ASHY’s interim Ethical Guidelines have been adapted from an earlier version used by Anusara, Inc. Evolution and growth are hallmarks of our yoga style, and over time, changes to the interim Ethical Guidelines may be made with careful consideration and input from the community.
As yoga teachers, we are a leading example to our students. We have a responsibility to them, to our teachers, and to ourselves to behave in a moral and ethical manner and to maintain a high degree of personal integrity.
The following ethical principles are general guidelines of behavior instead of rigid rules. These guidelines must be applied on a relative basis to each unique circumstance and context in which the yogi is involved. Overall, the Anusara yogi seeks to glorify Shri—that which is life-enhancing, beautiful, and auspicious.
Classical Ethical Guidelines
Yamas: (Behavior restraints.) Ethical guidelines for the yogi pertaining to her relationship with others in society, the outer environment, or Nature. All the yamas apply to actions, words, and thoughts.
Ahimsa (Non-harming): Loving kindness to others, not blocking or obstructing the flow of Nature, compassion, mercy, gentleness.
Satya (Truthfulness): Being genuine and authentic to our inner nature, having integrity, honesty, being honorable, not lying, not concealing the truth, not downplaying or exaggerating. Truthfulness.
Asteya (Non-stealing): Not taking what is not yours—money, goods, or credit. Not robbing people of their own experiences and freedom. Non-desire for another’s possessions, qualities, or status. Non-stealing.
Brahmacharya (Walking or having ethical conduct like God): Relating to another with unconditional love and integrity, without selfishness or manipulation. Practicing sexual moderation, restraining from sexual misconduct, and avoiding lustful behavior. Celibacy/chastity.
Aparigraha (Non-clinging): Non-grasping, non-receiving, non-possessiveness, voluntary simplicity, not accumulating things beyond what is necessary, non- attachment to possessions, greedlessness. Non-covetousness.
Niyamas: (Internal-restraints): Ethical guidelines for the yogi pertaining to her daily activities. Observances of one’s own physical appearance, actions, words and thoughts.
Shauca (Purity): Cleanliness, orderliness, precision, clarity, balance. Internal and external purification. Cleanliness.
Santosa (Contentment): Equanimity, peace, tranquility, acceptance of the way things are. Contentment.
Tapas (Heat): Burning desire for reunion with God expressed through self- discipline, purification, willpower, austerity, and patience. Self-mortification.
Svadhyaya (Study of the Self): Self-inquiry, mindfulness, self-study, study of the scriptures, chanting and recitation of the scriptures. Searching for the Unknown (divinity) in the Known (physical world). Scriptural Study.
Ishvara Pranidhana (Devotional offering to the Lord): Surrender to God, open-heartedness, love, “not my will, but Thy will be done,” willingness to serve the Lord. Surrender to God.
Other Ethical Guidelines
Honor and love yourself as a divine being full of goodness and greatness.
Stay centered in your divine Self and you will connect more powerfully with the students.
Have shraddha—faith and trust in the power and order of the Supreme. Put your will in alignment with the will of the Supreme and open to the power of Grace.
Conduct and express yourself in a genuine manner that reflects your love, respect, and wonder for the art. This expression comes naturally out of your practice. Show your enthusiastic love for sharing yoga with the students in every gesture, facial expression, and voice inflection. This also makes it easy and enjoyable to listen to you.
Show humility. Show and admit your limitations—don’t put yourself down, but objectively show your physical limitations and the limits to your knowledge of yoga. When you don’t know the answer to a question, say, “I don’t know.” Be willing to do research and to bring an answer back to the student as soon as possible. Your honesty and diligence will earn respect from the students.
Tell and show the students that you are also a student. Remind them you were also, once, a raw beginner. By keeping in mind your days as a raw beginner, you will stay humble. Also, reminding yourself of your past will foster compassion for your beginning students.
Be welcoming to all students regardless of gender, race, religion, creed, nationality, cultural background, or sexual preference.
Give feedback by first looking for what is right—the beauty, the light, and the positive in people and things—instead of the ugliness, the darkness, or what is wrong. In this way you will always give the student the benefit of the doubt.
Use right speech. Speaking is one of our primary forms of communication. Awareness not only of what we say, but also of how and when we speak will help to maintain right speech.
Before speaking, examine what you are about to say using The Four Gates of Speech:
- Is it truthful?
- Is it necessary to say?
- Is it the appropriate time?
- Can it be said in a kind way?
Be modest when showing or describing your talents and experiences. The more you try to impress the students, the more you are likely to create discord and lack of rapport with the students.
Truthfully and accurately represent your teaching experience and training in all self-promotions.
Be loving, kind, friendly, and respectful to the students. Be willing to serve and help them as best as you can. Honor them as divine beings full of goodness and greatness.
Be courteous and polite. Say, “Please,” sometimes.
Respect them as intelligent, educated, and mature people. Be personable. Address them by their names, which is more respectful than saying, “Hey! You in the purple shorts, separate your feet wider apart.”
Never demean or abuse a student physically or verbally. Never hit, slap, kick, or yell at a student.
Never condescend, degrade, or talk down to the students as if they were children or stupid. Never scold a student with, “Did I say to do that?!”
Never judge the character of a student by making a broad statement such as, “You are a ______ type of person.” You can state particular observations about their behavior in the moment, such as, “Today, you are not as focused as usual.”
Be compassionate and willing to serve the students selflessly and unconditionally. For every step that the student takes toward the teacher, the teacher should take two steps toward the student.
Be generous with your time and energy toward the students. For example, make yourself available to answer questions or to listen to students’ comments before or after class. Also, be willing to offer a few minutes free of charge outside of class to a particular student working on a pose or an issue she is having trouble with.
Motivate and inspire students to optimum alignment, action, and attitude. Be positive and give constructive reinforcement. When the students do something that is commendable, tell them, “Yes!,” “Good,” or “Well done.” Smile, nod with approval or gesture with your hands, like with a thumbs up signal to positively support good performance.
Encourage and honor independent thinking and the spirit of exploration in the student. If a student respectfully disagrees with you on a particular teaching point because her experience is different than yours, she should be honored for not conforming mindlessly to your view.
Be patient with yourself and the students. Acknowledge that yoga is a process.
Be confident and strong in your actions and words to express your authority appropriately. You are in the seat of the teacher, so you are in charge of the class. Stand tall with full power.
In general, stand and walk around while teaching so that you exude more enthusiasm, dynamism, and awareness. Sitting or standing fixed in one place generally reduces the energy of the class, and the energy of the teacher can seem less powerful to the students.
For the most part, keep your arms by your sides and your heart lifted. Not only does this posture exhibit confidence and a positive attitude, but it also leaves your hands free to adjust students’ postures. Do not cross your arms across your chest or make nervous or extraneous hand gestures. Such postures and gestures might cause the students to misinterpret your attitude as one of disinterest or lack of confidence.
The Seat of the Teacher
As yoga teachers, we are an example and a model for many people. Our behavior reflects upon the great tradition and lineage of yoga which we represent. Consequently, we must exhibit a very high degree of personal integrity in all matters, both inside and outside the classroom. A high standard of professional competence and integrity can be maintained through regular practice and study, and a virtuous and healthy lifestyle. A high degree of personal integrity is prerequisite in order to be well respected as a professional yoga teacher.
Many students look to the yoga teacher as a guide and mentor, not only for physical development, but for emotional and spiritual development as well. Students tend to project high ideals onto the teacher, so they often think the teacher is more spiritually advanced than they are. Consequently, the student will tend to trust and open up to the teacher in a more psychically vulnerable and more emotionally receptive way than in most relationships. This creates an inherent power differential between the teacher and the student. Because of this power differential, we must be vigilant to uphold the integrity of the seat of the teacher. We must never exploit the vulnerability of the student for our own personal gain or gratification. Clear boundaries must be established and maintained in our role of serving our students.
We must take the responsibility of creating and sustaining both a sacred and safe environment for all students. The student needs to be able to take refuge safely in the seat of the teacher— the honorable role or the position the teacher represents. Trust in the seat of the teacher needs to be present for any deep transformations to occur in the student. As a yoga teacher, follow these guidelines:
Honor and embrace the seat of the teacher.
Verbally honor and pay tribute to your teachers and the sources of your knowledge and skill during each class.
Be happy and content in the seat of the teacher. You have been given the seat of the teacher because of your goodness and greatness. By remembering this, you can stay centered in the midst of criticism or disapproval. You will not always please everyone with your classes. Some disapproval is normal. Do not be disturbed by the students who are dull or unresponsive.
Avoid sexual relationships with students. When a sexual attraction occurs between you and a student, wait some weeks before acting on the attraction. If the student-teacher relationship is about to be compromised by any intimate relationship, it is advisable for the teacher to assist the student in finding another qualified yoga teacher.
Never sexually harass a student.
Follow all civil laws and other legal codes of behavior.
Stick to your convictions about being a model person and teacher. Be steadfast in your ethical behavior toward others. Be resolute and committed to all spiritual observances.
When speaking publicly about other yoga teachers or yoga systems, always say only something positive. Never publicly degrade or demean other yoga teachers or yoga systems.
Avoid making direct comparisons between Anusara Yoga and other systems. In this way we can cultivate harmony and unity in the community. This further honors the great art and tradition of yoga that we represent.