By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500
Some teachers lead great classes, but hardly anyone has heard of them. It is a shame that proper behavior, respect, and ethics do not make great headlines in the newspapers. Just watch the news, and read the newspaper for a week, to confirm what makes “good copy.” It will not take long for you to find a dozen, or dozens, of scandals.
We all make mistakes, and none of us wants to have them in print, but some are preventable. Here are some guidelines for Yoga teachers to consider when teaching their students. As a leader and role model, your ethical behavior will be duplicated by your Yoga students.
There is no need for an air of superiority in order to lead a Yoga class. Everyone is good at something, so why waste time and energy trying to impress your students, or the public, about your ability as a Yoga instructor. If students are attending your Yoga classes, they are already impressed, so there is no need to turn your class into a “circus act.”
If someone does not practice Yoga, or is not a vegetarian, please do not bolster your ego over the issue. Do not engage in hostile debates over these issues. There is a time, place, and method for convincing people about health issues, but hostility will not convince anyone.
Bias and discrimination are hard habits to break. Sometimes, these ideas exist within families for generations. Teachers should accept students, regardless of race, religion, gender, ethnic origin, age, social status, or any other reason we can find to be unjustifiably bias.
In the case of age – children who are too young may have a separate class, but this depends on the patience of the Yoga teacher and the group. Some “Mommy and me” Yoga classes run along smoothly, but some adult students do not want to be in a class with children.
I teach children four years of age and up, but it is specifically within a “Kids Yoga” class. This is much different from a typical adult Yoga class, and the circus act I mentioned earlier might be fine. Do not be surprised to see children perform difficult asanas, but do not expose them to hazards. To lead adults or children effectively, safety is the first priority.
In the course of a week, I teach many Chair Yoga classes, and these are age specific. However, when seniors show up to a Yoga training session, at a studio, or ashram, they should be welcomed and modifications should be taught – if they are needed.
Getting back to discrimination in general: The largest problem with bias is our history of war crimes, holocausts, atrocities, and slavery. Discrimination and intolerance cannot go unchecked, and it has no place anywhere, especially in a studio or ashram. If you teach Yoga to a specific religious sect, that is fine, but do not speak harshly of those who are not present.
It comes down to the golden rule, which is very universal to most of the world’s philosophies and religions. I will conclude this part with a quote. Most of you will recognize a much similar quote within your own religion. It does shed light on the wisdom of our ancestors.
“This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.” Mahabharata 5,1517
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