3 August 2018

Ethics for the yoga teacher

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My first experience of lack of yoga ethics...

When I taught  my first ever class, a long time ago a furor erupted behind my back, and my teacher rang me to tell me what was happening and who was behind it. Amazing. I was flabbergasted, and horrified.

A charismatic woman who had been grooming me to be her pupil was behind it. Apparently, the largest yoga organisation of the time (early 1970s), had not been asked for their approval, and it seemed that, well, they didn't want me there. And really, who did I think I was?

This was not the last bit of skullduggery in the yoga scene, for me, here in Auckland, New Zealand. Mean things just kept happening, and I just kept going, doing my bit, until I just didn't want to handle it anymore.

Some reasons why I left the yoga scene

What didn't I want to handle? Many things. But to be discreet, the following will suffice:

I belonged to the "authority" for the tutors in the gym scene, so there had to be gym training each year for this, plus a tidy fee. Just for teaching yoga in gyms. Plus first aid training, and I did feel that first aid was good. I still do. I had decided to stop teaching in gyms, so I was quite happy (after much worrying, to be honest), to let the gym training go.

Then the illustrious Yoga Alliance. I was one of it's first members in New Zealand. I wrote three yoga teacher training courses which received acclaim, at the time, from Yoga Alliance. The problem for me with them became when I wanted to renew my annual subscription, and pay even more money, and of course you do have to do upskilling, only with people of whom they approve. 

Guess what? I would have had to go to upskill with teachers whom I had trained, or sign up and become a pupil on someone else's teacher training course. All people with less experience and knowledge than myself. This was beyond ridiculous. And not only pay for the annual subscription but fork out lots of money. So, I dropped this, too.

I might add that someone else took all the credit for the courses which I had written. Non-stealing is one of the basic foundations of yoga, so this was extremely unyogic.

I also had a teacher training certificate with the large international yoga organisation which I had been involved with for many years of my life. Well, the main Ashram in Australia has folded, where the teaching was being done, due to being exposed with very bad skullduggery, and a decree came at one stage from India, that the teacher certificates from the Australian ashram, were no longer valid.

More non-stealing should have been observed here regarding money and ethics, because those darn courses cost people a few thousand dollars.

So, in a heartbeat, I dropped these three organisational ties. This was a few years ago.

More reasons for dropping out of the yoga scene

But, there were other reasons. and it now seems that I was not alone in my disquiet with the entire yoga scene. But, at the time I did think that I was the only person who was not liking what they were seeing. (silly me) And, all of these other reasons, they are still continuing. These reasons are all to do with fame and fortune.

Which is not what spirituality is about. The most spiritual person whom I know, is also the most unselfish, and has the least money. And one of the least known people. This person leaves the yoga people for dead, so to speak.

How could this be? Well there is a secret, which many will know, and the charisma-fame-fortune people, will not. What is it? It completely has to do with oneself.

The problem with charisma

When one "brands" oneself, promotes oneself as The Expert without all of the necessary knowledge in whatever field that they are 'being" expert in, is that sooner or later, people start realising that  person is not whom they said that they were.

It's really easy to talk authoritatively. But it doesn't always signify real knowledge.

A really easy example, is being a chakra "authority" without having had real chakra experience. Or promoting The Party Line on various things, so to speak. Or, doing a seminar once then rushing off to use the words of the seminar, as your own. Some of my "don't get me started" issues.

Not a good look. People really don't like this. Some get conned, but many don't.

When we are spouting "knowledge" and "ethics" to all and sundry, we are not allowing others to grow. Strangely, nor does the person who is loudly proclaiming "truths".


So, to put it in a more spiritual connotation: we are taking away the mana, the personal power of others, by not allowing them to grow and blossom within their inner power. By not allowing them to find their own way, make their own mistakes, have their own epiphanies, learn and practice their own truths.

And, when we impose upon others' growth, we are making them feel less of a person than they actually are. The first yoga thing to practice is non-violence, and in this instance, it is most certainly not being practiced.

We are, after all, only yoga teachers, whether or not we have a title, such as Swami. We are not the spiritual police.

The Secret

When we impede on others' mana, on others' growth, we may appear to have increased mana, we may even believe that we have it. But, this is not personal power. It is very delusional.

Personal power has a lot to do with cause and effect, with being able to be an honest and decent person. And it grows, within. With each spiritual growth, and this too, is internal, our mana increases. Our spiritual power increases. In increments, as we also evolve in increments.

Our mana is our own business

And our own mana, our own personal power, it becomes stifled, when we are stifled. This truly is something that I have seen over and over. And when I too, was towing The Party Line: my own mana, it just was so dulled. To be honest, it just kept receding into the ether.

There is an aspect of mana which we get from being Someone within a yoga system. And there are many yoga systems out there! But this is not the mana which comes from within. And I do know, from personal experience, that this external mana, this power, this energy, can disappear in an instant!

What else can we do instead?

Ah.... one of the secrets of spirituality.

All spiritual systems have guidelines for living a better, more spiritual life based on ethics. We can be ethical, and follow the guidelines set out, handed down through time.

And, even better, we can ignore the latest "take" on these ethics and work out our own understandings of them.

What we think, feel, know and understand of these guideline/ethics will change if we are sincere. And, as they change, we deepen in our understandings. A really good teacher will want the best for anyone whom they are teaching. They will want them to evolve, in their own way, in their own time. Which is what is supposed to happen in life, anyway.

Without us imposing.

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