An open letter to students who are habitually late for yoga class.
Ok, some of my yoga teacher friends are going to absolutely fucking hate this post. And I don’t care. It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s that the bigger picture of our community supersedes our friendship.
I’ve argued with myself for years on whether to write about this topic, or to just let it die. Maybe I was afraid of backlash, or being judged by my peers. However, I cannot escape the inevitable conclusion that my stance on this topic will never, ever change. In fact, it just grows stronger as I get older. Simply put:
- Students, be on time to class. No excuses.
- Class starts at 6:00. Not 6:05. Parking your car at 6:00 is not, I repeat, not on time. Walking in at 6:00 and checking in with the front desk is not on time. Changing into your yoga clothes in the locker room at 6:00 is not on time.
- Being on time means mat down, seated, ready to practice when class is scheduled to start. That’s it. It’s remarkably easy to comprehend, yet seemingly impossible for some people to accomplish physically.
When you show up 5 minutes late to yoga, please know that everyone else either rearranged their schedules, or made plans ahead of time to have their mat down, ready to practice at 6:00 promptly. Most of them arrive at least 15 minutes before so they can settle into the space and get away from the chaos that obviously got the best of you.
When you show up 5 minutes late to yoga, please know that everyone else is already dropping into their practices at that point. The slow creak of the studio door opening, the loud whip of your yoga mat, and the clanging of your water bottle interrupts a spiritual practice, not just a workout.
When you show up 5 minutes late to yoga, please know that everyone else may have started in a seated meditation. Their breath is deepening. Their body is entering a peak state. Their psychosomatic being is just starting to hit that point of quiet, peaceful surrender.
So yes, it does disrupt the class. No matter how quiet you think you’re being, there is no escaping the fact that everyone else is in rhythm while you create a very noticeable distraction.
To those of you that consider my stance too rigid and lacking compassion, please know that I’m writing this only from a place of deep love and compassion for my students. I respect their time and admire their dedication to their practice immensely. In fact, I respect them so much that letting another person steal from them is intolerable to me.
When a room of 30 people all have to stop their practice, so that we can orchestrate a yoga mat jigsaw puzzle for the one late person in the back corner, I find it wildly unfair to those 30 people who took the effort to be there on time. And yes, here is the scenario where you can accuse me of having too little compassion. And you’re totally right.
If any of you have been through Landmark Education or Baptiste Yoga Training, you know that Time Integrity is a very real thing. I’m sure there are other yoga and self-development schools that preach the same discipline I’m talking about, and I reference only these two simply from my own personal experience.
The group doesn’t start training until everyone is there, and that means everyone. Thus, when one person is late, they are stealing time from everyone else.
Let’s be clear about one thing; time is the most valuable commodity on the planet. You can always go make more money. You can buy more food. You can get a new phone if you drop yours on the ground. However, you can never give someone his or her time back once it is gone.
Yoga (and Life) Etiquette – Don’t Be Late. It’s a discipline thing.
Somewhere along the way, we moved away from this practice being a discipline, and into one that embraced only the softer sides of yoga simply because it’s easier to avoid confrontation. Yoga is a double-edged sword in this manner because it provides an easy out for those who want to cite the misinterpreted scapegoats of Aparigraha and Santosha as vehicles for “not trying to own or possess your students” and “just go with the flow bro”.
We borrow the pieces of yoga we need, when it’s convenient, so we can rationalize our lack of discipline. We wrap clever yoga-speak around our shortcomings to make them softer. We dismiss our flightiness as “living in the moment”…and it’s total bullshit.
When it comes to making it to your practice on time, how about we get a little more focused on self-discipline and non-stealing? To the chronic yoga late-comer, be warned; these two are not nearly as convenient at the two mentioned previously. Just for fun, go check every studio’s website out there and see if any one of them advertise classes in MBO as starting at “6:00….or whatever time you show up”…If you find one, please let me know. The classes are listed clearly on a publicly available platform (the Internet) as having a very definitive start time.
Furthermore, we have the privilege, in the cell phone age, of carrying a device in our pocket that tells us exactly how long it will take to get to the studio (GoogleMaps, MapQuest, Wayz, etc.). That said, to be late to something in this day and age, you have to avoid all logic, deny all instinct to do simple 3rd grade math, and run from all sound reasoning like it was chasing you with a chainsaw.
Ok, so you’re asking yourself “Alright Mr. Time Hitler, what do you do if you’re going to be late to a class!?”
Simple. I don’t fucking go.
If I look at the schedule and class starts in 20 minutes, and I know it takes 25 minutes to get there (not to mention check-in and putting my stuff in the locker room), I look for another class later…or I do the unthinkable…cover your ears…I practice at home. Gasp.
To my students reading this that are reflecting on previous incidents of walking in late, please don’t feel bad. Just correct the behavior. Start being early to other important things in your life and see what happens. As a guy who is habitually early to all things on my schedule, I can tell you with 100% certainty that I’ve never had anything backfire by being early. Being late, however, is almost a guaranteed disaster.
To the teachers who disagree with this post, I still love you too. And please know that every time a student walks into your class late, it sends a message to everyone else in that room that yoga isn’t very important, and that you can just kinda show up whenever. I mean, it’s just yoga right?
If you can honestly say that yoga isn’t important enough to you to be punctual for, that’s totally fine. Maybe it’s just not your jam, and I get that. In fact, the vast majority of people in the country don’t do yoga, 80% give or take, so you’re definitely not alone. And if this is indeed the case, all I will simply ask is that you do not come to my class if you can’t be there on time.
It’s not that I dislike you as a person, or think less of you. It’s just that I care so much for those people who make it to their mat on time, who put in the effort and discipline to honor their practice, that the idea of you interrupting their serenity offends me.
Rant over. Let the de-friending process commence.