As yoga develops into a global, multi-billion dollar industry in our modern, Western, consumerist, competitive society, it becomes even more important to remember the foundation of our yogic practice and the moral guidelines that ensure we maintain our even keel. These guidelines are important now more than ever as more stories of abuse of power, injury, and manipulation are coming out of the global yoga community. I hope the following guidelines will ensure that none of those stories ever originate from Ekam.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali divides ethical guidelines into yama and niyama. The yama (listed below) pertain to one’s relationships with other people. The niyama pertain to one’s relationship with yoga as a spiritual path (you’re going to have to look those up yourself). When using the yama and niyama as an ethical code we work to apply their recommendations as best we can within our own personal moral framework. This means we sometimes fail, and that’s ok. These first two limbs of ashtanga yoga are the hardest and will take a lifetime (or more) to integrate into the fabric of our being. The point is that we always strive to do better.
The Ekam Code of Ethics
At Ekam, we recognize that ethical behaviour is the foundation of yoga practice and teaching. This code of ethics is based on the principle that we are responsible for creating an environment of ethical behaviour, integrity, and safety. The purpose of this code of ethics is to clearly establish a standard of conduct at Ekam that protects both students and teachers, ensures quality teaching and interaction, and supports the teacher-student relationship.
I have adapted this code from the SYTA Code of Ethics, which can be found here. I have modified it to broaden its applications; yoga does not end at the edges of your mat, or at the door of the studio. In addition, this code of ethics doesn’t apply just to me or to Ekam Yoga, it applies to anyone who teaches for Ekam, or who teaches at Ekam, or who Ekam hosts to run workshops or trainings, and it applies to anyone who rents space at Ekam. It even applies to you!
THE SHORT VERSION:
- Ahimsa (non-harm), we act with care. We respect the integrity of all people and act with care towards them.
- Satya (truth), we speak the truth. We use truthful and clear communication with all people.
- Asteya (non-stealing), we behave honestly. We behave honestly in all interactions: financial, material, emotional and spiritual.
- Brahmacharya (walking with Brahma), we exercise restraint. We bring care and wisdom to our sexual conduct and avoid all forms of sexual exploitation. We are not wasteful of our energies and resources.
- Aparigraha (non-grasping), we accept only that which is freely given. We use our yogic knowledge and skills for the benefit of all people, and not to gain unfair personal advantage.
THE LONG VERSION:
Ahimsa, we act with care
- We act with care towards all beings.
- We respect the moral, social, cultural, and religious values of students.
- We do not discriminate against or refuse teaching to anyone.
- We take responsibility to decide whether or not we can assist a student in yoga.
- We take responsibility to make an appropriate referral if for any reason we are unable or unwilling to teach a student.
- We give priority to the teacher-student relationship, which takes precedence over other personal or professional connections with our students.
- We recognise that the teacher-student relationship involves a power imbalance in favour of the teacher. We do not use this influence for our own gain.
- We do not verbally or in any other way abuse, harass, or coerce anyone.
- We hold in confidence all verbal and written information about our students and associates.
- We obtain consent from students and yoga associates if they appear in material for use in teaching and publicity including when they are not identified.
Satya, we speak the truth
- We use truthful and clear communication with all people.
- We communicate our teaching credentials truthfully and without misrepresentation to all.
- We teach yoga within the limits of our training, experience, and competence.
- We promote and advertise our teaching ability and our yoga classes truthfully making only realistic claims about the possible benefits and effects of yoga.
- We claim only those levels of initiation that we have been granted. We use only those titles accredited to us by our lineage.
- We speak of others in the community with respect.
- We negotiate with other teachers or yoga associates when we are considering establishing yoga
classes or programs in the same teaching area.
- We use the appropriate processes to respond to complaints about unethical behaviour by another member of the community.
Asteya, we act honestly
- We act honestly in all our interactions: financial, material, emotional and spiritual, and use all resources with care.
- In all contractual matters we conduct ourselves in a clear, honest and professional manner.
- We conduct our financial affairs in line with recognised business, accounting, and taxation procedures, and comply with all local and national laws regarding business practices.
- Before requiring any commitment from students or yoga associates we provide full information on fees, refunds, and other financial arrangements.
Brahmacharya, we exercise restraint
- We bring care and wisdom to our conduct. We avoid any behavior that could be interpreted as ‘sexual’ in all our interactions with students.
- We avoid all forms of sexual exploitation, harassment, and assault.
- In any yoga teaching/learning situation, any form of sexual exploitation or harassment of a student or yoga associate is unacceptable.
- Any form of sexual relationship with a student is unacceptable, including when a student invites or consents to such. If a sexual relationship develops between a teacher and a student, the teacher must end the teacher-student relationship immediately and refer the student to another teacher.
Aparigraha, we accept only that which is freely given
- We use our knowledge of yoga and skills for the benefit of all with whom we are connected and not to gain unfair personal advantage.
- We respect the independence and autonomy of our students and yoga associates in making decisions regarding their practice.
- We give due acknowledgment to the sources of information, techniques and teaching materials used in our classes and courses, with full compliance with copyright where relevant.
- We establish fair and clear guidelines for 1) participation in our classes and services, 2) payment of fees, refunds and other financial arrangements, and 3) donations of time, money or goods in relation to our teaching.
- We do not coerce students or yoga associates to make payments or donations of money, goods, or time to ourselves, another teacher, or any organisation with which we are associated.