about harassmentBy Amruta Kulkarni, CYT 500

Like any other workplace, it is important for yoga teachers to stay up-to-date on harassment prevention, whether it is physical, sexual, verbal, or another form of harassment. With recent headlines seeming to indicate that harassment in the studio is on the rise, it’s especially imperative that instructors take steps to protect themselves and their students. One of the best ways to prevent harassment issues in the studio is to regularly engage in continuing education courses involving harassment recognition and prevention. Learning about the different types of harassment is key to preventing messy harassment scenarios in your own classes. Taking classes and educating yourself will ensure that all your students feel at ease in the studio, whether they are completely new to the practice or have been visiting your studio for years.

Verbal Harassment

Verbal harassment is a common complaint among people who feel they have been bullied or discriminated against. Verbal harassment can come from a teacher or a fellow student. As an instructor, it is your responsibility to watch out for verbal abuse in your classroom, whether it is something you say to your students or something you overhear in the studio. Inappropriate comments can include negative comments about someone’s weight or appearance, racial slurs or swears, and unwanted or inappropriate comments. Make sure that you set a good example by practicing compassionate, appropriate communication. You should also take charge of any verbal harassment between students and enforce a zero-tolerance bullying policy.

Sexual Harassment

Unfortunately, sexual harassment in yoga studios has been prevalent in news headlines as of late. As a yoga instructor, it is important to make sure your class is a safe and comfortable place for yoga students of any gender. It is a good idea to set up some ground rules for your studio before you even begin teaching, such as what clothing is appropriate for your class. This is especially important for hot yoga classes, where students may want to wear revealing bra tops or swimsuits. Sexual harassment issues can happen between students. If someone has a problem with another student making sexual comments, leering, or inappropriately flirting, do your best to find a solution. Moving a student to a different class can be an option for someone who feels harassed by another practitioner. In extreme cases, you can ask a student to leave if they are behaving inappropriately. Remember, this is your classroom and you want it to be a safe and welcoming environment for everyone, including yourself.

Physical Harassment

This type of harassment can happen anytime you touch a student, or if another student physically touches another practitioner in class. To avoid issues with physical harassment, make sure that your students are aware that they should not make any physical corrections to other students, even if they are more experienced. This is a job only for you, as the instructor of the session. In your various classes, try to remember which students are ok with getting physically corrected and which students do not like to be touched. If you are ever in doubt, ask. This will ensure your students always feel safe in your studio. Remember to be respectful of the student’s wishes, and never touch anyone who is not comfortable with physical corrections. While it may not seem like a big deal to you, other people may have a big problem with physical contact and this could cause them a great deal of stress.

Harassment issues are something that no one wants to deal with. However, as a yoga instructor, it’s important to be prepared in case some kind of harassment scenario occurs in your classroom. With the right tools at your disposal, you can easily resolve issues in the studio and move on to what is really important – the people and the practice.

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