A few years ago I was invited to guest teach Yoga Nidra to a group of teacher trainees at a local studio. As is my habit, I arrived 15 minutes before the scheduled class time. When I arrived, the studio’s weekly free introductory class was still in progress and would end just before my class was to start—or so I thought. In actuality the teacher continued the class for another 25 minutes past the scheduled end. He quit—sans Savasana—only because the studio manager showed up and asked him to finish. Suddenly the 90-minute class I’d planned was cut to 60 minutes, hardly enough time for me to introduce the practice, explain the koshas, lead a practice and field questions afterward.
I grew up with two stalwart Capricorn parents who constantly drilled my sisters and me on the importance of timeliness. Being on time, they said, is respectful of others. Being on time acknowledges that you value another’s time and energy. When I show up on time for an appointment and the person I’m meeting is late—especially if this is their pattern—it makes me feel that the other person doesn’t value our relationship. While this is my own projection, and it may or may not be based in reality, I’m not alone in interpreting chronic lateness in this way.
I’ve been teaching Yoga continuously for 25 years. Most of these years I’ve taught five or more regular classes each week. I’ve been late for class only a handful of times—and by late, I mean at the classroom five minutes or less prior to class time. Only once have I arrived after the scheduled class time—when I accidentally set my alarm for 5:00 pm instead of 5:00 am and didn’t wake up until 10 minutes before my early morning class. Fortunately my students are very forgiving!
I truly value my students’ commitment to attending my classes. Students have told me again and again how much they appreciate my commitment to be there consistently for them. For me, being at the Yoga space early enough to allow students to settle in for a few minutes before class starts is a no-brainer. I suspect this is true for most teachers.
The importance of ending class on time may not be as clear. If you teach in a studio and another class follows yours, it is critical that you end on time to make sure the next teacher has time to set up the room for her students. But even if yours is the last class of the day, it’s still important that you end at the agreed-upon time.
Some teachers feel that extending their class time past the scheduled end is being generous to their students, giving them an unexpected bonus. In reality, running the class past its scheduled ending time can be seen as taking from your students. Consider asteya (non-stealing), the third of the Yamas in the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Asteya is refraining from taking what isn’t offered, or not taking more than one needs. Asteya practice applies to material goods, intellectual property, energy and time. The students that come together to take our classes all live individual lives, lives that most of us teachers know little about. We don’t know that our students don’t have appointments to keep, babysitters to relieve, errands to run, meals to prepare, etc., after our classes end. When we take liberties with class times, we are in effect “stealing” our students’ time, and potentially creating stress in their lives.
Time consciousness will likely never be listed in importance with other yoga teacher qualities such as knowledge, compassion, wisdom and yes, personality. It’s not “sexy.” But time consciousness is one of the necessary elements of creating a safe container for your classes. It’s a hidden quality that can easily be taken for granted—that is, until that trust is broken. Remember, your classes are important enough to your students that they set aside the time in their often busy schedules to be there. Honor your students by being on time for them.