Abuse, Harassment and Bullying:
An Update From The BWY Chair
You may have read the article in The Times on Saturday 24 July headlined ‘Yoga gurus accused of sexually abusing their students’, regarding sexual assault within the yoga world. It dealt with the reporting of sexual assault of yoga students and teachers. Sexual assault is serious and can take many forms and is part of a wider discussion around abuse, harassment and bullying.
The BWY’s National Executive Committee (NEC) wants everyone in our yoga community to know what steps to take if abuse or assault occurs, whether they are a BWY member or non-member.
For more than 20 years the BWY has had a Member’s Code of Conduct to which members are expected to adhere. Our Complaints Policy has been in place for a similar timeframe and that allows a member or non-member to lodge a complaint against any BWY member should there be an incident of abuse, assault or simply an alleged breach of the Member’s Code of Conduct. Should a complaint be made, a confidential investigation will be carried out. Our intention is that any person who believes they have experienced abuse by a BWY member will feel secure coming forward and will not suffer in silence. The BWY Code of Conduct and Resource policies are in your members’ page resources (don’t forget to log in to access).
For non-members our website offers advice and guidance, including signposting to the relevant authorities. This information can be found here: W: bwy.org.uk/safeguarding/
One of the BWY’s greatest assets is its training programmes. As those of you who have completed or are studying within our teacher training programmes know, the yoga code of ethics is not only covered in the course, but referred to again and again, in the philosophy, the physical teaching practice and the way in which we deal with our students. Within these codes there is no allowance for abuse. Those completing the BWY teacher training programme know well their responsibilities with regards to their students. This code of ethics adherence also extends to our Accredited Training Organisations.
The newly-elected NEC has established a Safeguarding Working Group (SWG) which is reviewing the approach to safeguarding, including reporting mechanism. We plan to trial a new reporting system this year which we intend to add to the public facing section of the website. The reporting system will be used for both safeguarding matters and complaints and will be faster, more secure and easier to use.
The BWY is the governing body for yoga in England and Wales. Yoga Scotland are the governing body for Scotland. The Yoga Fellowship of Northern Ireland cover Northern Ireland. As the governing body for yoga our mandate is to establish exemplary governance, policies and procedures as best practice in the yoga world. As we build our new website we can make our policies and procedures available more widely so that we can inform and create awareness throughout the yoga sector.
What we cannot do is regulate yoga teachers outside the BWY. The yoga community is a web of independent practitioners and teachers which create a loose-fitting, ever-changing, diverse and organic collective.
I believe to over-regulate this structure would be to harden the pliable and stimulating qualities of it.
Neither can we regulate the venues in which you teach, such as the village halls, churches, gyms and studios. These are private premises that have their own guidelines to follow.
What we can do is lead by example and share best practice. Hence our own Code of Conduct and Complaints Policy that we are reviewing and improving. Hence signposting and support on our website, articles in our members’ magazine Spectrum addressing this issue, as well as teacher training and CPD days that refer to respect and care for those in our classes and our community.
Safeguarding students of yoga against any kind of abuse is a serious matter and it’s critical that the BWY gets this right. Please get in touch with your comments and concerns. We are always here to listen, help and support. You can email me at E: BWYChair@bwy.org.uk