5 Rules of Etiquette for Yoga Teachers
As our community of yoga teachers continues to grow, it is increasingly important we work together in ways that respect our differences while simultaneously honoring the unique contribution that brought each teacher to their path. Here are a few rules of respect for teachers (and students) we can apply and in return deserve to receive:
1) Honor the Rhythm and Flow
As teachers there are often students from our own classes practicing along side us when we take a group class. This is a wonderful way to show support for your fellow teachers while simultaneously building community. While it is essential to honor your body and to undertake modifications necessary to maintain a flow that is safe and healthy, it is also important to honor the unique flow of the class you are attending. Students look to you as a teacher (whether you are aware of their gaze or not) as an example of energy, focus, and alignment. If you need to modify, do so respectfully. I am always overjoyed when a fellow teacher takes Child's Pose or places a knee down in Crescent as it illustrates the importance of honoring your body each time you venture on the mat. That being said, if the class sequence is not your favorite, it is disrespectful to go on your own journey, abandoning your listening skills, and confusing or distracting students surrounding you. If you discover the teacher does not approach class in a way that speaks to your individual practice, you do not need to come back, but for that class, give the sequence a try (and modify as necessary to keep yourself safe and healthy), honoring the space he or she is creating as much as possible.
2) Close Your Practice Mindfully
Understandably teachers are busy and many days are flooded with back-to-back classes and clients. If you make the time to come to class, end your practice mindfully, even if you need to leave early. Teachers attending class only to rush out before Savasana, rolling up their mats, and heading out the door without closing their practices in a meditative way leaves students bewildered by the hypocrisy of their own teachers rushing back to their busy lives. Let your fellow teacher know you need to make an early exit, place yourself somewhere discreet, and honor the close to your practice. Even if you are located in the back of the room, set the example you teach daily. You'll earn respect from your fellow teacher and students in addition to honoring your own practice.
3) Support and be Supported
While there are numerous approaches to teaching yoga today, remember the rule of abundance. Yoga is a growing "industry" and we are lucky to share a practice of health and wellness that encourages people worldwide to care for themselves in a holistic, mindful manner. Support your fellow teachers both in word and action, especially the ones you believe in, learn from, and admire. There will always be teachers who approach the mat differently than you but never downgrade another teacher to uplift your own approach. If you don't like someone, keep the negativity to yourself. You can always make alternative recommendations if a student asks you about that particular teacher's class without degrading their approach. Remember, when you speak negatively, it only reflects on you and has consequences that could potentially come back to you...
4) Speak with Integrity
If you say you are going to do something or be somewhere, follow through. Integrity is critical both to what we teach and to how we live. While we all "fall off the bandwagon" and make mistakes (over and over again!), but it is critical to speak mindfully, act thoughtfully, and think supportively. You never need to commit to anything that is beyond your availability but avoid making promises you cannot keep. For example, if you say you are available to sub, show up on time and honor your commitment. If you tell a student you are going to email them something, follow through as soon as possible. If something falls through the cracks, never be afraid to apologize and take responsibility. Mistakes happen, forgetfulness plagues everyone, and life gets busy but don't be afraid to take responsibility and follow through as soon as possible.
5) End Your Class On Time
And of course, end your class on time, both out of respect for the students in your class and for the teacher and students waiting for the next class. Timeliness shows respect and helps create a community that is reliable and trustworthy.
Add your thoughts on additional points of etiquette in the comments section below and let's continue creating communities of joy, love, support, and respect!
Lauren Eckstrom is a E-RYT 500 certified yoga teacher based in Santa Monica, California. With background and training in Vinyasa based Power Yoga, her classes combine creative sequencing and flows with a focus on safe, sound alignment. Lauren currently teaches privately and leads group classes at The Yoga Collective, Tru Yoga, & Yoga Vista.