When one embarks on the journey of yoga, practitioners are often introduced to the major framework of yoga called Ashtanga (eight-limb) Yoga as named and explained by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
The first limb lists five guiding principles. These principles are called yamas. These five yamas offer us guidelines of how to interact with the external world, to set up safety to work with the inner world. I have coined the first three yamas as the “trinity of ethical standard.” For over 20 years, I have tested them in my decision making from how to handle customer service to making decisions around teacher management and beyond. I deeply appreciate how Ahimsa/compassion sits at the top and all things are measured against that. The first three yamas are:
Yoga Sutra 2.31: These codes of self-regulation [yamas] become a great vow when they become universal and are not restricted by any consideration of the nature of the kind of living being to whom one is related, nor in any place, time or situation.*
The Yoga Sutra above invites the practitioner to strive to make these universal and transform them into a great vow for society. This sutra is often overlooked and is worth your perusal as a leader. As a yoga studio owner, I ask myself, “What do I believe are the principles that need to be held for all?” I arrive time and time again to the first three yamas: compassion, clarity and generosity.
It’s the reason why at Beloved Yoga:
- We let go of expiration dates for passes.
- When individuals state they can’t afford a pass, we give them a pass and every month, they just need to leave in an envelope what they can pay that month or a note as to how they are doing.
- We visit all policies and strive to make them as trauma-informed as policy. For example; asking our practitioners to not wear any fragrances (chemical/artificial).
- We don’t have a hard no phone policy in the studio and ask individuals to speak to us as to why they need their phones. We have doctors and parents with sick children that need to be on call. We encourage people to let go of their devices, but understand that sometimes life isn’t always so black and white.
I prefer having guidelines instead of rules; it offers us space to be compassionate, to offer generosity that is reflective of the truth to the person in front of us. Yoga is unique in that it recognizes the individual and the collective. May the first three yamas inspire you to run an exceptional studio.
*translation from swamij.com.