IF YOU’RE A YOGA TEACHER OR ORGANIZATION
» 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.