Friday, February 23, 2007

The Ethics of Teaching Yoga

I have just finished reading Donna Farhi's book, Teaching Yoga. It was a gift from a student, and came at a time when I was struggling with a number of difficult situations that needed to be resolved.

The book helped considerably with the ethical resolution of my issues, and it got me to thinking further. Farhi mentions that she has learnt both from her good teachers and from her very bad ones, and I tend to agree. I have had some excellent yoga teachers, one of whom is still my mentor, but I have unfortunately had more bad ones.

I have been in yoga classes where I was shouted at from across the room, slapped to 'correct my alignment', given vague intructions like 'open up those nadis', and even told that I could do better (very true to the spirit of yoga, that). But the worst of all was the enmeshed relationship I had with a teacher (whom I obviously admired a little too much). This incident has shaped my entire approach to teaching since: I am aware that there may be students who, like I did, think that yoga teachers are somehow special, and that they may lose sight of their boundaries in relation to me. From the teacher who allowed, and possibly even encouraged this with me, I have learnt to make as certain as possible that students understand they feel better because of yoga, not because of me. Also, that it is always, always the responsibility of the teacher to maintain professional distance and correct relations. Always. Just as it is always the responsibility of the therapist or doctor to keep propriety in their relations with clients or patients.

It's a great book for anyone who is already a teacher, or who is considering teaching.


Nadine Fawell said...

This is a great article - more of the same on the teacher-student topic:

shinyyoga said...

ohhh thanks for the heads up on this book. I am a donna fan but haven't heard of this book - will check it out asap! x