Yoga Burnout

How to deal with it and prevent it.

Hilary Lindsay

Man in the Mirror

“If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change”
Artist, Michael Jackson

Michael died and his music was everywhere. Eyes closed in savasana while I’ll Be There played softly through the speakers and I saw Michael’s eyes closed too. He was laid out in E.T.s white space chamber coffin. I saw him through the glass window as his heart sent out an orange light and began to beat like E.T.’s did in the movie.

Michael changed the musical world and his music shaped the yoga class I taught Monday night and that yoga class changed my direction with a little added help from Emilie Conrad.

Yoga is a collaborative effort between your teachers, your students and you. And that’s the way it evolves. If you’re lucky enough to get a fluid teacher who is aware of the nature of her students and capable of channeling energy from her teachers, stick around.

Teachers don’t always materialize in the flesh. Some of them come through the media, books, music. Music reflects a state of mind for the time it’s written. That’s huge if you’re using music to evoke an emotional state. It’s also a responsibility as you’re also going to inflict your taste onto your students. It should be reflective rather than arbitrary. However what is reflective to one person may not work for another so when channeling the energy of the music you need to intuit the biggest picture, the largest common denominator. It takes an aptitude for improvisation. It takes the ability to be brave or reckless enough to create without boundaries.

I heard of Continuum, Emilie Conrad’s therapeutic work, years ago and perceived it as movement that transpired from passively letting the breath, gravity and energy move you. That was simplistic but it did inspire me to work with intuitive movement as I became a yoga teacher. I got a bigger picture by reading her work and watching a documentary about her after taking her morning workshop recently at her studio in L.A.. Growling, hissing, pulling in and pushing against the force field: Primal movement in all planes pulling from the connective tissue and flowing on the body’s waters. Yes, you waited for it but nothing was passive. You might call it gut wrenching which is why I went for it in a tribute class to Michael using music that played to him and music that he played. I couldn’t tell you what we did or repeat more than a minute of it because it was not conceived but generated by collaboration with my muses. It was really refreshing which beats all these days. Who is refreshed?

I was ill advised to watch a couple of yogis do their flow thing on a video recently. They had skill, no doubt, and could assume each posture with precision; each repetitive posture to repetitive music, repeating, repeating until it felt like I’d been rubbed raw to distraction. It felt like watching the North Korean army goosestep for miles. If something doesn’t feel good to watch, you probably don’t want to do it and these people made me feel sick.

I have a student who is also a teacher and often my teacher as she is a brilliant scholar of all things yoga. She is easing up on her cigarette smoking which she calls “dark pranayama”. She says that people aren’t addicted to the tobacco as much as the pranayama of smoking. So I gave it a shot, adding the finger mudra of lip pressing to the drawing into tight lips deep into the lungs and letting it all go and could see her point. I shared that on the phone with my friend, teacher, and student, K-lea who was an Iyengar teacher in Nashville before she took off to become a real yogi, as she says, on the 80 acres she’s farming. People perceive K-lea as a laconic Iyengar rule follower but they don’t know that she’s a creative genius. As I was talking, she pictured a class inspired by the dark pranayama and went on to unfold a glorious experience which transported us both to the place where we had just completed that class through our minds into our bodies.

I’ve wanted to quit teaching so many times, times when I feel like there’s nothing left to say, no posture that pleases me enough to do again, to do the same way or to the same people. My greatest challenge has been to stay in the game long enough to resuscitate. Something will reignite my interest and I’m off and in love again. That’s when I know I deserve to call myself teacher.

Thank you Michael and thanks Emilie for the light on Monday night. Thanks to students, teachers, writers, thinkers, artists everywhere who ignite me to draw inspiration. I step outside the box I’ve created once again. I remember that I create the space and no space has to imprison me.

Hilary Lindsay has created yoga programs for corporations, choreographed videos for celebrity clients, works one on one with high profile clients, teaches comprehensive yoga classes for children, empowering classes for teens, and inspired instruction for adults. She has been covered by popular magazines and television shows and continues to work for a variety of publications as a yoga expert.

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