Ethical Guidelines for Yoga Teachers

At Above and Beyond Yoga and Salt Therapy we have adopted these guidelines, which were first published by Georg Feuerstein, the founder of YREC (now called Traditional Yoga Studies). Teachers registered with Yoga Alliance will also need to agree to abide by their Code of Conduct.

Yoga is an integrated way of life, which includes moral standards—traditionally called “virtues”—that any reasonable human being will find in principle, acceptable. Some of these standards are encoded in the first limb (anga) of Patanjali’s eightfold path (ashtânga-yoga), called yama (“discipline” or “restraint”). According to Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtra, this practice category is composed of the following five virtues: nonharming (ahimsâ), truthfulness (satya), nonstealing (asteya), chastity (brahmacarya), and greedlessness (aparigraha). These have been explained by traditional authorities and also by modern interpreters.
In other key texts of Yoga further moral principles are mentioned, including kindness, compassion, generosity, patience, helpfulness, forgiveness, purity, and so on. All these are virtues that we connect with a “good” person and that are demonstrated to a superlative degree in the lives of the great masters of Yoga.

In light of this, it seems appropriate for contemporary Yoga teachers to endeavor to conduct their lives in consonance with the moral principles put forward in Yoga. As teachers, they have a great responsibility toward their students, and they can be expected to clearly demonstrate the qualities one would associate with a good teacher. As practitioners and representatives of Yoga, their behavior can be expected to reflect the high moral standards espoused in Yoga. At the same time, we must take into account the present-day socio-cultural context, which differs in some ways from the conditions of pre-modern India.

The Yoga Research and Education Center views the formulation and publication of these ethical guidelines as part of its effort to help preserve the traditional legacy of Yoga and improve the quality of Yoga teaching and practice in the modern world.

1. Yoga teachers understand and appreciate that teaching Yoga is a noble and ennobling endeavor, which aligns them with a long line of honorable teachers.
2. Yoga teachers are committed to practicing Yoga as a way of life.
3. Yoga teachers are committed to maintaining impeccable standards of professional competence and integrity.
4. Yoga teachers dedicate themselves to a thorough and continuing study and practice of Yoga, in particular the theoretical and practical aspects of the branch or type of Yoga that they teach others.
5. Yoga teachers are committed to avoiding substance abuse and, if for some reason, they succumb to chemical dependency will stop teaching until they are free again from drug and alcohol abuse. In that case, they will do everything in their power to stay free, including full accountability to a support group.
6. Yoga teachers will accurately represent their education, training, and experience relevant to their teaching of Yoga.
7. Yoga teachers are committed to promoting the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of their students.
8. Yoga teachers, especially those teaching Hatha-Yoga, will abstain from giving medical advice, or advice that could be interpreted as such, unless they have the necessary medical qualifications.
9. Yoga teachers particularly embrace the ideal of truthfulness in dealing with students and others.
10. Yoga teachers are open to instructing all students irrespective race, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, and social or financial status.
11. Yoga teachers are willing to accept students with physical disabilities, providing they have the skill to teach those students properly.
12. Yoga teachers will treat their students with respect.
13. Yoga teachers will never force their own opinions on students but appreciate the fact that every individual is entitled to his or her worldview, ideas, and beliefs.
14. Yoga teachers will avoid any form of sexual harassment of students.
15. Yoga teachers wishing to enter a consensual sexual relationship with a present or former student should seek the immediate counsel of their peers before taking any action.
16. Yoga teachers will make every effort to avoid exploiting the trust and potential dependency of students and instead encourage them to find greater inner freedom.
17. Yoga teachers acknowledge the importance of the proper context for teaching and agree to avoid teaching in a casual manner, which includes observing proper decorum inside and outside of class.
18. Yoga teachers strive to practice tolerance toward other Yoga teachers, schools, and traditions. When criticism has to be brought, this should be done in fairness and with appropriate regard for the facts.
19. These Ethical Guidelines are not exhaustive, and the fact that a given conduct is not specifically covered by these Guidelines does not say anything about the ethical or unethical nature of that conduct. Yoga teachers always endeavor to respect and, to the best of their abilities, adhere to the traditional yogic code of conduct as well as to the law current in their country or state.

© 2000 Yoga Research and Education Center (YREC).