IF YOU’RE A YOGA TEACHER OR OR­GA­NI­ZA­TION

Yoga Journal - - Travel Guide - By David Lip­sius, pres­i­dent and CEO, Yoga Al­liance

» Un­der­stand power dy­nam­ics.

Even when no ma­li­cious in­tent is present, en­ergy can shift eas­ily from healthy class­room re­la­tion­ships to an un­healthy power im­bal­ance. If you’re a teacher, hold your­self ac­count­able to the in­her­ent power dy­namic at play in the yoga teacher–stu­dent re­la­tion­ship. At min­i­mum, you may be viewed by your stu­dents as a more ad­vanced prac­ti­tioner and an ex­pe­ri­enced guide. At max­i­mum, you may be viewed as a mas­ter, guru, or en­light­ened be­ing. Ei­ther way, do not abuse the power that is en­meshed in the re­la­tion­ship. Teach­ing yoga comes with great re­spon­si­bil­ity to in­di­vid­ual stu­dents and the com­mu­nity you serve; main­tain an ap­pro­pri­ate bound­ary, and let the yoga prac­tices them­selves be­come the guru for all stu­dents.

» Ask per­mis­sion be­fore all hands-on as­sists.

Use con­sent cards (or “yes/no” discs, stones, sym­bols) and ver­bal af­fir­ma­tion ev­ery time you as­sist a stu­dent. Ev­ery stu­dent de­serves to be em­pow­ered within their own prac­tice. Al­ways ask per­mis­sion be­fore touch­ing a stu­dent. Us­ing clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion, make each as­sist an em­pow­er­ing co-cre­ation, invit­ing stu­dents to choose or de­cline your help, to change their mind, and to al­ter their an­swer from mo­ment to mo­ment. All types of hands-on as­sists re­quire con­sent, in­clud­ing nur­tur­ing presses, ma­nip­u­la­tive ad­just­ments, and press-point as­sists. To safely sup­port all stu­dents in each class, strengthen your skill­ful­ness with non­touch as­sists: Use pre­cise ver­bal cues and in­vi­ta­tional mir­ror­ing.

» Up­date, clar­ify, and pub­lish your poli­cies and pro­ce­dures.

Com­mu­nity lead­ers in all set­tings must be ex­plicit about what they will do in the event of a re­port of as­sault, rape, un­wanted touch­ing, or other mis­con­duct in their yoga space. A well-de­fined re­sponse pol­icy is nec­es­sary to lay a clear foun­da­tion for pub­lic safety. Be clear, be pre­cise, and en­sure that all poli­cies and pro­ce­dures are pub­lished and avail­able for every­one to see. Then train your staff to fol­low those poli­cies and pro­ce­dures to the let­ter, ev­ery time. Con­sis­tent en­force­ment is es­sen­tial to de­velop and main­tain a cul­ture of safety.

» Set in place an ex­plicit re­port­ing struc­ture.

It’s un­re­al­is­tic to think that a yoga in­sti­tu­tion is equipped to func­tion like a qual­i­fied law-en­force­ment, in­ves­tiga­tive, or ju­di­cial body. For all re­ports of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, law en­force­ment should be no­ti­fied—with­out de­lay. Have phone num­bers for law en­force­ment and vic­tim ad­vo­cacy groups clearly posted. For non­crim­i­nal but ques­tion­able ac­tiv­ity, clar­ify the re­port­ing struc­ture within your or­ga­ni­za­tion and ad­vise and train all em­ploy­ees, con­trac­tors, and stu­dents to re­port vi­o­la­tions to the ap­pro­pri­ate hu­man­re­sources pro­fes­sional, an om­budsper­son, se­cu­rity per­son, or man­ager. Ef­fec­tively train­ing staff in re­port­ing pro­ce­dures helps em­ploy­ees at all lev­els feel em­pow­ered to speak up against abuse.

» Ac­knowl­edge the is­sue of sex­ual mis­con­duct, and act as a leader.

Far too of­ten in yoga’s his­tory, a yoga brand, lin­eage, tra­di­tion, ashram, or or­ga­ni­za­tion has failed to prop­erly ac­knowl­edge and deal with prob­lems re­lated to sex­ual mis­con­duct. For a bet­ter fu­ture, all yoga in­sti­tu­tions need to openly dis­cuss their his­tory and take ac­tive steps to change the dy­nam­ics that led to al­leged abuse and the al­leged si­lenc­ing of whis­tle-blow­ers. Use ex­ter­nal—not in­ter­nal—ex­perts and sup­port net­works to ad­dress the is­sues. To­gether, we can change cul­tural sys­tems so that is­sues are no longer kept within the “fam­ily.” Many thriv­ing tra­di­tions have be­come stronger over the years by learn­ing from dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ences. Trans­parency, hon­esty, and truth can be used to help ed­u­cate, el­e­vate, and in­spire fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of yo­gis.

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