The first limb on yoga's eight-fold path, the yamas are the ethical standards, universal practices, and observances that we follow on the quest to live a purposeful life. Each yama serves as a guideline for how we treat others and exercising them fully moves us towards our truth.
The yamas also serve as an appropriate map to navigate the practice of teaching private yoga and creating a sustainable private yoga teacher practice. With the help of the yamas, we have a moral, practical guide for our private yoga teaching.
The Yamas and You
- Ahimsa: Non-Violence
- Satya: Truth
- Asteya: Non-Stealing
- Brahmacharya: Continence or Self-Control
- Aparigraha: Non-Coveting
As a mentor to private yoga teachers, I know the internal dialogue that comes up as we try to fuse together our passion for teaching with our need for sustainability in our business as “householder yogis” in modern times.
Using the yamas as a starting point can bring clarity to these elements. Each one has its own unique meaning and challenge that, when fused with our teachings and business practices, give us great guidance for how to find our true nature through our profession of private yoga teaching.
This guide lays out the foundation for following the yamas as a private yoga teacher.
1. Non-Violence (Ahimsa)
Non-Harming Teachings: Taking a non-harming approach to our private yoga lessons is key to living and doing business in line with the yamas.
Knowing Client Health History: Understanding our clients health history is the frontline in promoting non-violence as yoga experts and as guides who are proactively helping our clients move towards wellness.
Teaching in Line with Our Expertise: Ahimsa requires us to teach in line with our training and education, and not beyond the scope of our expertise, or to imply a certain expertise without the knowledge and education to support it.
2. Truth (Satya)
Honesty: Approaching our teachings and business with truth is yogic. Speaking the truth can be reflected in who we work with for clients, what the types and scope of practices we promote and share, and using marketing and promotions ethically and honestly without promising inflated results.
Honoring Schedule and Energy: Be upfront about your time and energy needs for the sake of yourself, your client’s experience, and your teaching practice. Honoring your needs regarding working hours, time off, and when you will see clients (and the energetic implications of these things) aligns with satya.
Legal: We have the ethical responsibility to be truthful with regard to legal matters. This includes having policies that are legally sound, completing paperwork that is appropriate for our interactions and business needs, and also using legal counsel whenever needed.
3. Non-Stealing (Asteya)
Time: Non-stealing applies to many facets of business and teaching for the private yoga teacher, especially to time. Honoring asteya from a time perspective means starting and ending sessions on time, not taking time from your students, and not allowing your time to be stolen.
Concepts: Stealing happens in the yoga world and the business world. To practice asteya here, we need to give credit where credit is due, practice non-stealing of ideals and concepts, and also ask permission before teaching or incorporating concepts that are not original to us.
Clients: Non-stealing also extends into the circles of our niche mates, or those who do similar work as us. Honoring the code of ethics and of asteya means to commit to non-stealing of clients and business of other yoga teachers.
4. Continence or Self-Control (Brahmacharya)
Money: Using self-control in terms of money is key in the observance of brahmacharya. Having control on the ‘money in, money out’ of your yoga business is a way to honor the exchange of energy and abundance, while respecting continence.
Energy Stability: Energetic self-control and stability is important when working closely with private yoga clients. Yoga is a discipline that opens us up to energetic sharing, and being too hot or too cold, or bleeding our personal issues into our sessions shows a lack of understanding of continence.
Sexual Control: Ethics requires us as health practitioners working with clients to observe control and boundaries on sexual matters. Our personal observances and the law require us to maintain brachmacharya in regards to sexual expression and behaviors with all students.
5. Non-Coveting (Aparigraha)
Too Much: Embracing non-coveting in our teaching practice means not using our clients time in excess (and having systems in place to streamline these processes), as well as not coveting money or energetic exchanges that we don’t deserve by overcharging for our services.
Only What You Need: Taking only what you need in terms of resources, energetic exchange in the form of mentorship or feedback, and in tangible terms such as promotional information honors non-coveting.
Boundaries: Boundaries teach us our limits and safe zones—the importance of boundaries is amplified when we focus on highlighting our non-grasping or non-coveting qualities while setting and respecting our own boundaries for teaching and running our business.
Like a roadmap, we start at the beginning of the eight-fold path and weave our way through the pit-stops of our yoga journey. The same experience manifests as we begin to view our teaching and practice as a representation of the yamas, or the guidelines that set forth our ethical standards and integrity.
How do you honor the yamas while working one-on-one with your clients? How do you embody the constructs of the yamas while running your private yoga business?