How the Yamas Inform the Business of Teaching Yoga.

Bringing Spirituality to work.

Many yoga teachers feel uncomfortable when they hear the words “spiritual business.” We focus on the duality of these two words: Spirituality is pure, peaceful, and brings us joy. Business is deceitful, stressful, and makes us feel uneasy. Living in a society where money is so often the bottom line, even at the expense of the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized, it is no wonder we prefer to keep our spiritual life in one corner and our financial and work life in another! Sadly, the willingness of well-meaning spiritual folk to check-out of the business conversation only contributes to the problem of heartless economic systems. In order to change the system, we have to actively encounter it.

Yoga teachers are primly positioned to shape the way business is done in capitalist societies like our own. Indeed, we must! Not only does this serve our communities by establishing ethical, values-informed businesses, but it is also part of what it means to be a yoga teacher in the modern western world. Like it or not, yoga teachers are their own CEOs. It is up to us to take responsibility for our careers in order to offer our meaningful work to the students who would be most served by it, but also to financially take care of ourselves and our families.

Business as a spiritual practice.

Spiritual practice is not something we do and then go back to our normal day-to-day lives. Our normal day-to-day lives are our spiritual practice, and this includes business. How we conduct our business as yoga teachers is a reflection of the work we do as yoga practitioners. Fortunately, our yoga practice offers us a wonderful way to cultivate awareness around who we are as spiritually-based entrepreneurs through the yamas.

The yamas are the first limb of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. They teach us how to interact with the world around us. The yamas include ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (right use of energy), and aparigraha (non-hoarding). Here are some reflections on the yamas and your yoga teaching business...

Consider the following:

When it comes to teaching yoga…

· Ahimsa: Is anyone being hurt by my yoga practice or teaching? Do I strive to be inclusive? Do I actively pursue an understanding of my own bias and privilege? Am I doing the inner-work required to teach yoga ethically? Am I kind? Do I speak in such a way that my students are uplifted, or at the very least, feel seen, heard, and appreciated in my presence?

· Satya: Do I do my own yoga practice, whatever that means for me? Am I honest about my limitations as a yoga teacher, not misrepresenting myself or my scope of practice?

· Asteya: Do I avoid cultural appropriation by educating myself about yoga and the Indian tradition from which it comes? Is my yoga practice environmentally sustainable? Do I charge appropriately for my services? Do I charge enough to sustain a comfortable lifestyle for myself?

· Brahmacharya: Do I conduct myself as a professional? Do I continue to educate myself as a yoga teacher? Do I respect my students physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual boundaries?

· Aparigraha: Do I over-teach yoga classes? Do I engage in opportunity hoarding?

As yoga teachers, we are not expected to be perfect. We won’t always get it right. However, we do the very best we can to bring our spiritual practice to our business. After all, is yoga not found in the merging of the mystical and mundane?


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