IYTA issues these guidelines, recognising the importance of health, safety and welfare of all who take part in any Yoga related activities. Apart from legal obligations which may apply in some situations, IYTA recognises the importance of a proactive approach to safety with attention to detail.
The Yama of Ahimsa extends beyond ‘duty of care’ to others, it includes care of self, others and environment. Therefore a commitment to caring forethought and systematic planning makes pre-emptive action possible to maintain an environment conducive to health and wellbeing of individuals and the environment.
Commonwealth and State Governments are in the process of adopting Model Provisions and are mainly re-titling their OH&S legislation as Work Health and Safety (WHS). In NSW the WHS Act 2011 took effect from 1 January 2012.
Application: Any Yoga Teacher or employer of Yoga teachers has a personal obligation to protect the health and safety of self and students while at work. WHS (OH&S) laws are based on the principles of duty of care and risk management. Where risk cannot be eliminated, then those risks must be minimised as far as is reasonably practicable.
Negligence can also occur through acts of omission. Where a person knows there is a hazard or risk and knows the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or minimise the risk, then all reasonable steps must be taken to lessen or avoid the potential danger. For Yoga teachers, minimisation of risk includes close consideration of professional standards and safe teaching codes of practice which include the continuous warning to students of cautions and contraindications in the teaching of asana and correct advice in pregnancy. Included in this is the checking of relief teachers’ safety in teaching and for special needs classes.
The provision of a safe place of Yoga, safe equipment (belonging to teacher or student), including use of incense and volatile oils, and safe systems of practice all fall under the Act. Within the safe venue there may still be the manual handling of furniture, the practising of too long sequences or similar postures that cause strain or the bracing against unstable walls or doors which can cause injury.
Record Keeping: Class records may prove valuable in the event of subsequent claims or reviews. Records of attendance and of class plans should be dated and stored in a safe and confidential place. Any injuries or illness which students report on arrival at class should also be recorded. Any requests for repairs and maintenance of the venue should similarly be recorded and dated.
Avoidance of Practical Hazards during Class:
Warm up before commencing to teach.
Avoid straining to demonstrate the perfect posture.
Warm up students in relation to the weather.
Logical sequencing of postures and counterposes.
Be aware of recent injury, surgery or joint restriction in students.
Plan class to suit the posture strength, flexibility and age of students.
Teach Pranayama to suit the ability and experience of students.
Avoid unstable surfaces as in a towel placed over the mat.