang says no one will notice if you sneak out to go to the bathroom and sneak back in. “But when it’s Savasana, or when we’re really quiet, people will know—the energy will move in the room,” she says.
Jang says she often allows for a bathroom break in her class after the last Yin Yoga pose, before she starts her sound healing. Leaving to go to the bathroom in the middle of a sound bath will not only negatively impact your energy, but the energy of the students around you, Jang says. “We want them settled and just resting—and not having somebody walk out to go to the bathroom,” she says.
How can I avoid needing bathroom breaks during class?
Before you head to your yoga class, make sure not to eat a heavy meal, Jang says. Yes, that means saving the pasta and sandwiches for your post-class meal. Additionally, while you may feel inclined to chug water prior to stepping into the studio, opt to take small sips of water instead. (The same goes for throughout class.) This will help you avoid those emergency bathroom breaks—and allow you to be fully present in the class.