Even yoga teachers can burn out

George the pug knows how to relax

George the pug knows how to relax

Even yoga teachers can find themselves on the floor, exhausted and in a puddle of tears not knowing quite what to do or how they will teach. Even yoga teachers can be caught off guard by aspects of ourselves that aren’t entirely helpful. Aspects we thought we’d figured out and healed. We are only human after all.

Its a great reminder that part of our yoga journey is the experience of getting to come closer to what makes us tick. Coming closer to the brightest parts of ourselves that we perhaps shy away from, but also coming closer to the discomfort of aspects that don’t serve us so well yet still drive us forward unconsciously.

Have you ever been in a pose and felt that drive to push harder to reach your toes, rather than let go, stay with the breath and not strive so hard? An unconscious forcing that maybe shows up in other aspects of your life outside of yoga?

Or perhaps you feel that rush of grace as you hold a balancing pose like dancer, only to catch a glimpse of someone else you think is doing it “better” than you and  have your balance go as you fall out of the pose with an inner voice reminding you that you’ll never be any good at yoga. A voice that is familiar when you get brave and step out of your comfort zone in other parts of your life?

When we stay with the breath and observe ourselves in each pose we have an opportunity to glimpse those unconscious patterns that can be running us, going unnoticed all day. Yoga is the opportunity to come closer to ourselves.

Students and readers of this blog may or may not know that before I was a yoga teacher, I was a graphic designer for around 13 years. I still do freelance design work to supplement my yoga teaching along with working one day a week at an organic store. Teaching yoga is something I do for love, not the money. I had some highs and some lows in my old life as a full time graphic designer. I truly love design work and being creative. Deadlines, working 60+ hour weeks, having no social life and endless neck, back and shoulder issues – not so much.

For me, my ability to work hard, fast and get a job done at all costs with attention to detail allowed me to be a great graphic designer. But what made me a great graphic designer also provided my biggest blind spot.

Self care.

I’ve come a long way since those old days of epic stress, chronic pain from being stuck at a desk for long hours, eating poorly, not enough rest and definitely no self care. I have put in a lot of work on the mat and off to heal my body and find balance again.

But blind spots can still sneak up on us. They serve a purpose to teach us something, reveal an aspect we still need to heal. For me always seems to come back to self care and not letting my drive to work harder make me blind to a deeper need to take good care of myself.

These days its not just for myself, its for my students, my partner, my family and friends. If I am not taking good care of myself, then I am not showing up as my best self as a yoga teacher, wife, daughter and friend. Things are out of balance. Where there is imbalance then I get exhausted, run down, sick and lose my way.

I’ve been working a lot more hours doing graphic design in the last couple of months to supplement my yoga teaching. I started out well, balancing my design work and yoga with self care to allow me to show up in all aspects of my life as my best self. It worked really well until the last 3 weeks I let my old patterns show up, that sneaky voice that says “work harder, self care is indulgent, a luxury, keep going”.

Guess what happened? I got run down, my tank got low, I got exhausted and sick. I had to cancel yoga classes for the first time since I started teaching group classes. I ended up on floor, in tears, exhausted, feeling like a failure, that I had let my students down and my graphic design clients in the lurch.

Truly though, this was an opportunity to see that above all that I had simply let myself down. I had moved away from myself. It is a gentle (and slightly embarrassing) nudge back in the right direction. Back towards truth. My truth will probably always be that I need to practice self care and that when I don’t, I pay a big price.

Teaching yoga fills me up and is an act of loving service that provides a sense of purpose that was always missing during my old career. But to teach I must look after myself first so I can show up and hold space for my students to explore their blind spots on the mat too.

So in humbleness, this week I’ve added in an extra body therapy appointment, upped my meditation, prioritised getting to bed early, planned to eat some meals with my husband and hopefully will squeeze in a walk with my dogs (something that I miss dearly but never seem to have time for). Baby steps back to looking after myself.

My hope is that in sharing my vulnerability and my truth, this blog post might inspire you to look with compassion and kindness at any areas of life that could be your blind spot. To gently ask yourself if you need to slow down. To lovingly say no (or perhaps yes) to something that will give you some mental or emotional space to show up as your best and highest self in other areas of your life. To simply pause for one full, deep, belly breath and ask yourself “what do I need?”

With love, blessings and self care

Felicity

4 thoughts on “Even yoga teachers can burn out

  1. Sending you love and light for your period of self-care. Everyone only wants the best for you because we know you genuinely want to be the best ‘you’ for all of us. That is inspirational to me, so thank you (on so many levels 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for sharing, it is good to know you are taking baby steps and working within your own mantra. You are a wonderful yoga teacher, and have taught so many new aspects of yoga, I never knew about. Yes I think that we all need to take time for ourselves and look at the wider picture of health and well being. I enjoy your weekly sessions that you have been able to provide and opening your home to your students.
    Namste.

  3. Thank you for sharing this. By taking care of yourself, you’re living out the values you’re teaching and that only makes me admire you more.. not think any less of you for cancelling a class when you’re sick or need to rest. I’m reading a wonderful book at the moment called “The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working” – I think you’d like it… We’re not machines and when we don’t get enough rest, everything else gets out of sync and crazy.

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