California Supreme Court Restricts Use of Independent Contractors

Landmark Case on Independent Contractors in California

In a ruling with important consequences for yoga studios in California, the California Supreme Court on Monday made it much more difficult for studios to classify their teachers as independent contractors rather than as employees.

The case was Dynamex Operations West, Inc., v. The Superior Court of Los Angeles, California.  In its opinion, the Court initially observed that classification of a worker has important consequences.

If the worker is an employee, then the business has the responsibility of paying Social Security and payroll taxes, unemployment insurance  taxes, employment taxes and worker’s compensation insurance.  In addition, the business must meet requirements concerning minimum wages, hours, working conditions, and various employment protections.

However, if the worker is an independent contractor, then the business does not have to bear any of those obligations.

From a policy perspective, those businesses who have independent contractors have an economic advantage over those businesses who have employees because they do not have to pay taxes or follow the employment laws. Workers do not have the legal protections that employees have. Last, independent contractors deprive the government of billions of dollars of tax revenues.

In this case, the workers sued Dynamex which is a package delivery service and alleged that they were misclassified as independent contractors rather than as employees.  The court held that the drivers were employees rather than independent contractors.

What is the ABC test?

The court rejected the existing test in California which (which used ten factors to determine status) and adopted the most restrictive test for classifying workers: the ABC test.  Here is the ABC test:

The ABC test presumes that all workers are employees and permits workers to be classified as independent contractors only if the hiring business demonstrates that the worker in question satisfies each of three conditions: (a) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; and (b) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (c) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

Importantly, workers are now presumed to be employees and it is up to the business to prove that workers are independent contractors if they can meet the ABC test.

Under the ABC test, the worker is considered an employee if he or she performs a job that is part of the “usual course” of the company’s business. As an example, the court said a plumber hired by a store to fix a bathroom leak is not an employee of that store. The plumber is not in the same business as the store. However, seamstresses sewing at home using materials provided by a clothing manufacturer are employees.

In the same way, a yoga teacher is in the same business as the yoga studio. The yoga studio provides the teacher with the “tools” (yoga mats, props, music system, etc.) to teach the classes. Yoga studios typically assert a large degree of control over the details of the way that teachers teach their classes.  The teachers teach the classes at the yoga studio.

What does this mean for yoga studios in California?

It means that the yoga teachers who teach in your studio are presumed to be employees. Yoga studios now have to meet the restrictive ABC test. Teachers are  independent contractors only if (a) you do not control or direct how they teach their classes, (b) if teaching yoga is outside of your yoga business, and (c) the teacher has an independent business that is the same as they work they do for you.

This is a very difficult burden for yoga studios to carry.

Assuming that you do not control your teachers and that they are running a bona fide yoga teaching business, it would be very difficult to show that your teacher’s business is different from your yoga studio business. Your case would be weaker than the seamstress example mentioned by the Court because the seamstress is sewing in your factory! This is especially true for those teachers who only teach at your studio. How can you say they are running an independent business that is separate than your business?

If you hire a workshop presenter who does not teach regular classes at your studio, you can make a good case that the presenter is an independent contractor.

The EDD has been targeting yoga studios for audits over the past several years, so yoga studios are no longer “flying under the radar” with regard to proper classification of yoga teachers. If you are audited, your chance of winning the audit has been dramatically reduced.

What Should You Do?

If you are in the process of launching a new yoga studio, I strongly recommend that you treat your teachers as employees. That way you will not need to worry about an audit; you are already in compliance with the tax laws.

If you are currently classifying your teachers as independent contractors, you should consider re-classifying your teachers as employees. Although this will not extinguish any liabilities you may have incurred due to improperly classifying your teachers in the past, you will have at least show a good faith attempt to follow the law and you will not be accruing any tax liabilities in the future.

Resources

Light on Law-A guide to independent contractors and employees for yoga studios and wellness businesses

Model Employee Handbook

Light on Law Newsletter

Let’s Clean Up Yoga Now: Take a Stand. Stop the Crap!

Table of Contents

Introduction

My three intentions

Yoga Ethics-A Brief Philosophical View

Common Ethical Situations Faced by Studios and Communities

Inappropriate Commentary

Inappropriate Touch

Two Key Principles of Touch

Best Practices for The Use of Touch and Pre-existing Medical Conditions

Romantic Relationships

Established Romantic Relationships

Sexual Harassment-Federal and State Laws

Examples of Verbal, Non-Verbal and Physical Sexual Harassment

Verbal Harassment

Non-Verbal Harassment

Physical Harassment

Take a Stand. Adopt a Code of Conduct Now!

How To Adopt a Code of Conduct

Drafting Your Code of Conduct

Amend Your Agreements to Include Code of Conduct Provisions

Do Not Use the Yoga Sutras for Your Code of Conduct

How Does a Code of Conduct Protect You From Liability?

Notice of Code of Conduct and Reporting Ethical Problems

Yoga Alliance Standards Review Project

Organize An Ethics Committee

The Role of the Ethics Committee

Due Process and Procedure, Communicating the Decision of the Ethics Community

Confidential Treatment of Ethical Investigations by the Ethics Committee

What Sanctions Can an Ethics Committee Impose for Bad Actions?

Take a Stand-Include Sexual Harassment Training in Your YTT!

Community Responses to Bad Actors; Social Media Disclosure

A Personal Note-Cut the Crap!

Twenty Things That Yoga Teachers Cannot Do

For Women Yoga Students

Conclusion

Resources

Introduction

The seven blunders that human society commits and cause all the violence: wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, worship without sacrifice, and politics without principles. A satyagrahi must ceaselessly strive to realize and live truth. And he must never contemplate hurting anyone by thought, word or deed.

Mahatma Gandhi

We have reached the unfortunate place in contemporary society that we cannot deny the systemic abuse of women by the male patriarchal power structure. The #MeToo movement has show us that almost all women have suffered abuse at some time in their lives. Vox recently published an article naming 105 influential men who have been accused credibly of abusing women. This has occurred in the arts, entertainment, media, business, technology, political, sports and restaurant industries. Rachel Brathen asked her followers on Instagram to share their #MeToo stories, and received more than 300 responses. We now have #MeToo Yoga. Many of these responses named the same yoga teachers over and over again. I do not think we can point to any segment of  society where the abuse of women has not occurred.

Religious and spiritual communities who purport to embrace the spiritual development and well being of their members are not exempt from the systemic abuse of women. There has been a long history of abuse and cover-up by spiritual communities. The abuse of the faithful and cover-up by the Catholic Church is global and well documented. These situations are more offensive than those occurring in secular environments because men, in their roles as religious and spiritual authorities, are in a unique position of power. In many cases their power cannot be challenged because their authority is endemic to the faith of their believers. When faith is used to justify abuse, the  hypocrisy and the damage to the believers and to the faith makes this all the more horrifying.

We have seen high profile examples of abuse in the yoga community. These include John Friend (Anusara Yoga), Swami Muktananda (Siddha Yoga), Osho and Kausthub Desikachar (Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram). Bikram Choudhury’s long history of abuse is well known and he has been sued for sexual harassment and assault. He is currently in flight from a $6.8 million judgment and his empire has collapsed into bankruptcy.

As counsel to many studios and spiritual communities, I have been made personally aware of insensitive commentary, sexualized touch, inappropriate actions, psychological manipulation, sexual harassment and abuse of women. We have had to carefully navigate very delicate and potentially explosive situations that could damage students, teachers and communities if not handled properly. We have had to consider complex questions of discovery of the facts, conflicts of interest, the physical and emotional trauma of the victims, determining the appropriate sanctions, confidentiality, publicity, and legal liability.

Many students come to yoga because they are suffering and are in vulnerable positions. They are looking for a safe and sacred space where they can explore, learn, heal and grow. They are looking for guidance from teachers with authenticity, experience and wisdom.  Instead they are manipulated, exploited and abused in the name of yoga.

The abuse of women and ethical failure in the yoga world damages the dharma.

This undercuts yoga’s potential for personal and societal healing and the cultivation of compassion and wisdom which the world desperately needs. We will lose yoga if we allow it to collapse into ethical and sexual scandals, watered down physical education classes and commercial exploitation. To damage a single student, is to damage all of us and is to damage the dharma.

All things by immortal power,

Near and Far

Hidden to each other linked are, 

That thou canst not stir a flower,

Without troubling a star.  

Francis Thompson

My three intentions

I have three intentions in writing this article. The first is to recommend what yoga studios and spiritual communities should do from a legal and business point of view to set up structures that will lessen the chances that ethical problems will occur in their communities. By following these recommendations, this will affirm that studios and communities are taking an active stand against abuse.

The second is to give guidance as to how a studio or community should respond if an ethical situation arises. Most do not have processes in place to handle these situations in the correct way nor do they have an appreciation of the many issues that may arise. There are complicated questions involving law, business, conflicts of interest, due process, sanctions, ethics, publicity and community that must be navigated, and sometimes navigated quickly. Without a sound structure and process that is already in place, the likely result is conflicts of interest, flawed decision making and legal trouble.

Finally, I want to include personal commentary on this matter from the perspective of a male yoga teacher. It is time for yoga teachers who abuse their students to stop now. Yoga teachers must meet the highest standards of ethical behavior. This means that there may not be even a suggestion of impropriety. If a teacher cannot meet this standard, then he or she should realign their values or get out of yoga.

Because sunlight is shining on the problem of sexual abuse in yoga, we have been given a wonderful opportunity for change. But without changing  the way our studios and communities are structured from an ethical point of view, this opportunity may be lost. The “Time Is Up” for wrong doers but we must now consider “What’s Next”? This Article proposes concrete changes within our community in the hope that  no yoga student will ever have to say “Me Too” again.

Yoga Ethics-A Brief Philosophical View

Ethics are the foundation of yoga. Ethics are the gateway to God-realization. Without ethical perfection, no spiritual progress is possible. A yogin must be strictly ethical. He must be truthful and pure in thought, word and deed. He must practice, right thought, right speech and right action.

Sri Sivananda

Yoga teachers bear a special responsibility to act in an ethically pure way because of their role in guiding the spiritual and physical transformation of their students. Authentic yoga profoundly transforms the lives of its practitioners, and they must be carefully guided in this process. Students on the spiritual path are suffering and are searching for healing. They are open to change and are in a position of vulnerability. Because yoga teachers are in either a subtle or obvious position of power over their students, they bear the highest level of responsibility to guide their students on the path. It is essential that all studios and teachers possess the highest degree of personal integrity and ethical behavior.

The practice of authentic yoga is founded on a moral code that is embodied in many of its foundational texts. For example, we find the yamas and the niyamas in the Yoga Sutras. The yamas are the moral vows and the niyamas are the personal observances. The yamas are non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, self-restraint and non-coveting. The niyamas are purity, contentment, austerity, self-study and spiritual devotion.

Patanjali stated in Yoga Sutra 2.31 that the yamas are universal vows and they must be followed regardless of one’s class, place, time or circumstance. This means that there are no exceptions to these vows. The yamas set the highest ethical standard for yoga teachers and practitioners. Georg Feuerstein explains:

Thus, it seems appropriate for contemporary Yoga teachers to endeavor to conduct their lives in consonance with Yoga’s moral principles, particularly because teachers have a great responsibility toward their students and should be expected to reflect the high moral standards espoused in Yoga. At the same time, we must acknowledge the complexities of our contemporary society, which make it necessary to appropriately adapt the moral standards originally designed for the conditions of pre-modern India.

We will lose the precious gift of yoga if our studios and communities are mired in ethical problems. No teacher who abuses students is teaching yoga. They are using yoga as a vehicle for sexual exploitation. We need to protect the authentic expression of yoga by taking a strong stand to stop unethical conduct now.

Common Ethical Situations Faced by Studios and Communities

Yoga studios and spiritual communities must provide a safe environment through which the transformational power of authentic yoga may unfold. This is their spiritual, ethical and legal responsibility. Because yoga studios hire employees and independent contractors to teach their students, they may bear legal responsibility for their teacher’s actions. Ethical problems can be devastating to a yoga studio or spiritual community. They can damage its reputation, its community and its business. Its students may be physically and psychologically harmed. Rumors and gossip that inevitably arise will be amplified by social media.  Negative publicity from ethical scandals can take a long time to overcome, if ever. 

Inappropriate Commentary

Inappropriate commentary means any commentary about a student’s body, weight, appearance, sexual activities, romantic life, and sexually oriented joking, teasing and flirting, and commentary designed to develop a romantic or sexual relationship.  Because it seems that men make an endless number of inappropriate comments to women, I do not have a bright line test to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate commentary.

However, I have listed many examples of inappropriate commentary in the section entitled “Harassment” below.

I recommend the following article by Kaitlin Menza in Esquire: 57 Things I Need You To Stop Doing to the Women You Work With. A link to this article is listed in the Resources.

Here is what Ms. Menza recommends as a guideline:

The power lies in your intention. You think you’re a good guy? You want to be a good guy? Then examine your behaviors. Ask the women around you what they find to be inappropriate. Figure out if you fall within their definitions. Have some really uncomfortable conversations with yourself.

Inappropriate Touch

Even though touch has been an integral part of teaching protocols in Western postural yoga for a long time, yoga studios and spiritual communities must re-evaluate their approach to the use of touch. This is for two reasons. First, inappropriate touch has become a problem in studios and it is often the first step in sexual harassment. If our goal is to create communities of safe spaces and the highest ethicals standards, we must ensure that all touch is “right touch.”  Second, there is new thinking on how studios should handle students who have pre-existing medical conditions. A  pre-existing condition may be either physical or emotional. If a student has a pre-existing physical condition, wrong touch could aggravate the problem and expose the teacher and studio to liability for damages. If a student has a pre-existing emotional condition and is wrongfully touched, the result could be emotional distress. In an extreme case, the student could bring a lawsuit against the teacher and the studio on a theory of battery and emotional distress.

Many students are in yoga class because they are suffering on some level- physical, emotional or existential-but teachers have little to no information about the physical or emotional condition of most of their students. Moreover, most teachers are not trained to safely adjust a student with pre-existing medical conditions, particularly within the dynamic of trying to teach a large, mixed level yoga class.

Yoga studios and teachers are often faced with the question of how they should treat students who have pre-existing medical conditions. Should a teacher inquire before class if any students have a pre-existing condition or not make any inquiry at all? If a teacher makes an inquiry, how should the teacher use that information to guide the student in class? How should a teacher respond if he or she does not inquire but a student volunteers information about a condition? What if the student has an open and obvious condition such as pregnancy? The answers to these questions may vary for different practices such as hot yoga, power, pre-natal, therapeutic yoga and private lessons.

These questions involve a conflict between our yogic and legal responsibilities. We want to relieve our student’s suffering but we do not want to aggravate a pre-existing condition, harm a student and potentially subject ourselves to liability for personal injury.

Two Key Principles of Touch

There are two key principles in the use of  touch. First, the teacher must get the consent of the student before the student is touched. Second, all touch must be “right touch.”

At the beginning of class, teachers should notify the class that students may decline being touched. Teachers may provide notice by making a general announcement at the beginning of the class or by asking each individual student before touch. Some studios use “ no touch” cards that students can pick up at the front desk and place on their mats. Teachers may ask students to let the teacher know that they do not wish to be touched by raising a hand. A good time to do this is at the beginning of class during child’s pose or meditation.

When approaching a student, the teacher should quietly ask if it’s okay to touch. Teachers should keep in mind that they must ask before they touch, even if they know the student and they have given consent in the past. The student could have an intervening medical issue between when they last gave their consent and the current class.

Teachers should be cautious, purposeful, and respectful when using touch as a teaching tool, recognizing the power for both positive and negative reactions to physical contact. Teachers should initiate touch from a clear, non-sexual intention. Touch must not be used to start a relationship with a student. Teachers must not touch sensitive, intimate, or sexually charged areas of the body. Teachers should check in with the student to assess their reaction to the touch. This is “right touch.”

Best Practices for The Use of Touch and Pre-existing Medical Conditions

Below is a summary of my conclusions on the use of touch and pre-existing medical conditions. If you are interested in the background information and reasoning behind these recommendations, see the Resources at the end of this Article.

(1) Teachers should not ask students about pre-existing conditions at the beginning
of class. Rather, teachers should make a general announcement that students should “keep themselves safe”, “honor their bodies” or similar language. Teachers should emphasize that students with injuries must exercise special care to protect themselves.

When teachers offer modifications for poses, they should offer specific modifications rather than simply advising students to “modify.”

(2) Teachers who choose to ask students about pre-existing conditions may be subject to a higher duty of care. Only expert teachers should be asking about pre-existing conditions, and it still concerns me from a legal point of view. Having actual knowledge about a student’s condition may subject a teacher to a higher risk of liability if the teacher does not meet this higher duty of care. The higher duty of care may require a teacher to closely monitor a student with a pre-existing condition and offer specific modifications to poses that could aggravate the condition. If the teacher is not able to carry this higher duty of care, the best practice is that the teacher should not ask about pre-existing conditions.

(3) Yoga therapists, specialty teachers and teachers providing private lessons have a duty to inquire as to any pre-existing conditions of their students.

(4) If a teacher has actual knowledge of a student’s condition because it is open and obvious, the teacher has a duty to inquire about the condition. The teacher must then meet the higher duty of care with respect to caring for that student. Teachers must take responsibility to recommend a different class if that would be more appropriate for the student.

(5) If a student volunteers information about a condition (even though it was unsolicited), the teacher has a duty to inquire about the condition. The teacher must then meet the higher duty of care with respect to caring for that student in class.

(6) All touch must be “right touch.”

Romantic Relationships

Romantic relationships between students and teachers are a common source of ethical dilemmas. Because of the innate imbalance of power between a teacher and a student, they may open the question of whether the relationship was founded on consent or on abuse of power. The conflicts of interest inherent in these relationships may cause other problems. The couple may break up which could lead to awkwardness or hostility in the community. It may damage the teaching relationship, may exploit the vulnerability of the student, may confuse the teacher’s judgment concerning the student, may be detrimental to the student’s well-being, may be the source of toxic gossip, and may damage the reputation of the studio.

Studios have the right to impose any policies they wish on romantic relationships. Some  have a policy of completely prohibiting romantic relationships. Other studios require that, if a romantic relationship begins to develop, the teacher must bring it to the Ethics Committee. Depending upon the situation, the Ethics Committee may require that the student and/or the teacher must leave the studio. Or, the Ethics Committee may bless the relationship but establish boundaries to prevent conflicts of interest and other problems.

I recommend that studios establish a bright line rule and prohibit romantic relationships between students and teacher. The rule is simple:

Yoga teachers may not invite, respond to or allow any sexual or romantic interactions with their students or clients during the period of the professional relationship.

Yoga teachers must maintain professional boundaries in their relationships with students so that the best interests of the students are served. I emphasize that the interest of the teacher is not relevant: the art of teaching yoga is focussed on serving the spiritual needs of the student. The teacher-student relationship involves an imbalance of power and any appearance that this imbalance has been exploited for the sexual purposes of the teacher is unethical. Even if the relationship is initiated by the student, it must still be avoided by the teacher.

Established Romantic Relationships

If a teacher has a pre-existing relationship with a student that did not arise from the teacher-student relationship, it may be acceptable for the teacher to have his or her partner in class as a student. However, the teacher and student must uphold high levels of professionalism and avoid bringing a sexual dynamic into the classroom. Again, the relationship should be brought to the attention of the Ethics Committee and it can guide the couple in maintaining high ethical standards.

Sexual Harassment-Federal and State Laws

There are a variety of federal and state laws that make sexual harassment illegal. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination and is therefore illegal. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment. Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including the following:

(1) The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.

(2) The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

(3) The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

(4) Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.

Unwelcome Behavior is a critical idea. Unwelcome does not mean “involuntary.” A victim may consent or agree to certain conduct and actively participate in it even though it is offensive and objectionable. Therefore, sexual conduct is unwelcome whenever the person subjected to it considers it unwelcome. Whether the person in fact welcomed the behavior depends on all the circumstances.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Examples of  Verbal, Non-Verbal and Physical Sexual Harassment

I have included a long list of examples of sexual harassment. Although this list is rather tedious, some teachers do not seem to understand what types of conduct constitute harassment, even though it should be self-evident, particularly from the point of view of a teacher who is supposed to be upholding the dharma. I want to make the types of sexual conduct that constitute harassment crystal clear. There should be no ambiguity about this.

Yoga studios and spiritual communities may want to include some of these examples in their Codes of Conduct.

Verbal Harassment

· Whistling at someone

· Unwanted sexual teasing, stories, jokes, remarks, or questions

· Cat calls

· Sexual comments or innuendo

· Turning work discussions to sexual topics

· Sexual innuendos or stories

· Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history

· Personal questions about social or sexual life

· Sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks

· Kissing sounds, howling, and smacking lips

· Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s personal sex life.

· Referring to a woman as a doll, babe, or honey or similar term

· Making sexual comments about a woman’s body

· Repeatedly asking a person out on dates who is not interested

· Unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature

· Stalking on social media

· Unwanted pressure for sexual favors

Non-Verbal Harassment

· Looking a person up and down

· Staring at someone

· Blocking a person’s path

· Following the person

· Giving personal gifts

· Displaying sexually suggestive materials

· Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements

· Making facial expressions such as winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips

· Unwanted sexual looks or gestures.

Physical Harassment

· Hanging around a person

· Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking

· Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person

· Standing close or brushing up against a person

· Giving a neck massage

· Touching an employee’s clothing, hair, or body

· Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching.

· Giving a massage around the neck or shoulders

· Touching the person’s clothing, hair, or body

· Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault

· Sexually oriented asana adjustments

Take a Stand.  Adopt a Code of Conduct Now!

All yoga studios and spiritual communities should adopt a Code of Conduct. This is a best practice. If you do not have a Code of Conduct in place, do it now.  If you have already adopted a Code of Conduct, you should re-evaluate your Code of Conduct and make sure that it provides clear and specific guidance as to the type of actions that you will not permit in your studio or spiritual community.

Consider if your Code of Conduct is strong enough to prevent future harassment of your students or members. Consider if it addresses the many different kinds of harassment described in this Article. Consider if it addresses the broad range of ethical problems that could arise in a spiritual community. Consider if it is strong enough to show that you are taking a stand against harassment in the yoga world.

Here are the reasons why all yoga studios and spiritual communities should adopt a Code of Conduct:

(1) it helps protect the studio and community from legal liability;

(2) it places teachers on notice as to what types of conduct will not be permitted by the studio and community;

(3) it is a guide that the Ethics Committee of a studio or community can use to evaluate and decide ethical questions;

(4) it gives a studio and community a firm legal ground to dismiss a teacher for violating the Code of Conduct;

(5) it means the studio and community are affirming that they are taking a strong stand against harassment and abuse; and

(6)  it  means that the studio and community will be appointing an Ethics Committee to administer the Code of Conduct.

How To Adopt a Code of Conduct

Drafting Your Code of Conduct

How should you draft your Code of Conduct? I recommend that you start with the Code of Conduct prepared by the California Yoga Teachers Association. Even though it is old, it is excellent. The Code of Conduct prepared by Georg Feuerstein is another excellent guide. There are many other examples of Codes of Conduct that you can follow. I have listed several in the Resources section. Consider the many examples of ethical misconduct described in this Article. You can use these Codes of Conduct as guides and modify them to fit your view of the standards of conduct that you want to implement in your studio or community.

Amend Your Agreements to Include Code of Conduct Provisions

All employees and independent contractors who are working in your studio or community should acknowledge and sign the Code of Conduct. This shows they have read and understood the Code of Conduct and agree to be bound by its standards.

You should include a provision in your employment and independent contractor agreements that obligates your teachers and staff to read and understand the Code of Conduct, to abide by the Code of Conduct and to recognize that they may be subject to remedies if they breach the Code of Conduct. These remedies include termination of the teaching relationship.

For those teachers who have already signed employment and independent contractor agreements, you should require that they sign an amendment to their agreement that includes the affirmations described above.

You should also amend your forms of employment and independent contractor agreements to include the Code of Conduct provisions. Thus, when you hire a new teacher and have them sign your standard agreement, the Code of Conduct provisions will have already been included.

I have prepared legal resources that include standard template independent contractor and employment agreements that include the new Code of Conduct provisions. These resources also contain amendments to the original form of these agreements that incorporate the new Code of Conduct provisions. See Resources at the end of this Article for a link to my website where you can obtain these documents.

Since you have now included the Code of Conduct provisions within your agreements, you will have objective grounds to discipline or dismiss a teacher, therapist or staff member for unethical conduct. You are also putting your staff on notice that you are taking a hard stand against unethical conduct. This will reduce the chances that an unethical situation occurs in your studio or community.

Do Not Use the Yoga Sutras for Your  Code of Conduct

Many studios have adopted the yamas and niyamas from the Yoga Sutras as their Code of Conduct.  It seems logical that a yoga studio should rely upon the ethical standards embodied within the Yoga Sutras. This is not a best practice.

From a legal point of view, a teacher must have specific and clear notice as to the conduct that is prohibited before the teacher can be terminated for breach of contract. The yamas and niyamas do not provide enough specificity to support a determination that a teacher had notice of the prohibited actions. Requiring that a teacher should be “non-violent” or “truthful” is a standard that is too vague and general to pass legal muster. Consequently, it may be difficult to legally justify terminating a teacher based upon violation of a yama or a niyama.

Because the yamas and niyamas are general statements of moral behavior and practice, they do not address the many factual situations that may arise in a modern yoga environment. To date, they have not been effective in preventing bad behavior in the yoga world. They have largely been ignored.  This is one reason why I want to include the obligation to comply with the Code of Conduct within contractual agreements. This gives the Code of Conduct some teeth.

We are long past the point where we can be subtle about describing bad actions. A bright line test must be adopted. This may prevent bad actions from occurring in the future. If bad actions occur, then violation of the Code of Conduct will be the basis for supporting appropriate sanctions against the teacher.

If you are already using the yamas and niyamas as the basis for your Code of Conduct, now is the time to adopt a new Code of Conduct.

How Does a Code of Conduct Protect You From Liability?

A Code of Conduct is an important strategy to protect your yoga studio or spiritual community from liability based upon the actions of a teacher, therapist or staff member. As a general principle, a yoga studio is liable for the actions of its employees. It is not liable for the actions of its independent contractors unless it had knowledge of the contractor’s wrongful actions or exercised control over the independent contractor’s actions. These are questions of fact to be resolved in a court. Under either scenario, the studio may still be sued by the injured plaintiff.

Placing teachers, therapists and staff members on notice about the requirements of the Code of Conduct may prevent inappropriate conduct from occurring in the first place. It sets a high standard of behavior and shows that you are serious about enforcing it.

If a staff member violates the Code of Conduct, the studio will have firm legal ground for firing the staff member. Without a Code of Conduct, the teacher could bring an action for wrongful termination based upon age, race or gender discrimination.

If a student is harmed due to inappropriate conduct and sues your studio, your position is much stronger with a Code of Conduct in place. You can argue that you maintain the highest ethical standards; that all teachers, therapists and staff members are required to read and sign the Code of Conduct; and that the actions of the bad actor alone violated the Code of Conduct. Thus, only the bad actor is liable for the harm and not your studio.

 Notice of Code of Conduct and Reporting Ethical Problems 

Yoga studios and spiritual communities should place the Code of Conduct on their website and bulletin board. It would be good idea to publish an article in your newsletter that shows you are taking a stand against abuse. The article could include the text of the Code of Conduct, a description of the role and members of your Ethics Committee, and information on how a student, client or patient can contact the Ethics Committee to report a potential violation of the Code of Conduct.

If someone has an ethical concern, you want to have an open and easy process for that person to let the Ethics Committee know about the situation. They must feel comfortable in reporting a violation to the Ethics Committee on a confidential basis. The sooner that the Ethics Committee has notice of the matter, the quicker it can move to resolve it. Ethical problems tend to get worse over time; you do not want to let them fester and grow.

Yoga Alliance Standards Review Project

The Yoga Alliance has recently launched its Standards Review Project. As part of this project, Yoga Alliance intends to adopt an Ethical Code of Conduct. I do not know when its project will be complete but it does appear that Yoga Alliance is willing to take a strong stand. Here is its statement:

A key pillar of this effort is creating an Ethical Code of Conduct to define what is and is not appropriate. It is our aim to help protect public safety and to create a robust educational and reporting platform from which we can elevate the profession of yoga teaching.

See Resources at the end of this Article for a link to the sexual harassment resources that Yoga Alliance has provided.

Organize An Ethics Committee

After drafting the Code of Conduct, organize your Ethics Committee.  The role of the Ethics Committee is to administer the Code of Conduct. When it receives an ethical complaint, it gathers the facts and determines if there was a violation of the Code of Conduct. If there was, it determines the appropriate remedy and communicates its decision to the relevant parties.

The Ethics Committee may be composed of owners, senior teachers and respected members of your community.  I recommend a minimum of three people. You could also organize the Ethics Committee first and use it to draft your Code of Conduct.

Many yoga studios and spiritual communities do not have a process in place for dealing with ethical violations and, when they do occur, the owners or management try to address the situation themselves on a “one off” basis. They may be in a panic mode driven by the situation and may fail to make the best decision.

Ethical situations may raise delicate and complicated questions around determining the facts, the motivations of the parties involved, the histories of the parties involved, the perceived harm to the injured party, publicity considerations and the appropriate remedy to impose to resolve the situation. It is common for studio owners to be in conflicts of interest because they may know the students and the teachers involved. To impose a sanction on a popular teacher may result in an economic hit to the studio. There may be legal implications depending upon the situation. Most studios owners are not in a good position to navigate these conflicts of interest and resolve these problems themselves.

If a studio receives a complaint from a student about unethical behavior, the studio should already have a Code of Conduct and an Ethics Committee in place to deal with the situation. A formal complaint and resolution process will go a long way towards establishing an ethically pure environment and will give students and teachers comfort that any situation that may arise will be handled in a professional and objective way. It also increases the chances that the studio, teacher and student will be treated fairly and that an objective, fair and reasonable decision will be made.

The Role of the Ethics Committee

If a studio or community does not have a Code of Conduct and an Ethics Committee in place when a person brings an ethical problem to its attention, then it is in a weak legal position. This is because the studio will not have the objective standard established by a Code of Conduct on which to base its decision. Further, the studio will not have an Ethics Committee to make a fair and defensible decision based on the Code of Conduct. Regardless of the decision that a studio without a Code of Conduct and Ethics Committee makes on the matter, the people who are involved may feel the decision was the result of favoritism, bias or discrimination. Moreover, if the owners or management know the people who are involved (which is usually the case), then it is even more difficult for them to make an objective decision due to the conflicts of interest.

On the other hand, if a studio has adopted a Code of Conduct and organized an Ethics Committee, and the Ethics Committee objectively evaluates the circumstances and makes a fair decision, it will be much more defensible than a studio owner attempting to make the decision alone. As the studio owner, you will find that it is much easier for an Ethics Committee to make a decision and then communicate that decision to the people who are involved, rather than being in the position of having to do that yourself. All persons involved will have more confidence that the decision is objective, fair and reasonable if it is based on a Code of Conduct that is administered by an Ethics Committee.

Due Process and Procedure, Communicating the Decision of the Ethics Community

A yoga studio and a community have an obligation to give an accused teacher a reasonable level of due process. Because a teacher may lose his or her job and their reputation may be tarnished, the decision making process of the Ethics Committee must be fair and objective. Due process in this context does not mean that you need to conduct a Perry Mason type mini-trial but you do need to gather the facts surrounding the matter and make a fair and objective decision based on the facts.

To gather the facts, the Ethics Committee may need to interview the student, the teacher and any other people who have direct knowledge about the situation.

Direct knowledge is an important concept. The Ethics Committee should be careful about giving weight to “heresay” information from the people it interviews. Heresay is anything that is not within the personal knowledge of the person the Ethics Committee is interviewing.  For example, the Ethics Committee interviews Suzie for the purpose of proving that Johnny kissed Julie. Suzie said:  “Debby told me Johnny kissed Julie” is heresay and is not relevant. We have no idea what Debby actually witnessed. Her statement may have been based upon a rumor or maybe Debby just wants to hurt Johnny. Suzie had no personal knowledge that Johnny kissed Julie.  However, the statement from Suzie: “I saw Johnny kiss Julie” would be relevant to establishing the fact that this indeed happened. Suzie had personal knowledge that Johnny kissed Julie.

After the Ethics Committee gathers the facts, it should determine if the Code of Conduct has been violated. If so, it should make a decision on the sanctions to impose and then communicate its decision to those who are involved.

I am frequently asked how should the decision be communicated: in person, by email or over the phone?

Generally, I do not like using email for sensitive communications. It is easy for emails to  become public. Emails may be misinterpreted because written words may be ambiguous and conveying the appropriate tone is difficult to do in writing. Depending upon the situation, either a phone call or a personal meeting is a better practice.

Confidential Treatment of Ethical Investigations by the Ethics Committee

The Ethics Committee should make each person who is interviewed feel comfortable that the discussion will be held strictly confidential. The Ethics Committee should keep any emails or hand-written notes secure and confidential. If the Ethics Committee’s notes were to become public or if the rumor mill were to start, then its investigation into the matter will be compromised. The damage will have been done.

The forum in which the Ethics Committee discusses the matter must be secure. You do not want to be in an environment where someone may overhear what you are discussing. No conversations concerning the matter should be held in a public place. Restaurants and coffee shops are public places and should not be used. Discussions should not be held in bathrooms and common areas in the studio.

Yoga studios and teachers have an important obligation to maintain the confidentiality of all private information disclosed by teachers, students and clients. Yoga studios should maintain strong procedures to protect the confidentiality of all private information that is disclosed by its students and clients.

Private information means any nonpublic information that a student or client designates as private or that, under the circumstances, should be treated as private. Private information includes a student or client’s personal contact and account information (i.e., name, address, credit card information, passwords, and email) medical and health information, and attendance records.

Private information also includes any information that a studio, community or its Ethics Committee may receive about ethical situations involving a student and a teacher. This includes any information provided by students or witnesses of harassment or its investigation and handling of ethical cases.

This information is extremely sensitive. Its exposure could damage the reputations of the studio, the teacher and the student, it could make the situation impossible to resolve fairly, and could lead to legal liability. Keep it strictly confidential.

What Sanctions Can an Ethics Committee Impose for Bad Actions?

In a recent New York Times article, it was reported that Matt Damon gave an interview to ABC News in which he offered the following observation: “There’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviors need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?” 

The response from the women on the panel was that Damon was wrong and that there is “no hierarchy of abuse.”  Thus, the pat is as bad as the rape; no distinctions should be drawn, one act is as bad as the other.

As outraged as women justifiably are over the history of abuse, this is wrong thinking and leads to unsupportable results. The American criminal justice system is built on the principle that the punishment must fit the crime. We do not sentence someone to life imprisonment for jaywalking. There must be a sense of fairness and moral proportion in judging these situations. All cases of abuse, from inappropriate commentary to physical assault must be judged objectively and the Ethics Committee must fashion a sanction that fairly and equitably addresses the situation, giving due considerations to all of the facts.

In many cases, it will be hard to uncover all of the facts, there may be conflicting facts, there may be conflicts of interest, and there may be circumstances and facts that weigh on both sides of the scale of justice.

Accordingly, the Ethics Committee must use sound and careful judgment in deciding what type of sanctions to impose. There are four options:

1. Do nothing. The facts do not show that the teacher committed a bad act.

2. A warning. The facts show that the teacher’s actions were minor and that a warning is a fair sanction. The warning could be coupled with counseling.

3. Time Out. The facts show that the teacher’s actions were serious and they warrant suspending the teacher from the studio for a period of time. However, the actions were not so serious that they support complete termination. I have seen this sanction used when the teacher is good hearted but made a mistake in judgement. Sometimes the reason is spiritual by-passing and this may weigh toward leniency.

The “time out” period is usually one year but it may be shorter depending upon the circumstances. During the “time out” the teacher gets counseling, does spiritual work, contemplates their actions, etc. The teacher cannot teach classes at the studio during this time.

After the “time out” period expires, the teacher can approach the Ethics Committee to re-commence their teaching activities or rejoin the community. The Ethics Committee then makes a determination as to whether the teacher has resolved their issues and that it is appropriate for them to rejoin the community. The Ethics Committee should consider whether there has been a sincere apology and contrition, appropriate reparation to the injured parties, rehabilitation and heart-felt change before the teacher may return. This decision is entirely at the discretion of the Ethics Committee.

One issue that aways seems to arise in the “time out” sanction is how to inform the community that the teacher will not be teaching for a certain period of time. This is a delicate and difficult issue. The story has be honest and believable yet, at the same time, should not disclose the facts that gave rise to the “time out”. In my experience the sabbatical or spiritual pilgrimage story seems to work well. This is believable and a reasonable “time out” period could be from six months to one year.

4. Dismissal. The facts show that a teacher’s actions were so serious that they warrant dismissing the teacher from the studio. The teacher is dismissed and the employment or independent contractor agreement is terminated. The Ethics Committee should carefully document its decision. This may be necessary to defend the studio if the teacher brings an action for wrongful termination due to discrimination or other legal theory.

Take a Stand-Include Sexual Harassment Training in Your YTT!

Sexual harassment training is critical and must be incorporated into yoga teacher training curricula. It is my hope that Yoga Alliance will change the standards for its teacher training schools and support the schools by providing resources.

Sexual harassment must be openly discussed in conscious and thoughtful ways to educate and empower individuals and groups within the spiritual community. Ending harassment and abuse in our yoga community begins with cultivating awareness. We can only move forward when victims feel comfortable speaking up and experiences of sexual harassment and abuse are heard. Yoga studios and communities should  create environments that are grounded in deep trust so that victims are empowered to bring problems to the attention of an Ethics Committee.

Teacher training programs should educate students about sexual harassment and the appropriate boundaries that should exist between students and teachers. Students need to have a clear understanding about the whole range of bad actions inflicted upon them by teachers that have nothing to do with yoga, praxis, or spiritual development. They must learn that sound judgment, clear discernment and communication are essential components of their personal practice. They must learn to speak up. When victims of abuse and mistreatment do speak up, they need to know that they will be heard, their communications will be confidential and respected, and that right action will be taken.

Community Responses to Bad Actors; Social Media Disclosure

Consider the scenario where it is generally known within a community that a teacher has exhibited predatory or abusive behavior towards students for a long period of time.  Can members of the community expose the actions of the teacher to protect the well being of the community? Can they post information about the teacher on social media? What risks are involved in doing so?

We must understand the law of defamation to address these questions. Defamation has three elements: (i) the publication of a false statement about the teacher; (ii) the statements caused harm to the teacher; and (iii) the statements were made with reckless disregard for the truth of the statements. Libel is written defamation and slander is oral defamation.

Publication is any public distribution or disclosure of the statements. It could be a posting on a social media platform or publishing an article in a newspaper or newsletter. Publication may also be making the statement to another person.

There is a special category of defamation called libel per se. This means that the statement is libel on its face. This means that the elements of libel have been automatically proven.  Examples of libel per se are those that falsely charge someone with a crime or directly injure him in connection with his business (i.e., where the statement disqualifies him from working in his business). To accuse a male yoga teacher of predatory conduct, harassment or rape could constitute libel per se. This is a crime and it could result in the teacher losing his job. Because these statements may constitute libel per se, it means that it will be easier for the plaintiff to win the lawsuit.

In a lawsuit for defamation, truth is a defense. Thus, if someone published information about the bad actions of a teacher and they turned out to be true, the publisher would not be liable under the law of defamation.

There may be exposure to litigation even if the statements are true. This is because litigation, or threat of litigation, is a strategy that abusers have used to silence those who wish to expose their bad behavior. Even if the publishers were to ultimately win the lawsuit, they would still be responsible for legal fees and expenses, as well as the stress and time spent during the litigation process.

If the statements turn out to be false and the teacher is innocent, then the publisher of the statements will have damaged, if not destroyed, the teacher’s career. The publisher may be exposing itself to liability for defamation. On the other hand, if the publisher knows the truth of the statements that it is publishing, it may be doing a service to the community by exposing the teacher.  If the statements are true, the publisher will have a defense if it is sued for defamation.

Although I can understand the natural inclination of members of a community to publish information concerning the bad actions of a teacher, extreme caution should be used. This means that you should only publish statements that may be viewed as defaming the reputation of a teacher if you have direct knowledge of the bad actions. This does not mean that you can publish statements based upon heresay, gossip, rumor, general belief, the whisper network, etc.

Of course, if you are the victim, then you may publish the statements because you can testify that they are true.

In those cases where a teacher has abused a number of women, the group could band together and publish the statements jointly. This results in giving them greater credibility and my discourage litigation by the teacher. If a lawsuit is filed, the women could work out a joint defense agreement where they would cooperate in the defense as well as share legal fees. In this scenario, they could also counter-claim against the teacher for damages caused by the abuse or harassment.

A Personal Note-Cut the Crap!

I have represented yoga studios and spiritual communities who have had problems with abusive or thoughtless yoga teachers. I have read countless #MeToo and #MeToo Yoga stories. I have followed the high-profile yoga scandals over the years.

I have spent over fifteen years studying and practicing yoga. I have been to India, Nepal and Tibet on spiritual pilgrimages.  I have studied in ashrams and meditated in mountains. I have written a book on the Yoga Sutras, and I teach yoga philosophy. I know the authentic tradition.

I also know crap when I see it.

I have had enough of arrogant and deluded yoga teachers using yoga as justification for their exploitation of vulnerable, oftentimes young and naive, women. These women are suffering. Some suffer from mental illness, addiction, emotional problems and the stress and anxiety that comes from living in a complex world.  They seek healing through yoga: they seek peace and relief through breath, body and community awareness. They come to you for help, and you take advantage of their vulnerability and abuse them? You take advantage of their vulnerability and compound their suffering in the name of yoga just so you can cop a cheap feel or worse?  You harm women and tarnish the dharma for your own selfish and destructive purposes?

Perhaps you think you are a guru? Perhaps you think you are enlightened? Perhaps you think your actions are for the good of the student because you are some divine being channeling Spirit? Perhaps you think you are teaching tantra? Perhaps you think your fame and fortune and clever “yoga speak” justify your actions? Perhaps you demand authority over your students because you, in your wisdom, know what is best for them?

This is crap.

This is nothing but using yoga as a vehicle through which you abuse women. The most compassionate thing I can feel for you is that you have a problem with spiritual bypassing.  John Welwood defines spiritual bypassing as using: “spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep personal, emotional unfinished business; to shore up a shaky sense of self; or to belittle basic needs, feelings, and developmental tasks, all in the name of enlightenment.” Does this sound familiar? Do you think you have work to do?

Last night during the Golden Globes, in a  powerful speech Oprah said of men who abuse women:

And for too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dared to speak their truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up. Their time is up.

Your time is up. You know who you are. My message to you is simple: “Get Out of Yoga.” Find something else to do with your life.

Perhaps this does not describe you? Perhaps you are an ordinary yoga teacher striving to do your best but sometimes you find yourself in the grey zone.

As yoga teachers we must possess the highest degree of personal integrity and ethical behavior. Our behavior must not have even have the appearance of impropriety. Our standard of behavior is even higher than the standard in the workplace because we are acting as spiritual guides for vulnerable students. The bar is very high but you may have fallen a bit short from time to time.

Look at yourself in the mirror. Reflect on your actions. Have honest discussions with your female mentors and teachers. Read Mariana Caplan’s book: Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path. Her book is essential reading. She is a psychotherapist and is an expert in counseling both individual victims and communities who have been traumatized by abusive teachers and gurus. Book a counseling session with her.

Darren Main’s book, The Yoga Entrepreneur: A Guide to Earning A Mindful Living Through Yoga, also has excellent resources on ethics. (A link to both books is in the Resources at the end of this Article). Suspend your teaching  for a while, reflect on your spiritual bypassing, and do the transformational work.

Twenty Things That Yoga Teachers Cannot Do

Perhaps you are still confused? Perhaps you do not understand what is permissible and what is not?  Here is a list of twenty things you cannot do:

1. Give special attention to attractive students and make sexually oriented assists.

2. Give a student a massage in an empty yoga studio.

3. Grab, caress or pinch a student’s butt.

4. Make sexual comments during class.

5. Give “shaktipat” to students that involves kissing and hugging.

6. Invite students to your room for private yoga sessions.

7. Practice tantric sex and tantric massage with your students.

8. Induce students to give you a massage.

9. Rape or attempt to rape your students.

10. Project yourself as a guru or an enlightened sage and then use that as a ploy to get sex or intimacy with students.

11. Ask students for dinner and refuse to take “no” as an answer.

12. Give students drugs on yoga retreats and then take advantage of them.

13. Arrange private yoga consultations and request sex.

14. Make comments about a woman’s body, sexual desirability or sexual habits.

15. Any adjustment or touching of sexual areas; full body contact adjusting.

16. Take students to bars and try to kiss them.

17. Adjust students after they tell you they do not want adjustments or tell you to stop.

18. Give private photography sessions.

19. Thrust your hips into a woman’s butt during downward facing dog.

20. Any conduct that constitutes sexual harassment as defined by the legal system.

If you need further guidance let me suggest consulting with women yoga teachers and mentors. You know what you will hear. They will clear up your confusion quickly and forcefully.

For Women Yoga Students

Women yoga students must understand that the behavior I have described in this Article has nothing to do with yoga. It is not for your spiritual advancement or well-being. It is abuse and harassment and teachers are using yoga as a vehicle to exploit you.

If you find that you are a target of an abusive teacher, say  “no” firmly, and let your yoga studio or spiritual community know immediately. Let the women yoga teachers in your community know immediately. Do not be shy about this. Exert your strength, express your truth. You do not have to accept abuse and harassment in the name of yoga.

If the studio or community where you practice has implemented a Code of Conduct and an Ethics Committee, contact the Ethics Committee. You may have confidence that the Ethics Committee will hear you on a confidential basis and will handle the matter fairly and objectively.

Conclusion

All yogas studios and spiritual communities should adopt a Code of Conduct and organize an Ethics Committee now. This will show that you are taking a stand against abuse, will reduce the chances that it will happen in your community and will create a sound structure that will empower you to respond to an ethical situation if it arises.

Yoga teacher training programs must include sexual harassment components within their curricula. It is only through education and awareness that yoga students will have the wisdom to discern between authentic yoga practice and teaching,  and abuse masquerading as yoga. Patanjali said in the Yoga Sutras that we attain viveka by practicing the eight limbs of yoga. Viveka is yogic wisdom that gives us the ability to liberate ourselves from spiritual ignorance through discriminative discernment. This is the essence of yoga practice. We learn to discern between ego and Spirit. Now we must learn to discern between authentic yoga and abuse.

If you are a yoga teacher reflect on the ethical standards that you must meet in your teaching and treatment of your students. Do you possess the highest degree of personal integrity and ethical behavior? Do you avoid even the appearance of impropriety? If you do not, do the work, change your behavior. Transform through yoga.

If you are a yoga student and find that you are the target of abuse or harassment, speak up and fight. Let the Ethics Committee know. Let female yoga teachers know.

As Oprah said in her speech at the Golden Globes: it will be because a lot of  women who are speaking up and fighting hard that the time will come when nobody will ever have to say  “Me Too” again.

Resources

General Resources

Esquire Article – 57 Things I Need You To Stop Doing to the Women You Work With

https://tinyurl.com/y7yq8ef8

Rachel Brathen #MeToo Yoga

http://rachelbrathen.com/metoo-yoga-stories/

From Darkness to Light

https://www.facebook.com/fromdarknesstolight.live/

https://fromdarknesstolight.live/#content

Yoga Alliance-Sexual Misconduct Resources

https://www.yogaalliance.org/Sexual_Misconduct_Resources

Mariana Caplan, Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path (Sounds True, 2009)

http://www.realspirituality.com/

Darren Main, The Yoga Entrepreneur: A Guide to Earning A Mindful Living Through Yoga

https://darrenmain.com/

Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Morality: Ancient Teachings at a Time of Global Crisis (Hohm Press, 2007)

Sample Codes of Conduct

California Yoga Teachers Association Code of Conduct

https://tinyurl.com/yb3tk72v

Georg Feuerstein-Ethical Guidelines forYoga Teachers

https://tinyurl.com/khlhajx

Yoga Australia Code of Conduct

https://www.yogaaustralia.org.au/code-of-professional-conduct

Yoga Alliance Code of Conduct

https://www.yogaalliance.org/AboutYA/OurPolicies/CodeofConduct

Gary Kissiah’s Resources

Light on Law Legal Newsletter (Current developments in law and yoga)

https://tinyurl.com/clakwyn

Resources on Right Touch and Pre-Existing Medical Conditions

http://garykissiah.com/light-on-law-essential-information/

Gary Kissiah, Light on Law-Materials on Ethics for Yoga Studios, Wellness Centers and Spiritual Communities

http://garykissiah.com/light-on-law-ethics-materials/

About Gary Kissiah

Gary was introduced to Eastern philosophy in college when he discovered Alan Watts. Gary found yoga in 2000 and has been practicing yoga since that time. Gary has a Certificate of Yoga Philosophy from the California Institute of Integral Studies. He has studied yoga at Esalen Institute, Parmarth Niketan Ashram and Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville. He is a RYT 200.

Gary teaches workshops on  yoga philosophy, ethics and law for yoga teacher training programs. Gary has presented many workshops through Yoga Alliance and  is on the Board of Directors of the Integral Yoga Institute-San Francisco. He recently published the second edition of his book entitled: “The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali- Illuminated”.

Gary has practiced corporate and technology law for over twenty years. He has been a partner in the corporate and technology practice group of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP. He has been a Senior Attorney with Microsoft where he practiced technology law and served on the Microsoft Ethics Committee. Gary has published the Light on Law series of books that cover law and business matters for yoga studios, yoga teachers and other wellness businesses.

Review of Seventy Summits: A Life in the Mountains by Vern Tejas

Vern Tejas is a mountaineer. He is the first person to climb the Seven Summits ten times. He is the first to climb Denali in the winter. He has the record speed ascents for Denali, Elbrus, Aconcagua, Vinson and Kilimanjaro. He has summited Denali fifty-five times, Aconcagua twenty-five times, and Kilimanjaro fifteen times.

He has received awards from the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and the American Alpine Club.  He has been named Alaskan of the Year.

Vern has been my guide on climbs to Mt. Elbrus and Mera Peak, and he is guiding me to the summit of Aconcagua in February, 2018. Vern was born to be a mountaineer and, in his presence, you feel a perfect alignment between what he does and who he is.

Vern Tejas has just published a book called Seventy Summits: A Life in the Mountains. It is a book of stories, of adventures, of suffering, of defeat and of victory. It is a book about a rare human being of great accomplishment.

Mountain climbing is hard physical work.  There is depravation, cold, darkness and bad weather. Fear, sickness and fatigue are constant. After each summit comes the inevitable question: what next? Do we set our sights on a higher summit, a more difficult route and more risk? Must we live at the very edge of what is possible for us? These are the questions that Seventy Summits explores.

Seventy Summits is a book of adventure stories. Vern takes us on a journey to the top of the Seven Summits and to the North and South Poles. He takes us to places that few of us experience. We meet many interesting characters, hear great stories and receive lessons on climbing and life along the way.

Seventy Summits is an inspirational book about mountains, climbing and adventure. I recommend it highly. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, here is the link to Amazon:

https://tinyurl.com/yc2rhhw4

 

Accessible Yoga Conference New York City-May 19-21

This post is to support the Accessible Yoga Conference. It will be held in New York City from May 19-21, 2017 at the Integral Yoga Institute, 227 West 13th Street, New York.

The mission of the Accessible Yoga Conference is to provide a forum where the Yoga community can come together to connect, share, and support those who wish to expand access to the Yoga teachings for people with disabilities, chronic illness, seniors, and people who may not feel comfortable in a regular yoga class.

Join the Conference for a weekend program which includes asana classes, workshops, and panel discussions with senior Yoga teachers on a variety of topics related to increasing access to Yoga. Topics range from adapting poses to community building.

Here is the Website for complete information about the Conference:

http://www.accessibleyoga.org