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Response-Ability: Defending the Yoga Instructor When a Student is Injured


While reading a magazine article “Play Your Part: Accept responsibility for what you bring to each moment and enjoy the power of truth,” by Sally Kempton, printed in the September 2008 issue of “Yoga Journal” (see Note below to find articles online), I realized it was not only an essay on blame, responsibility, truth, and strength (among many other things), but also a presentation on possible defenses a yoga instructor (and his/her lawyer) could sort through if a student is injured while in a yoga class.

(One of course would hope that a conversation would be the first choice for dispute resolution for yoga teacher and student, rather than litigation, but life is what it is and one is not entirely hopeful, though maybe a little more hopeful in the world of Yoga than the world of Medicine, which is no more an exact science than Yoga, or Law, or Life.

Doctors and their lawyers have been discussing for years (decades?) this alternative approach to “it’s your fault,” though not quite reaching the full spirit of disclosure, honesty, and “truth and reconciliation,” at least making the effort. I suspect, however, and the medical malpractice attorneys may pitch in here, that this approach is still present in only a small percentage of cases. Doctors are no more able than lawyers or politicians, or people generally, to say, “I’m sorry” (as opposed to “mistakes were made”).)

This Yoga Journal article also prompted some interesting conversations with my favorite yoga instructors, leading to a funny conversation about whether or not there is such a thing as a “platonic asana” (no, there isn’t – mostly – and you can ask even me why not) and a visit to my public library the next day (don’t you love vacations!) where I found these books, “The shape of ancient thought : comparative studies in Greek and Indian philosophies,” by Thomas McEvilley and these, “The Complete Peanuts,” by Charles Shultz, both surprisingly relevant to the yoga discussion at hand.

(Note about finding current articles not yet available free online: If an Internet search for a freely available copy of a specific article is not successful , it may be that the source does not (or not yet) maintain free archives of its current or past issues. Most public libraries, however, have news, magazine, and scholarly databases that can be searched free of charge, often remotely (i.e. from any computer, with your library card). I try to provide enough bibliographic data to enable you to search those articles databases successfully.

But also note that these library databases don’t always come with transparent names (see e.g. this OLR post on finding Consumer Reports online at your public library) so you may need to call your local library reference line.)

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