In the last session of the Avalon Yoga 200-hour teacher training program, I lead the teachers-in-training through self-reflection and discussion on common ethical dilemmas that yoga teachers face.
Below are the dilemmas I used this session. I'd love to hear from yoga teachers about other situations that have challenged them, or what you'd do in any of these situations. Drop me an email or add a comment!
1. You have the opportunity to sub a class in a style that is very different from yours. Further, you don’t think much of this style. Should you take this opportunity? If you do, how do you approach the class and students? What thoughts, emotions, and behaviors do you need to bring special awareness to?
2. You teach yoga in a studio or gym setting that offers many different types of yoga classes. A number of students coming to your class have complaining of getting injured in another instructor’s class. What, if anything, do you do with this information? What is your obligation to your students, the studio/gym, and the teacher in question?
3. A student in your class invites you out to lunch “to talk more about yoga.” You suspect he or she is interested in friendship or possibly a romantic relationship. What do you do? Should it matter whether you find this person interesting or attractive? What does your decision say about how you perceive your role as a yoga teacher? Does having an outside relationship with a student change or limit how you interact with them in a class setting?
4. You teach a class that is advertised as mixed-levels or “open,” but nevertheless attracts a mostly athletic and experienced crowd. One day an obese student you do not know arrives for class. How do you react to this student? What are your assumptions? What are your obligations in a class listed as “mixed-levels” or “open”? How confident are you that you know how to teach bodies that don’t fit the stereotypical yoga-studio mold?
5. You have gotten very busy teaching yoga, and are excited to have so many classes to teach! Unfortunately, this is getting in the way of your personal practice. You haven’t attended a class in a few months, and you aren’t practicing formally at home. You tell yourself that your life is your yoga practice, and you don’t really need to practice asana, pranayama, meditation, etc. Is there an ethical component to this decision? What are the risks in this situation?
6. You witness one of your favorite, most inspiring yoga teachers outside the classroom doing something that really strikes you as “unyogic” but not necessarily illegal [e.g., smoking, eating meat, trash-talking other teachers, talking about how they lie on their taxes, apparently cheating on his/her spouse, or some other behavior that conflicts with your yoga values/ethics—pick something that would really surprise you]. How does this make you feel? Will you tell others about this? Will this person continue to be an important teacher for you? What standards do you hold yourself to as a yoga teacher? How will you feel when you fail to live up to your own or another person’s standards?
7. You get together with friends from this teacher training program, several months after you have been teaching regularly. The other teachers begin to complain about some of their least favorite students, sharing stories about annoying and inappropriate behavior in the classroom. It seems to strengthen the bond between the group and make everyone feel better about their experiences. How might you contribute or react to this conversation? How might you use this conversation for later private reflection on your teaching?