Breathe, Teach, Transform: Exploring Ethics & Integrity as a Yoga Teacher

No matter which field of work we talk about, ethics are at the core of professionalism. This holds true even more in service industries such as wellness and fitness sectors. In yoga teaching, ethics are of utmost significance. It is recommended for yoga instructors to embrace specific lifestyle choices and uphold an ethical code while teaching. As teachers, you are in a position where your behavior, actions and words are constantly observed, judged and evaluated, whether it is noticeable or not. Meeting the expectations of your students establishes trust, transparency and comfort among students. Thus, ethics education within yoga teacher training programs becomes pivotal in nurturing well-rounded instructors who grasp the essence of leading an authentic life.

During a yoga teacher training course, you will find that teachers will specifically highlight the importance of ethics education for yoga teachers. Modules are dedicated to exploring ethics and integrity in yoga teacher training programs that provide you with a complete scope of the expected rules of conduct. Yogic philosophy also advocates for teachers to foster a balanced life, encouraging you to integrate principles such as the Yamas (social norms) and Niyamas (self-discipline rules) into your lifestyle.

Ethics & Integrity as a Yoga Teacher

WHAT DO ETHICS INCLUDE FOR YOGA TEACHERS

When the behavior of yoga teachers varies significantly between classes, questions about character and personality arise. For instance, as a yoga teacher, if students see you indulging in desserts or snacks just before a class starts, it contradicts what you would ideally be preaching to students, that is, to avoid consuming heavy food just before a class. Moreover, a professional relationship between yoga teachers and students should be maintained.

Ethical principles require teachers to treat students with utmost respect and cultivate an inclusive atmosphere in class. It also requires one teacher to honor and respect a fellow-teacher. Taking it a step further, integrity and honesty must permeate the actions of yoga instructors, both within the classroom and the broader community.

Those undergoing a yoga teacher training course will gradually learn to make purposeful decisions across all facets of life. As mindfulness improves, one is able to master the art of intentional living. This helps adapt and apply ethical behavior as a teacher. Teaching yoga extends beyond an occupation; it’s a holistic lifestyle, demanding an embrace of yoga’s philosophies consistently. Taking steps to understand and embody these philosophies should be second nature.

Instructors must adhere to a set of ethical and moral principles aimed at guiding their yoga teachings with fairness, kindness, and morality. This includes values such as kindness, compassion, generosity, tolerance, patience, helpfulness, forgiveness, and purity.

HOW CAN ETHICS GUIDE CLASSROOM CONDUCT?

The most basic yet essential ethics include honoring physical boundaries and the personal space of each individual. Respecting a student’s preference and asking for permission before making adjustments or physical contact is critical. Being honest is a fundamental ethic in yoga teaching. This includes providing truthful feedback on a student’s progress, avoiding false praise and instead offering genuine guidance on how to improve. Simultaneously, teachers should demonstrate understanding, patience, and fairness towards all students. A compassionate and honest approach from the teacher often inspires students to strive harder in their practice. Let’s explore a few of these ethics in greater detail.

  1. Teaching with compassion: Emphasizing fairness, compassion, and honesty in teaching forms the cornerstone of yoga teacher ethics. While the physical aspects of yoga such as poses, breathing, and exercises, are crucial, they alone don’t define the practice’s true essence. Instead, a yoga teacher aims to instill in their students the moral and ethical principles that form the foundation of a yoga practice. 
  2. Guiding Students: Yoga encompasses physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. An authentic and honest yoga instructor aims to guide students towards proper techniques for the right results. In the practice of postures, this guidance frequently involves varying degrees of physical contact. Despite the intent behind these touches within the safe environment of a yoga studio, it can still swiftly raise questions of appropriateness. Before making contact, ask yourself if it really is necessary? Or can you guide without contact? And then act accordingly. 
  3. Seeking Consent: Every teacher should ask for permission before making contact. Take a moment to understand a student’s comfort level with contact and to what extent they are open to it. Preferences for a hands-off approach might exist even concerning alignment, requiring both teacher and student to acknowledge and respect such boundaries in advance. Some students may embrace touch as a beneficial aspect of their practice. However, it’s vital to uphold limits on touch that could risk injury or be misconstrued as intrusive, regardless of the student’s inclination.

REMEMBER, STUDENTS HAVE THE RIGHT TOO

Students hold the right to a learning environment free from harassment or discrimination while pursuing their training. They deserve consistent treatment marked by respect, dignity, and fairness. Confidentiality regarding personal matters is an expectation. Additionally, students should have their learning needs recognized and catered to by instructors.

Moreover, a proficient yoga teacher will take the initiative to emphasize to students their right and responsibility, including understanding ethical expectations. For yoga teacher training courses, students should be encouraged to seek clarification from the yoga school if any policy or procedure appears unclear. Yoga schools place emphasis on attending classes punctually, displaying professionalism, and respecting the rights of others involved in the course. This is where understanding and adapting ethics as a teacher begins.

ETHICS AND INTEGRITY AS A YOGA TEACHER IS EVERGREEN

Yoga revolves around bringing harmony to the mind and body, focusing on breath and posture, often leading teachers to overlook ethics and liability concerns. It’s not that the teachers are unethical. Rather, it showcases their dedication to yoga, prioritizing their students over potential legal or ethical issues. However, a conscious effort should be made continuously to abide by the right ethics and maintain strong professionalism.

A SAMPLE CODE OF CONDUCT

Once you become a yoga teacher, if you are starting your own independent yoga classes, here is a sample code of ethics you can communicate to students. This will ensure transparency and trust between students and you as a yoga teacher.

“I commit to upholding the integrity of my profession by engaging in all interactions with professionalism and conscientiousness. Respect for my students, teachers, colleagues, and employers remains at the core, aligned with the ethos of yoga. Ensuring a safe, effective, and welcoming environment for all participants is a priority, alongside providing equal and fair treatment to everyone. Prioritizing my ongoing practice and continuous education stands as a commitment. Adherence to country/state business, employment, and copyright laws is essential. Upholding the confidentiality of student information is a key aspect, as is respecting the rights, dignity, and privacy of all students. Additionally, I recognize the limitations of my skills and practice scope, referring students to qualified medical or rehabilitation professionals when necessary.”

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