Should yoga teachers be held to a higher ethical standard?

It’s been difficult to ignore the latest and greatest accusations about a
famed yoga instructor behaving badly.  Or, at least that what’s been said
on the yoga gossip sites.  Unfortunately, true or not, this isn’t the
first instance that’s been broadcasted.  The prevalence of sexual,
financial and ethical wrongdoings shed a not so flattering light on the
yoga world, similar to the political arena; a high-drama, fit for daytime
television affair.  And the audience seems surprised.  Is it because we
hold our gurus and teachers in such high esteem that anything resembling
human frailty shocks us to the very core, or is it as simple as we expect
our leaders to have already mastered the teachings and hold them higher
standard of ethical behavior?  Is that fair?

There are guidelines out there, such as those published by the California
Yoga Teachers Association ( See link here :,
that outline expected teacher-student, teacher-teacher, professional and
personal standards. They are well researched, specific and detailed.  Whereas, other
organizations and studios rely upon the five Yamas and the five Niyamas,
found in the second chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras , to provide the
philosophical backbone for teacher behavior.  They are wonderful
guideposts, but risk being too open for interpretation.  For example, the
first Yama, Ahimsa, can be translated as “non-harming”.  However, here’s
both the beauty and the stumbling block with this Yama;  the definition of
“harm” is organic and can alter from situation to situation based upon the
people involved and the events as they unfold.  For example, if a scorpion
were to find it’s way onto my yoga mat while practicing outdoors and I
kill it, I could be protecting myself, but simultaneously causing harm to
a living creature.  However,  what if that scorpion had no intention of
stinging me? The true practice of Ahimsa can take years and a lot of
hindsight to flush out.

There’s no denying that the professional standards should be strict, as
they are in most business settings.  But what about ethical behaviors the
extend outside of the studio or classroom?  As a yoga practitioner and
Instructor, I am always greatly disappointed to hear about yogis behaving
badly.  In my mind, my teachers are, and should be, one step ahead of me
(ok, maybe several) on the path to living their yoga.  I hold them to a
very high standard and judge them harshly when they fall. It’s
disappointing to see a teacher share compassion and tolerance in the
classroom and then witness them aggressively lose their cool in traffic on
the way home.  Is that fair?  After all, aren’t they subject to the same
“trial by error” learning process that I allow myself on this path?  Or,
should our teachers be accountable the moment they decide to take the role
of guiding others?  What do you think?

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