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BE YOUR OWN GURU-Guidelines for Healthy Relationships with your Yoga Teacher/Guru

By: Camilla Griggers, PhD and Stacia Dyess, MFA

As yogis devoted to the practice of yoga, we find ourselves in sacred relationships with our teachers-including our yoga teachers, gurus, meditation teachers, etc. Finding a teacher/guru is very personal. Taking care of that relationship is the responsibility of both students and teachers alike. Here are 18 tips on how to keep your boundaries healthy and your practice sacred.

  1. Hold on to your power!

Check out and research the community's group dynamics. Ask questions. Let your teacher/guru earn your trust. Find out the history of the teacher. Interview them. How conscious are they? What's the history of people in the organization/community? How have people been treated in the past? Observe the teacher's relationships with their own family and community.


  1. Remember that only you can realize the answers to your deepest questions.

Don't project by expecting any person other than yourself to have all the answers to your questions. The answers you're looking for will be played out in your own experience and practice, by setting an intention for a question to be answered. All you have to do is pay attention in your life, the answers present themselves as an expression of nature's intelligence.


  1. Notice if your yoga teacher/guru is touching you or other students inappropriately.

You don't have to second-guess yourself on this one. You don't have to figure out in your head what inappropriate'll feel it in your gut. Listen to your intuition. The ideal situation is for a teacher to ask for permission or inform you when they are going to physically adjust your position in class.


  1. Be aware of YOUR issues.

Only by knowing yourself can you avoid acting out. If you have addictive or compulsive behaviors, be aware if you are acting them out with your teacher/guru. Look for patterns of behavior between the two of you that feel habitual or reminiscent of past relations that were unhealthy.


  1. Establish boundaries.

Set boundaries on gurus/teachers meeting with you privately in inappropriate environments: alone at your home, hotel room, etc. If you are starting to do enjoyable outings with just the two of you, then the relationship is turning into a personal friendship or a romantic interest. Be aware and true to yourself about the reality of the relationship. If you're sexually attracted to your guru or yoga teacher, that may be a good reason NOT to go. Put limits on how frequently you seek contact.


  1. Notice teachers/gurus who take advantage of people who are vulnerable.

People are naturally more vulnerable when going through a shift psychologically, financially, emotionally, or spiritually because of a death, an illness, a breakup, a financial situation, a psychological insecurity, or a period of rapid change. Their vulnerability needs to be respected, not taken advantage of by anyone.


  1. Keep in contact with friends and family; don't lose yourself.

Be wary of attempts to alienate you from friends and family. Giving up your ego identification is a good thing. However, alienation from your family and friends is a warning sign. If people close to you start questioning your perception of your teacher/guru, listen up.


  1. Be aware if you are seeking a 'missing part of yourself.'

Know if you are casting about trying to fill a missing role, such as the father figure you never had. Avoid going into a community with an illusion that your yoga teacher/guru can fulfill the needs that weren't filled by your family, relationship, community, work, etc.


  1. Does your teacher/guru show favoritism?

Do you notice the teacher/guru's behavior or energy shift in regard to certain people (young attractive women, for example, or people with money, status, or power)?


  1. Are you in a dance of enhancement, intimacy and exploitation?

Does your teacher/guru know intimate information about your dreams, who you are, your buttons, your desires? Are you slowly being drawn into greater and greater intimacy?


  1. Are you star struck?

Do you have the illusion that your yoga teacher/guru is a perfect being and that you will never measure up or be at their level? Are you just wanting someone to follow rather than do you own work to become aware that you are already a divine being that can be their own guru? Is the guru/teacher moving you and others in the group toward this total awareness of your true being?


  1. Using public power for personal gratification.

Does your teacher/guru use his or her personal power to gain sex, money, free or cheap labor, more followers, or ego gratification?


  1. Do you feel you can successfully negotiate with your teacher/guru?

Do you feel successful when negotiating money, service, or any other important issues? Is it difficult to negotiate successfully and get your needs met in negotiation?


  1. Observe whether the teacher/guru's longtime students are independent.

Does your yoga teacher/guru push students out of the nest and make them independent, or keep them dependent upon him or her? Do the students become teachers? Can they function on their own?


  1. Be Assertive and make it clear that the teacher/guru must ask permission.

If you feel there is an energetic exchange that you haven't given permission for, make it clear that you do not want such energy without giving your permission first. Be wary if your yoga teacher/guru doesn't explain when they're giving you energy, why they're giving you energy, or what is intended to happen as a result. Pay special attention if your teacher withholds knowledge even after worthy inquiry.


  1. Are siddhis used to awe and inspire?

Performing suddhis, such as manifesting items, or something as common as picking up on your thoughts etc., doesn't mean your teacher is enlightened. Quite the contrary, if a person is at a high vibration, they don't need to prove it. Doing so is a sign of ego.


  1. Often times the guru or teacher is fine, but the organization has gone sour.

Such groups can exploit the guru as well as the devotee. Be wary of enabling dysfunctional groups by pretending everything is fine no matter what.


  1. Trust that the truth always surfaces.

If it's hard for people in the community to speak the truth, take note. Be a harbinger for truth; don't be afraid to speak up. In time, the truth always surfaces anyway.

Camilla Griggers, PhD, teaches Boundaries and Communication at the Institute for Psycho Structural Balancing in Los Angeles, and has a private bodymind integration practice in Santa Monica ( (site down?)).

Stacia Dyess, MFA, Writing Consultant and President of BeginWithin, a Nonprofit Organization committed to bringing meditation to Los Angeles businesses and organizations on-site.

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