Reward or Punishment

Posted By Mimi on Nov 4, 2013 in O2 Yoga Blog |


The other day, while I was taking class with Elliott, a women came rushing into the room 20 minutes late.  Elliott politely stopped her at the door and explained, as briefly and quietly as possible,  that the class had already started and that there were other classes she could come to later that evening. This went back and forth a bit while he was also trying to lead the class. She finally left but I was distracted and concerned. I thought maybe she had looked at the wrong studio schedule and would have been early were she in Somerville (this happens occasionally). I went out to the lobby to check in with her and she said, no, she hadn’t come to the wrong studio. She was simply late because there was so much traffic. I explained to her our policy and that my teachers are not allowed to let someone into class that far in.  No matter what I said, I could tell she was unhappy and upset and couldn’t really understand our policy.

Thinking Things Through

Ask any one that knows me and they will tell you that I think deeply and long about everything I do (sometimes too much in my opinion). That said, one of my primary rules is; if I put a rule in place it needs to be consistent across the board. I do not put in place any rules that I am not held to. I do not put rules in place that I would not want to follow. Rules to me are about being respectful to all others affected. Most importantly, rules are put in place to reward people that follow them, not to punish those who don’t.  Let’s take the situation above as an example. We have a policy at O2 that no students are admitted into class later than 10 minutes into class, or even 1 minute in if the class is full. I certainly allow my teachers to use their discretion but more than 10 minutes is pretty hard and fast. Does this seem punitive to you? It might if you are the one who is chronically late. I used to be one of those people until one day, my now-husband, then-boyfriend, said to me after I showed up late, “You know, I had things to do too but I didn’t do all of them because I didn’t want you to have to wait for me.” Oh, I thought, obviously I was thinking about myself not him.

Back to The Late Student

So, the late student couldn’t understand why I couldn’t let her in as she said, “she didn’t mind,” and  “but there was traffic.” That is a good point, but you know what, every one else in that room would or could have minded and they too had to get to the studio via foot, bike and probably car.  You see, every one else got there on time and probably busted their butts to get there. When a late student comes into a group class it is not just their own safety at stake but the disruption of the group. People need to move their mats, the flow and breath is disrupted, it is just downright distracting.

Setting a Precedent

Here is another thing to think about. It has been my experience that when students are chronically late and allowed into class anyway, guess what: they continue to be late. They are also likely to push the limits a bit more each time. One of the things I have often had to do is say this, “I just need you to know that I allowed you to come in late today but I will not do it again.  Next time, you won’t be allowed to come in.” Can you guess what happens? They start showing up on time. This also eats into the time of the teacher. Often, when students show up late, it takes longer to get the class started and therefore, the class ends up starting late and possibly even ending late. I always remember going to a studio many years ago when the class chronically started late. I would get so frustrated because it would take a lot for me to carve out the time for the class and I never knew whether it was going to start, end, or in some cases happen at all. I remember asking the owner and him telling me that this was yoga and that I shouldn’t be so “hung up” on time. I remember thinking, no, yoga should be about respect and compassion for other peoples’ time and energy.

Setting an Example

I respect you. I respect your time and energy. You deserve to be able to come to class and not be disrupted by late students. You deserve not to have to wait for class to start. You deserve to be able to know how long the class will run and when it will end so you can plan your day, pay your parking meter,  and hire a babysitter. You deserve to have everyone, including me held to the same standard.

Stuff Happens

There are times when all of us will be late, get sick, get stuck in traffic, not plan accordingly, and just have things out of our control.  That said, what I try to remember is that the world does not revolve around me. Other people have lives, plans, and schedules too. The next time you want someone to break a rule for you, think about this: Is the rule fair and how would this affect others?  If a rule is truly unfair, you should work at changing it or not give your business or your time to those who made it. However, if the rule is fair, then just realize that it wasn’t put in place to punish you. It was put in place to reward and respect those who follow it.