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 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 the “exercise” portion of Yoga is often separated from the rest of the practice. Some classes contain asanas only, which gives students a small taste of a piece of the pie. These classes tend to be body-centric and avoid, or eliminate altogether, the importance of ethics, philosophy, and spirituality, which have been a part of Yogic methodology and philosophy 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 instructors who have selfishly put the needs of the teacher first.
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