by Kara-Leah Grant
Recently I received an email from a woman I have mentored through my Forty Day Process. She asked:
Ok, ethics! I have a question for you and I have never thought of asking this of any of my other teachers in the past! I have a student who was just here practicing with me in Mexico.
Here is where I don’t know what is right from what is wrong. I intend to support her and take her through the home practice and also to get her on the 1 Giant Mind app so she will have two practices.
When she was here I showed her your book Forty Days of Yoga and she bought it!!! Yay!!!
Can I work along with her using your book, support her in her home practice and add the meditation? I guess I’m not sure if I’m taking the work from you in using your book? I really want to be clear as not be taking work from you.
Please help me understand this one. Perhaps this is a great article to write because I have never asked any of my other teachers for permission to teach what they taught me. A fine line perhaps? Thank you in advance for helping me sort this out.
This student was right. It is a fine line, and it’s a great topic for an article. Here is my response.
Really lovely to hear from you. And you ask a great question.
Firstly, the fact that you think it necessary to ask shows that you are always contemplating along ‘right action’ lines. It shows your level of mindfulness. This is good!
My understanding is that it is ethical to share another teacher’s teachings when we have fully integrated those teachings in our own practice. This means that you have thoroughly read Forty Days of Yoga, you have done the practice yourself, you’ve come up against the challenges, and you’ve worked through them. From this place of experiential understanding, then you are ready to share the teachings through the lens of your own perspective.
When you acknowledge the source of the teaching, you are not taking from it at all, but rather giving it further life. You are enriching it because you’ve done the work yourself and will likely have more to add to it. Then the work itself continues to expand and grow.
Later, in conversation with a close friend and fellow yoga teacher, studio owner and teacher trainer, the conversation turned to the same topic. This particular teacher works hard to find ways to differentiate her offerings in a crowded marketplace. She’s practiced and taught for many years, and is dedicated to all aspects of yoga.
Recently she’d noticed that another studio which had sprung up in her town had adopted her signature ending to classes. And frankly, she was pissed off.
Hold any thoughts that might have just arisen about how ‘that’s not yoga’. We are human beings first and foremost, exploring a yoga practice on the path to self-realisation. None of us are perfect, and it’s important to feel and acknowledge our first responses, rather than hide, shame or reject them because they don’t fit one’s idea of ‘yoga’. (And that is another article).
She and I felt into and explored this area through mutual inquiry:
- How do I feel?
- What’s it really about?
- What’s underneath that?
- How do I deal with this happening?
We acknowledged that teachers are a collective and we’re often tapping into the same well-spring of consciousness. This mean that similar or even the same ideas can rise up through two different teachers spontaneously, sometimes even simultaneously.
We acknowledged that nobody owns ideas – they come through each of us, but they do not belong to us.
We also acknowledged that it is respectful to honour the people who may have birthed particular ideas.
That referencing and sourcing where we draw on for our teachings is crucial to our practice and our teachings. My teacher, Shiva Rea, models this beautifully. She draws on a wide variety of sources for the work that she does, and she always names and honours those people who feed her work.
Obviously, in the context of a 60 minute class, this could become clunky and overwrought if we attempted to name where we had picked up every sequence, or pose, or philosophical idea.
However, adopting an overall policy of respect, honour and acknowledgement means that when it’s organic and right to name where something has come from, one will remember to do so.
Like my student emailing me to check in on whether or not she could mentor one of her students through my Forty Days of Yoga book, the way I mentored her. My student had done the work herself, she embodies what she’s teaching, and she’s referencing and honouring where it comes from.
In the case of my studio owner friend, she’s had no contact from the other studio using her signature ending (which is distinctive). Nor is she aware of them acknowledging its source in their classes.
On a basic Yoga level, this is mindfulness of the principle of Asteya, the third Yama from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra’s. This is the principle of non-stealing, or not taking what is not offered.
So next time you get super excited about another teacher’s work – whether it’s a turn of phrase, a sequence, a variation on a posture, their branding, or their creative flare – ask yourself these questions:
- Have I done the work and practice on this enough to embody it and share it? (See article below for more on this).
- Do I need to ask permission from the teacher before sharing it?
- Do I need to acknowledge or honour the teacher when I do share it?
- What is the most organic and seamless way to honour the teacher when I share it?
- Is this really mine to share?
When you ask yourself these questions, listen deeply to the answers that come through you – not just to the words but also to the tone and vibe of those words.
If you catch yourself defending, rationalising, or explaining it’s likely that your answer is coming from conditioned mind – which suggest there may be more to look at.
Truth has no need to defend itself, nor to rationalise and explain.
This is why, with practice, you can learn to feel truth in the body, because the moment we go into defense, which is a function of the ego or conditioned mind, the body contracts or shut down in some way. Often it’s very subtle… but it’s always there.
This can mean that you want to use that teacher’s work, and you want to believe it’s ok to do so, but on a deeper level, you know that it’s not right. Maybe you haven’t embodied the work fully. Maybe it’s not yours to share. Maybe you just need to ask permission. Whatever it is… pay attention, and take the action that feels like it’s in alignment with deepest truth.
Because we always know.