Yoga Burnout

How to deal with it and prevent it.

Brenda Byran

Avoid Yoga Instructor Burnout: The Two “A” Words

Two words and two words alone come to mind when discussing the topic of yoga instructor burnout. It’s a bit of a dive into the yoga deep end, but as students and teachers of yoga, that’s what we do. We dive in. So, let’s begin!

The First “A” – Abhyaasa

Abhyaasa means committed and sustained yoga practice over a long period of time. A strong commitment to doing our own yoga will do a number of things to help us avoid burnout.

As teachers, such a commitment will help us continually come up with new ideas to bring into our classrooms. As a personal example, every Monday night I do a two-hour home practice. Aside from the class I attend each week with my teacher, it’s the juiciest practice I do all week. Some nights I feel more inspired than others. But, the next morning when I go to teach my class, I find I always weave a few elements in from my practice the night before. Committing to at least one home practice each week provides teachers time to work stuff out on our own mats, create new ways to teach poses and come up with creative sequences.

The idea of abhyaasa also helps us to continue to look at our practice with fresh eyes. By seeing our own practice through an ever-changing lens, we will be able to see our students in a new way each time they come to class. We will be able to more clearly assess their needs and progress, helping both student and teacher stay engaged in the process of yoga.

A final word on abhyaasa: Meditation is the motherload for refilling your tank and, to me, is a key part of committed practice. I can’t tell you how many times I have taught some of my best classes when I was able to do a short meditation before teaching. It just puts you in the zone, and it’s hard not to enjoy teaching when you are in that place of total absorption. I truly believe a meditation practice might be at the top of the list for avoiding yoga instructor burnout.

Now, on to the next “A.”

The Second “A” – Adhikara

Take a moment to think about the very best yoga teachers with which you have ever studied. Now, recall what you know about their path to becoming amazing teachers. I bet they all have at least one important common characteristic – a strong commitment to adhikara or studentship. The best teachers are also deeply dedicated and enthusiastic students. From time to time I hear yoga teachers say they don’t have time to go to class or do their own home practice. These comments always leave me scratching my head. How can we teach others if we are not on the path of continual learning as students ourselves?

Being committed to your studentship is like a continuous refill of your own well, both as a student and teacher of yoga. New ideas will always be available to you to bring into your classroom. Your studies will help you stay physically strong, emotionally centered, intellectually sharp and spiritually minded – key qualities for effective and inspired teaching.

Think of the last time you went to a yoga workshop with a teacher you admired. I bet your teaching for a few days afterward was some of your very best. Trust me, I know it’s not always easy to carve out time for yoga trainings. We all have responsibilities and challenges (family, work, finances) that often prevent us from our studies.

But, by being a bit creative, you can easily overcome these barriers: download a podcast from a teacher you like; form a teacher mentoring group in your community, where teachers can come together to share ideas and support one another; set out on a personal yearlong study of one of the ancient yogic texts (from a theme standpoint, you won’t believe what you will be able to bring into your teaching from this endeavor!); pick a pose a week to work with and explore in-depth in your own practice – you’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn and be able to share with your students.

These are just a few ideas for ways you can cultivate your studentship.

While some degree of burnout happens to all of us at some point or another, if we want to stay fresh and inspired as yoga teachers, we have to be dedicated students first! From commitment to our practice and studentship, much bounty will flow into our own lives and classrooms.

Brenda Bryan, MA, RYT, is a yoga student and teacher as well as communications professional in the health arena living in Phoenix, Arizona. Her blog is Pose & Repose – a blog in celebration and exploration of yoga at http://poserepose.blogspot.com/.

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3 Comments»

  mary bruce wrote @

Hey Brenda,
It sounds like you’ve studied with Yogarupa recently! Thank you for the reminder and beautifully written!!!

  kelly wrote @

brenda, your post was really helpful! thanks!

  Brenda wrote @

Hi Mary,
Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve studied with Yogarupa, unfortunatly. I am planning a 2010 5-day for sure! But, yes … these sure are lessons from his teachings that have stayed with me. Also, covered these a lot with Meg B. in Immersions I and II over the last two years.

Kelly, Glad you enjoyed the post!
Blessings, Brenda


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