In a therapeutic yoga class or workshop where people share, I suggest that the facilitator/yoga therapist formulates group agreements in order to create a safe container for practice. Ask the group to add to or modify the agreements as necessary until they are comfortable with the wording. The participation by the group in the process creates an interactive environment and keeps people engaged. When finished, the facilitator/yoga therapist can once again verify that everyone is satisfied with the agreements and ask whether there are any more to add. Lastly, have everyone affirm the agreements either in writing or with closed eyes and a show of hands.
For a longer workshop, the group can revisit the agreements at the start of each day in case something has come up that needs to be addressed with additional agreements.
These are the agreements I have developed for working in group settings based on the yamas and the niyamas in Pantajali's Yoga Sutras.
1. I agree to treat everyone in the group with gentleness, kindness, and compassion. I agree that I will not put anyone down or use abusive language.
2. I will try not to go beyond my limits (do things that make me uncomfortable). I know that I can abstain from activities and take breaks. In a group or one-on-one discussion, I know that I have the right to pass if I don’t want to participate.
3. When a person is talking, I agree to listen. I will attempt to practice “the art of 'extreme deep listening’ . . . beyond the words . . . listening to the tones; to the inflections; to the inferences."
4. I agree that what people share at the class or workshop will remain confidential.
5. I will focus on dignity, decency, mutual respect, and equality for everyone. I am aware that no harassment of any kind will not be tolerated.
6. I will try to keep my intentions for the workshop straightforward and pure. I am aware that intentions can be refined as the program goes on.
7. I agree that I will enjoy the workshop but not at the expense of others. I am aware that bullying, shaming, violence, harassment, or hate speech will not be tolerated.
8. I agree to attempt to stay engaged. I will try to do the work of the workshop, and challenge myself while at the same time move safely in and out of my comfort zone.
9. I will do the best I can. I will attempt to notice feelings and emotions as/if they come up. I will allow time for self-reflection, journaling during and after the workshop.
10. I will attempt to think of everything encountered as an opportunity to learn and connect with the Divine in whatever name or form seems appropriate to me.