Unfortunately, we live in a world where yoga professionals and studios are at risk for claims of sexual abuse or molestation with minors. Both the touch that you or your instructors give to your students, and/or the words that you speak to students, can result in a sexual abuse claim in today’s legal environment. Actions and words can be miss-interpreted, even if no offense or harm is ever intended.
It is absolutely critical for yoga teachers to be aware of what amount of touch is appropriate with their students. People differ greatly in their desire for physical contact. Each student should be approached as an individual to gradually build the student-teacher relationship and understand the student’s unique personality. This is the first step in building mutual trust that will benefit both the student and the teacher. Always be conservative and ask before offering touch to assist a student in their yoga practice.
Additionally, it is necessary to be extremely cautious in regards to touch with minors. Try to always work with them either in a group or in front of others if their parents or guardians are not physically present. Teachers should not be alone with minor students.
It is very important to keep professionalism in mind when speaking to your students, as well as, offering touch.
Yoga teachers need to be mindful that humor can easily be misinterpreted. As a teacher of yoga and/or a yoga studio owner, you care deeply about your students and want to treat them like personal friends. It is, however, a work relationship rather than a personal relationship. Keep all humor professional.
It is also never a good idea to use belittling words or a condescending tone with students. Even if you think you are using terms of affection or endearment, remember that you are at work. Avoid using diminutives or talking down to students when giving instruction.
Finally, it is critical to protect your yoga studio from claims and help your studio prosper by ensuring teachers are not perceived to be judging a student’s body, versus assessing their technique. There are encouraging ways to discuss your student’s practice and goals without offending them. Keep in mind that even complimenting their appearance or body can be interpreted as sexual harassment, so always be professional. It is recommended not to mention specific body parts, but to speak in general terms.
As an ambassador for the practice of yoga, you want to elevate your student’s self-esteem, strengthen their yoga skills and nurture their passion for continued growth. By remembering these guidelines you will protect yourself, your practice and your students.
Jennifer is the National Account Manager for Sports & Fitness Insurance Corporation (SFIC). She has served the fitness industry as a licensed insurance professional, dedicated to helping fitness businesses and professionals for 18 years.