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This blog intends to represent some ideas from a great book written by New Zealand yoga teacher Donna Farhi called “Teaching Yoga: Exploring the teacher-student relationship”. I would like for us to reflect on some of Donna’s remarkable ideas
In Donna’s book, she explores the unique nature of yoga as a subject to teach: “Yoga is not simply information that the teacher carries and disseminates separate from herself, to be left in the classroom or studio at the end of workday. What is being taught is a state of being, a way of living, which by necessity is intrinsic to the character of the teacher.” As a yoga teacher lives in accordance with the material they teach and makes their own life choices based on the values postulated by yoga, it becomes “difficult to separate the professional life from the personal life of a yoga teacher.” Image yourself as an employee of a company with a strong corporate identity. Despite this corporate identity, you do not have to wear a uniform with the corporate logo 24/7 or write messages to friends and family on paper with a corporate letterhead. Yoga is different, in the best case scenario, you become a teacher because you wish to spread the positive influence of yoga, which you certainly experience yourself. Donna calls it “a feeling of okayness within me.” As you teach “a state of being and a way of living” your 24-hour, daily behaviour becomes a part of your professional and ethical commitments. That is the complexity, challenge, beauty and power of being a yoga teacher.
Check list of 5 questions
Here I would like to put forth a very helpful list of 5 questions. They all are extracted and cited from Donna’s list of questions that might be asked “when we are not certain whether a behaviour or course of action is ethical.”
“Would I like to be treated in this manner?”
- We all would love to be respected and accepted. If you listen carefully and process others’ necessities and claims with a warm heart (even if the result of this processing is a respectfully expressed “No”) you deal with others in a good way.
“How will I feel about this later? Am I comfortable telling others or having others know about my actions?”
- This addresses another important topic, our closest social network. If we gravitate in a relatively small network of people, who value kindness and humility, this question might be very helpful.
“What shift, either in your stated value or within yourself, would allow you to feel an agreement between your external action and your internal process?”
- If you wish to spread knowledge about life that is more than gossip, expressing fears and the non-loving self, why don’t you just accept your own boundaries and grow with them further? The self-reflection required to answer this question is also an essential part of teaching yoga.
“Is this action likely to create suffering for me or another person, either in the short term or the long term?”
- Do you remember the term Ahimsa[Link to Concept Page], which means non-violence and acts as a filter for all choices in life? If you had a conversation that you find yourself ruminating over the next day and makes you feel bad about yourself, that is an act of self-violence. It is possible that your conversational partner is battling similar thoughts.
“Has this behaviour in the past required me to betray, lie, or practice any other form of subterfuge or cover up?”
- Mistakes, if accepted, learned and forgiven, are just stairs on the way to a better version of yourself. Next time you will act wiser.
I certainly recommend Donna Farhi’s book to anyone who teaches yoga or takes part in yoga teacher trainings. It is very enriching for your professional and interpersonal communication.