Sexual Misconduct Policy

Sivananda Yoga Centres

Purpose of the Sexual Misconduct Policy

Sivananda Yoga Centres (SYVC) provide a spiritual and reflective environment. High standards of sexual conduct are expected to ensure all participants in the centres can study, live, and work safely and respectfully. This Code sets out the standards of sexual conduct we expect from all SYVC participants.

The Sexual Misconduct Policy should be read in conjunction with any SYVC participant contracts and agreements and related policies and procedures, some of which are listed below.

Related Policies and Procedures

  • Confidentiality Policy
  • Confidential Reporting Policy
  • Complaints Policy and Procedure
  • Disciplinary Policy and Procedure
  • Grievance Policy and Procedure
  • Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults Policy and Procedure
  • Equality and Diversity Policy


SYVC: Local Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre.

SYVC participant: A person involved in the Centre, this person is either:

  • 1. Acharya
  • 2. Director
  • 3. Staff including Swamis (monks)
  • 4. Resident
  • 5. Employee
  • 6. Student of the Teachers’ Training Course
  • 7. Guests

EBM: Executive Board Members (7 members who are also Acharyas).

Acharya: Senior Spiritual Instructors responsible for the strategic direction, policy, and Ashrams in their specific geographical area.

Director: Responsible for the local Centre and reports to the regional Acharya.

Investigator: The person appointed by the Acharya to carry out an investigation into the alleged sexual misconduct.

Staff: All who live and/or work in the Centres and include long-term volunteers, short-term volunteers as well as Swamis (monks).

Residents: Those who live in the Centres while continuing external professional responsibilities or studies.

Employees: Employed staff.

Students of Yoga Teachers Training Course: Students are resident in an Ashram while training.

Guests: All those who visit on a temporary basis and/or attend classes.

Complainant: Complainant refers to an individual, who is reported to have experienced Sexual Misconduct, regardless of whether the individual makes a written report or seeks disciplinary action.

Respondent: Respondent refers to an individual who has been accused of engaging in Sexual Misconduct.

Sexual Misconduct: Sexual misconduct includes sexual harassment and sexual assault. For a full definition of these terms please see paragraph 2 below.

Third Party: Third Party refers to an individual who reports sexual misconduct by a SYVC participant but has not experienced this himself or herself.

Witness: Witness refers to an individual who may have information relevant to a report of Sexual Misconduct.

1. Policy Statement

1.1 Celibacy and Sexual Activity

The Sivananda Yoga Centres provide a spiritual environment which is based on a culture of respect from and between all SYVC participants.

Monks have taken a vow of celibacy and while this is not a condition for all staff, many choose to abstain from sexual relations.

We would appreciate all SYVC participants refraining from any overt demonstration of sexual behaviour.

1.2 Sexual Misconduct

All forms of sexual misconduct are unacceptable within the Sivananda Centres. We will investigate all complaints about sexual misconduct and where this is found will actively deal with this as a violation of this code of conduct. We consider that responsibility for sexual misconduct rests with the perpetrator who has been found to have committed such behaviour.

The definition of sexual misconduct as set out in paragraph 2 below will be interpreted and applied in a manner consistent with this policy and the mission of the Centres.

1.3 Power differentials

Power differentials exist within the structures of the Sivananda Centres, and in our relationships for example, between teachers and students and Directors and other staff, residents, and employees.

Any act of sexual misconduct found to have been carried out by a SYVC participant misusing his/her power will be an aggravating matter and dealt with extremely seriously.

2. Definition

Sexual Misconduct: includes unwanted touching, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and any conduct of a sexual nature, including everything from unwanted sexual comments or touching, to rape, it is without consent and has the effect of threatening or intimidating the person against whom such conduct is directed.

Sexual misconduct may be committed against people of a different sex or the same sex. We recognise that there can be additional issues that aggravate the misconduct because of a person’s sex, ethnic and religious background, age, sexuality, gender identity and/or disability. Power differentials also aggravate sexual misconduct.

Sexual Harassment: Sexual Harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. It includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct that interferes with or limits an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the Sivananda Yoga centres life or programmes.

Sexual Assault: Sexual Assault is a general term that covers a broad range of inappropriate and/or unlawful conduct, including rape, sexual violence, and sexual coercion. All sexual acts without the explicit consent of the other party are sexual assault.

3. Ensuring Awareness of this Policy

The Sivananda Yoga Centres will promote and publicise this policy to all SYVC participants together with up-to-date information on the support available to address sexual misconduct for both complainants and respondents.

We will provide training for all staff to raise awareness to enable promotion of this policy and guidance.

4. Reporting Sexual Misconduct

4.1 Response to reports

We will deal with all reports of sexual misconduct extremely seriously and will strive to create an environment that enables anyone who is experiencing sexual misconduct to raise this with the responsible Director or Acharya, in the knowledge that they will treat the matter effectively, sympathetically and confidentially.

Any SYVC participant who experiences sexual misconduct on Sivananda Yoga Centre premises or from another SYVC participant is asked to report in writing or in person to the Acharya, who will appoint a person to investigate the complaint. This maybe the Director or another suitable person, depending on the nature of the complaint. Please see our grievance and complaints policies.

The Sivananda Centres are committed to challenging perpetrators of sexual misconduct both within the Centres and outside the Centres. All SYVC participants should be aware that sexual misconduct can lead to a criminal conviction; that misconduct inside and outside of the Centres is viewed seriously and can lead to disciplinary action. The Sivananda Centres will also consider supporting a SYVC participant who is genuinely seeking help to address their behaviour. The context of such support will be to ensure the safety of complainants and those impacted by sexual misconduct.

We understand that anyone reporting sexual misconduct needs to be assured that their disclosure will be received with understanding and support and will ensure that relevant staff are fully trained in how to receive and act on complaints.

4.2 Action on receiving an allegation of sexual misconduct

All allegations will be investigated under the Disciplinary Procedure or if the Respondent is a guest or TTC student, under the complaint’s procedure. The Acharya will be responsible for appointing an investigator who maybe a Director, the Acharya, or an external investigator. This decision will be based on the following:

  • a) The nature of the allegation
  • b) Whether there has been a breach of trust and/or abuse of power
  • c) The role of the Respondent

The Acharya will decide whether the alleged Respondent should be suspended and/or required to leave the centre during the investigation.

Any complaint against the Acharya may be made to an Executive Board Member.

The investigator’s role is to:

  • Provide a sensitive and non-judgemental approach
  • Ensure confidentiality is respected and only share information on a need to know basis, having discussed this with the complainant. Concerns about safeguarding children and vulnerable adults will be dealt with under the Safeguarding Policies.
  • Recognise that the complainant might need time to decide what to do and may try different options during this process
  • Discuss measures to prioritise safety in the centre
  • Be aware of what support there is available and explore these options with the complainant. This will include the option of reporting to the police where a criminal offence been committed and referring into third party specialist agencies.
  • Explore whether the complainant wishes to be referred into therapeutic support, recognising that this should be an offer left open until the complainant is ready.

The Sivananda Centres will provide additional training for all staff with management and teaching responsibilities to enable them to identify sexual misconduct and respond appropriately, including in exercising their role as outlined above.

4.3 Ensuring support and safety

With the consent of the complainant, the Director or Acharya will undertake a risk assessment to lessen the risk to other SYVC participants and take whatever practical measures are possible to ensure all SYVC participants can participate fully in a safe and supported environment. The Director/Acharya will put in place an appropriate course of action to ensure that safety and well-being for all involved with the Centre is always prioritised.

In certain circumstances where the Director or Acharya decides that there may be a risk to others, a risk assessment and appropriate action may need to be taken without the consent of the complainant, however this will be done while respecting confidentiality and without reference to the complainant or their situation.

All SYVC participants can take steps to assist with creating a safe environment. By supporting a culture of openness and by understanding the impact of sexual misconduct, they can ensure that this behaviour is not tolerated within the SYVC Centres.

5. Policy Review

This policy will be reviewed and agreed by the Executive Board every two years.

Review due: May 2023.