YAMAS, NIYAMAS and YOGA TEACHERS
Updated: Mar 23, 2021
Purusha is Consciousness or our infinite nature that which is unchangeable and without suffering. When creation began it was known as Prakriti. Everything we see is matter/nature, the physical world as you and I know, see and feel even our physical bodies.
Our suffering, desires, needs and beliefs are what disconnects us from our authentic nature. Through practicing the 8 limbs of yoga, we slowly begin the path of returning back to our inner essence. In practicing these 8 limbs, we begin to live a more conscious and disciplined life.
Trainings briefly teach the 8 Limbs of Yoga and its importance but quickly bypass it to focus more on sequencing or developing asana based classes. This strips the practice of its ancient traditions and leads to stagnation in our spiritual growth and as contributing human beings to society.
These ethical codes were created for a reason and until we put them into practice.... yoga will always remain a physical practice and will continue to be culturally appropriated and disjointed.
So, my question to you Yoga Teachers;
How much time do you contribute or spend on teaching the Yamas / Niyamas in your classes?
Do you as a yoga teacher, follow these codes of ethics yourself when teaching trainings, workshops and in classes?
The Yamas (ethical guides) & Niyamas (inner observances) are the first two limbs of the 8-limbed path described by Patanjali. These codes of conduct help us move with sincerity, into our own credibility as a yoga teacher supporting and honoring the roots of yoga at the same time. They are the most concrete of limbs to practice, relating to our personal and outwardly behaviors and our internal relationship and with others.
I posted on my instagram how I use the Niyamas in my yin yoga sessions, but you can also use them as a guide in a general yoga class as well.
Below are a set of questions that I ask of myself and now I put forward to the many yoga teachers and students.. very often, we (myself included) need to be reminded about these limbs and to utilize them within our yoga settings as well.
Ahimsa (Non-Violence/ Not inflicting pain)
Is your tone policing when teaching, are you using words, phrases and language that belittles or silences another? Try to create openness, inviting a two way dialogue and be respectful.
In practicing Ahimsa we invite compassion.
Are you teaching from a yogic lens or from a western mindset or personal agenda? Are you teaching from another’s perspective, understanding of the subject or from your knowledge and experience ?
In practicing Satya we learn forgiveness.
Do you copy or take elements from other teachers teaching creativity/ sequence to create your own lesson plan? If so do you credit that teacher and their work and if not then why?
In practicing Asteya we imbibe sincerity.
Are your sessions purely asana-based and void of philosophy? Are your classes whole in terms of including elements of the 8 limbs of yoga, is it accessible? You see in teaching Brahmacharya we invite balance.
Aparigraha (Non-Greed/ Non-Possessiveness/ Non-Attachment)
Are you possessive of your students and the desire to be liked or showered with praise? Do you share your knowledge, teaching materials and empower other teachers? In practicing Aparigraha we develop perseverance.
How do you invite the practice of Saucha within your mental, emotional and physical body to ignite clarity, focus and free from judgments of your peers? Saucha provides the foundation for creating…. harmony in the mind, cheerfulness, clarity in thinking and purity of intellect.
Where in your life and practice can you show up and commit your time and effort with dedicated consistency? Personal change happens when we are willing to face and accept our own feelings that are associated to events that are not in our control… this leads to growth.
What is your relationship towards adapting, adjusting and accommodating others within the yoga community and within your teachings? When we practice with contentment we no longer want or seek validation from others. We no longer feel the need to attach to the outcome of our actions. Santosha shows up when we are not always being pulled by our desires, likes and dislikes.
Svadhyaya (Self Study)
Do you blindly follow narratives or do you make time to immerse yourself in learning and understanding yoga's philosophy? Svadhyaya teaches us how to be aware with each rising emotion and sensation; observing first.....without reacting to them in haste and through this we build and strengthen our own resilience.
Can you step down from the need to be competitive, righteous and superior amongst your peers? Can you move beyond the limitations of your ego? We gain insight through acceptance and open up to an inner feeling of peace.
The Seven Great Sages