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Yoga Teacher Ethics Standards

Paul M. Jerard Jr.
Jun 5, 2008
No overruling organization for yoga instructors determines official, professional behavior standards, or even certification. Yoga professionals still debate over where certain lines should be drawn. Yet, certain ethics are inherent in the yogic path, and yoga instructors will do well to adhere to them.

The most important thing to remember, as a yoga teacher, is that you are helping to shape the well-being of your students, through your instruction. Respect the place that you occupy as a teacher. Instructors have to keep a tenuous balance that can be quite difficult. A balance must be found between healthy objectivity and the role of transcendental guide.

Each student is on his, or her, own path to wholeness. This wholeness involves a gestation of physical and emotional matters, often leading to charged feelings in the students. The focus of the yoga instructor should be to allow students to seek, and find, solutions to their own needs, in the learning process. Instructors must not focus on their own desires; otherwise, the growing process of both the students and the instructors will be stunted.

The nature of a yoga class is intimate. There is a great deal of focus on the body and opening of the body and a measure of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual release. Instructors often must touch their students to assist or correct a physical posture.

All of the students are paying close attention to the movements of the instructor. Some students will become infatuated, or attached, as they associate their release of tension, and spiritual growth, with that person. A compassionate yoga instructor is a guide, who shows his or her students, that the true teacher is already within each student.

The mission of a yoga instructor should be to serve the needs of the students in the class. That cannot be accomplished if intimate relationships are being cultivated with students, and unhealthy emotions blur the student-teacher boundary.

Some instructors are not prepared to guard against the ego in these situations and may give into the temptations presented to them. This not only dominates the nature of the classroom, but also damages the purpose and reputation of yoga practice.

Ego also gets in the way of yoga instruction, when instructors do not recognize the point where they are not trained enough to assist yoga students with their needs. On the other hand, instructors should not abandon or neglect students.

Students should always be referred to another instructor, or class, to allow them to get the most from their yoga instruction. The yoga studio needs to be a safe place for everybody, regardless of where they are in their own lives. The instructor is responsible for creating and maintaining a safe environment.

The yoga sutras, which are at the core of yoga ethics, have eight branches, or arms. The personal and social ethics that apply most substantially to yoga instruction are yama and niyama. These ethics require peacefulness, honesty, acceptance, truthfulness, temperance, and restraint.

Niyama sets forth the goals of purity, contentment, self-study, and dedication to holiness. These essential ethics cannot be upheld if instructors do not seek them. Ahimsa, peacefulness, requires us to do no harm. One cannot get personally and intimately involved with a student and not inflict some grief.

Unfortunately, in today's environment, it is commonplace to see that the "exercise" portion of yoga is often separated from the rest of yoga. The classes tend to be body-centric and avoid, or eliminate, altogether, the importance of ethics, philosophy, and spirituality, which have been a part of yoga for its 5,000 year history.

Without the ethical, philosophical, and spiritual elements, the complete benefits and true core of yoga are missing. The same can be said of actions taken by yoga instructors that selfishly put the needs of the teacher first.

Copyright 2008 - Paul Jerard / Aura Publications
About the Author
Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, is a co-owner and the director of Yoga teacher training at: Aura Wellness Center in, Attleboro, MA. He is an author of many books on the subject of Yoga and has been a certified Master Yoga teacher since 1995.

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