The Ethics of Being a Yoga Teacher

The job of teaching yoga does not mean that we are not still a student of the science. Yoga is a lifelong endeavor, and it is only through being humble as teachers, in the place of giving and receiving wisdom that we can truly progress on this journey. Beyond teaching asana, there are many responsibilities involved, as we are a great influence on other people’s lives.

The following is a list of ethics to uphold as the perennial student and often teacher of yoga:

  1. We shall devote ourselves to practicing what we preach. We should live as close to the yogic lifestyle prescribed by our teachers as possible. In order to authentic, with ourselves and with our students we will not pretend that we never make mistakes, but instead will uphold a high standard for ourselves, with room for self-forgiveness as a model for our students.

  2. We will remain students of yoga forever. Until we can heal with the touch of our own hands or levitate, we will continue to learn more about yoga. We will be open to different branches and schools of yoga, and use discernment when finding a teacher for ourselves. We will respect the lineage of the guru and act accordingly as we grow into one.

  3. We will conduct ourselves with integrity and professionalism at all times. Close relationships are inevitable within the student-teacher dynamic, especially when people spend so much time together sharing some of the most vulnerable parts of themselves with you. You will never discuss what is divulged with others or gossip about students’ problems shared in confidence with you.

  4. We will accurately talk about our training, not exaggerating our successes nor minimizing them, but give a true account of what we have learned so far and from whom so that students trying to find a teacher can accurately and find someone who can deal with their particular strengths as a teacher. If we are more body focused, we will not pretend to be experts in meditation, and if we are purely meditation experts, we will not profess to be the master of asana.

  5. We will treat others will respect, including but not limited to our students.

  6. We will not speak ill of any yogic path, nor their teachings, but strive instead to draw students based on our own inner radiant light. We realize that students will find their perfect teacher when they need to, and sometimes this may mean that we are not that perfect teacher for them. When we have exhausted our own strengths, we will honestly and graciously refer a student to another type or style of yoga, or to a teacher ho can more satisfactorily help their specific challenges.

  7. We will not discriminate against students due to their cultural or religious background, nor their sex, gender or sexual preference. We are all children of the Ultimate Oneness. We stay reminded of this through every contact we have with a student.

  8. We will not be the middle-man or woman between the higher states of awareness and our students. We will not act as a crutch for students to become stronger, but help them to find their own inner strength.

  9. We are mindful in our teaching to build a student from where they are at, and not expect that everyone is starting form the same point, either emotionally, physically or spiritually. We will not look down upon others who are in different places in their spiritual progression realizing that this is a non-linear path. Some students will take quantum leaps beyond us, if we remove our egos from teaching.

  10. We strive to remove our egos from our own teaching. It is not the point of a yoga class to wow others with your amazing physical feats or deep philosophical wisdom unless they specifically ask for it and are open to it. We do not push our own philosophies about yoga and life, but lead through example instead.

  11. We will strive to maintain cleanliness, Saucha, in any environment where we teach, making the space as comfortable and inviting to the student as possible.

  12. We will not lead a class if we are not fully present. We arrive early enough to prepare ourselves for what lies ahead, so that we do not let the business of our own minds interfere with the energy of the class. We calm our own minds first before attempting to calm the minds of others.

  13. We always allow for physical injury and show plenty of modifications so that anyone can feel comfortable participating in our class.

  14. We realize that the teacher-student bond can be mis-interpreted as sexual attraction. We are very mindful of participating in any sexual relationship with students. We wait an honorable amount of time (approximately 8 months to a year or more) between being someone’s teacher and participating in a romantic relationship with them.

  15. We realize that as a teacher we will sometimes have to give tough love if someone is acting outside of the ethical boundaries that yoga aims to set up. It is our responsibility to communicate Truth even when it is hard to do.

  16. We realize that since we are still students of yoga ourselves, out Truth may not be real. It is possibly distorted through our own egoic filters. We allow for others to discover their Truth as they need to, and this may not always be within the class we teach. If we ‘lose’ a student, we are never angry or vengeful. We honestly and lovingly wish this person well and know that their path requires a different teacher.

  17. We realize that as a teacher, for whom this is our primary means of sustaining ourselves financially, that we are honored to make money from doing a fortuitous job, however we remember as Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois told us that, “Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal… But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain.” We put our practice and its teachings above the gain of monetary good at all times.

  18. As a teacher of yoga I will remember that asana is only a small part of the yogic science, “Yoga, an ancient but perfect science, deals with the evolution of humanity. This evolution includes all aspects of one’s being, from bodily health to self-realization. Yoga means union - the union of body with consciousness and consciousness with the soul. Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions. ~B.K.S. Iyengar, Astadala Yogamala – I will remember my responsibility to teach the rest of yoga to my students as they are willing to receive the teachings.

About the author:
Christina Sarich runs

Does being an ethical yoga teacher include not ripping off others work as your own?

You should be ashamed of yourself.

There is nothing ethical about being a Yoga teacher.

In the ancient days no one proclaimed themselves a Pundit. This was an honorific given by others out of sincere recognition. The students came to you if you were masterful at the sitar, a great archer, or had an aura surrounding you and asked you to teach them.

Today, you proclaim you are a Pundit and ask for students.

Nothing ethical…

As a yoga teacher, you are responsible for the security and well-being of the people you teach. That is a heavy responsibility, and one that comes with a lot of pressure: not just from your immediate students, but from their instructors, their instructors' instructors, and so on. When you fail, you are letting down not only the student in question, but also potentially every single person who has touched that student over the years.

How can you be sure you're doing everything you can to keep your students safe?

There are plenty of ways to make sure your teaching is ethical. Here's a list of things to look for when it comes to safety:

-Have an evacuation plan

-Assess each person's physical condition before beginning class—and don't let those who seem especially unfit participate in poses they haven't been taught how to do properly

-Make sure everyone's alignment is correct in every pose—even if that means telling someone they're in improper form and asking them to try again; even if that means stopping class entirely because there's too much going wrong

-Keep water handy in case anyone gets overheated

-Listen carefully when people speak up about what feels good and what doesn't.