In order to reflect the true purpose of yoga practice, an instructor must adhere to the ethics that hold a teacher accountable. Having proper yoga instructor ethics will help the teacher to accomplish their goal for the class- to serve the needs of the students. This line should not be blurred or the instructor may risk damaging the relationship built on trust that many teachers and students enjoy.
Sutras in Relationship to Ethics
The Yoga Sutras, have eight branches, or arms. These are the basic ethics of yoga practice. The personal and social ethics that are applicable to instruction are yama and niyama. These ethics highlight peacefulness, restraint, acceptance, honesty, truthfulness, and temperance. Other yoga study main ideas are purity, contentment, self-study, and dedication to holiness. These ethics cannot be accomplished if inappropriate relationships or actions are involved. To be truly accountable to upholding the yoga practice, one must embrace these ideals fully, no matter the temptations to do otherwise.
Loss of Focus on Spirituality
Unfortunately, the spiritual part of the yoga practice is lost on many students. The exercise and health benefits it provides are important for well-being, but the spiritual and ethical elements that have been part of yoga for over 5,000 years tend to be eliminated from practice. Instructors should take the care necessary to invoke these lessons through modeling and instructional practices in order to share with their students the sutras and their relation to everyday life.
Putting the Needs of the Student First
Just as a teacher in an academic classroom should not hold his or her students back from accomplishing their goals, so should a yoga instructor not interfere with the accomplishments of their own students. If an instructor has given everything they can to their student, they should be prepared to lead them on their journey onward, even if that ends their time together as teacher and student. The ego often stands in the way of this. The teacher should always be looking out for their student and encouraging them. If an instructor is reluctant to encourage their student to branch out, they are not following the ethics outlined in proper yoga practice.
People come in all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds. An effort should be made to welcome all types of students into the yoga classroom. Diversity is a beautiful thing and by modeling respect, the instructor can benefit every student that enters their classroom. This is reflected in mutual respect while helping with poses or relaying instruction. An ethical instructor will model and encourage respect in all relationships whether it is teacher-student or student-student. Respect extends to the body in yoga since many instructors will be helping with poses. It is important to communicate and ask permission before touching a student to preserve the trust of the relationship. Maintaining professional in all circumstances will promote the example you wish to provide your students.
Yoga instructor ethics are an important piece of the profession and should not be taken lightly. They are at the core of the practice and should be modeled by the instructor to ensure a well-balanced class.