Thursday, July 14, 2011

Teaching Yoga & The Importance Boundaries

While I believe in being a life long learner, it should come as no surprise that I am constantly reading. This year a lovely student brought a wonderful book to me called "Teaching Yoga, Exploring the Teacher Student Relationship", by Donna Farhi. This book is a must read for every Yoga Instructor, and Teacher Trainee, and Yoga School. Without any reservations Donna breaks down the importance of respecting Boundaries, maintaining professional conduct, awareness & abiding by the Principals of Yogic Philosophy, all with a great deal of emphasis on Teacher-Student Relations. The timing of this book could not have come at a better time, as this year has provided amazing learning opportunities for me. Sadly, negative situations can be the catalyst for learning opportunities.

Being that my nature is very friendly and compassionate, being that I am blessed to have many students who are dedicated to the practice of Yoga, and caring towards me, sometimes there is are "bad apples" in the bunch. What I have learned from both the book and life experience goes as follows:
  • Yoga Studio Owners - Managers should never take it upon themselves to play "match-maker". The Yoga Instructor may have a personal life that you are unaware of, and this is just "unprofessional behavior" that could lead to negative repercussions for both the Instructor and members of your establishment.
  • Yoga Instructors need to assert themselves in their work. When I first started teaching I came across many situations where I was asked to work for free...and I did, while Karma Yoga is a beautiful thing, and I look at every experience as a chance to grow/learn, be aware when it is "exploiting your knowledge/experience" for their financial gain. Many times "Yogis" are not paid for their time, and their kindness is manipulated. This is wrong, as Yoga Instructors provide a valuable service, providing their time, to both establishments and students. In the Western world it may be necessary to have the means of payment in written contract form. One of my dearly respected "Yogis" once told me after discovering what he perceived as my incredibly low Private Sessions Fees...."This is NYC, and Yogis gotta eat too".
  • Yoga Instructors should be aware that kindness from students of the opposite sex & even of same sex, could wind up being more of an infatuation or obsession that could be potentially dangerous. One hour of Yoga Bliss cannot undo someone with years of "severe mental illness", therefore be cautious as you never know who may be a future stalker. Even though we can inspire people in the time frame of class, we are under no obligation to maintain social contact beyond the Yoga Class, and we should use our intuition because in many cases we should avoid this.
  • Healthy Boundaries goes on to call Yoga Instructors to respect the principal of "Dehabhimane galite vijnate paramatman Yatra Yatra mano yati tatra tatra sadhyayah" -"With the disappearance of the attachment of the body and with the realization of the Supreme Self, to whatever object the mind is directed, one experiences Samdahi". - This means after we teach, understand that when we pay more attention to one student/group of students others may feel dejected, also, we may be feeding into the infatuation of a student. As Yoga Instructors our goal is to facilitate an amazing experience for students, and respect the practice, so it's best to stick to that plan.
  • Studio Owners and Instructors, be mindful of your words/conduct. We are blessed to provide an experience that has ancient energy & Philosophy attached to it. Much like when you take a Karate Class you respect the Sensei, the same goes for a Yoga Instructor. Even if you are around the corner or on the street, you need to maintain the energy of a "Yogi", as it is not just about owning an establishment with your photo everywhere, saying Namaste, or wearing Mala Beads, the Yoga Practice is a way of life, and should be respected as such. If we want to instill peace, we must be peace. Students watch our behavior, and hypocrisy leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many.
  • Abiding by ASTEYA (the principal of non-stealing). We must be aware that when we create Manuals, Use Music or Meditation CDs are part of curriculum these are artistic materials that are subject to copyright laws. When I was asked to use another Teacher Training Manual for the launch of my YOGA ALLIANCE REGISTER AND RECOGNIZED ZOGA YOGA Teacher Training program, I was quick to refuse and say that I have put time and effort into "the itinerary of the program", taken over a year to create my own original TT manual, and refuse to be associated with NON-YOGIC behavior. Being that I am a musician, and have a few Original CD's under my belt, I have a tremendous respect for artistic copyright. We obviously cannot copyright Downward Dog, and in many respects the Yogis in India could hold the entire movement of Yoga in the West under Copyright infringement lawsuits, as everyone wants to brand this ancient practice as their own. Nonetheless, we should be more Yogic in our conduct, ask for permission, give credit to the source, and be aware that Karma is a cycle that needs to be respected. No one likes a COPY CAT and I have seen many organizations fall due to lawsuits which resulted in negative reputations. Be Yogic and don't use someone's artistic work without permission and contracts.
Given my recent "learning experiences" this year, I have decided to refrain from naming the location of places where I practice and teach, for my own safety. While often I use this blog to highlight AMAZING Instructors, ONLY and always after having their permission first, I will continue to do so, to inspire more people to embrace this incredible practice of Yoga, but without giving details of my schedule. ~ Namaste


  1. @zogayoga, it heartens me to know that you have founded your own yoga school and disaffiliated from where you learned.

    I bet you are primarily-home-practitoner-friendly also.


    Yoga Freeloader No, Home Practitioner YES!

  2. Hey Tina, I am blessed to have begun my own Yoga Program but I have never disaffiliated with the places where I have learned. I have a tremendous respect for my Gurus and Teachers. I teach every day, group and private Yoga to adults and kids, and kids with special needs. I am truly grateful. The reality for all Yoga Instructors, Yoga Studios and really in any business, is that there are challenges, learning experiences, and Donna's book highlights much of that! No one will every live life without making a mistake, or having something wrong done to them, but sometimes those wrongs, are how we learn to be right. ~ Namaste