Shine On – Yoga Teacher Burnout: What to Do When It Finds You

By Taylor Whitmore

Owner of ShineOn Yoga Studios

Teacher burnout is almost inevitable at some point in the career of a teacher, no matter what they are teaching.  This is especially true in the field of yoga. I’m here to tell you how to handle it instead of trying to avoid it.  Use the three techniques outlined below to find more harmony in your teaching practice with less risk of burnout.

Take Breaks.

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Change It Up.

Yoga teacher burnout is a real obstacle that many, if not all, yoga teachers and instructors will encounter at least once along their path.  Instead of trying to avoid burnout at all costs, use the steps below to successfully identify and deal with the problem.

Start out by identifying the source.

Often, the best way to deal with a problem is to identify the source.  There are many reasons why a yoga teacher may experience burnout:

  • financial stress,
  • physical and emotional stress from teaching,
  • mundane mat classes,
  • old material,
  • overused verbiage

The solution for one of these issues may not be the solution for another.  When we can look deeply within and sit with our discomfort, the layers of our unease begin to unfurl and the reason we no longer wish to teach may not be as difficult to remedy as we first thought.

Once you know where your burnout is stemming from, you are better equipped to deal with it at the source and bring more harmony back into your teaching practice.  These are the three main strategies I use when dealing with yoga teacher burnout.

Take Breaks.

When new teachers start their teaching journey they are often caught in this awkward phase of wanting to teach all the time and having little to no teaching experience, depending on their training program.  The best way to become a great teacher is to teach the first 10 classes within the first month of becoming certified.  To grow even more, try to knock out the first 40 classes as soon as possible.

However, don’t think it’s possible to teach classes back-to-back-to-back throughout your lifetime.  While it’s important to get the first classes out of the way quickly to build confidence and work out the kinks, this is not how successful teachers continue to teach.  Knowing your body is key.  Some bodies can handle teaching upwards of 10 hot classes a week, while other bodies need not teach more than a handful of classes.

Whatever your rhythm, find it and stay in tune.

Do not be afraid to take breaks in your teaching practice.  That may mean finding a sub for a week or taking a short-term hiatus to re-center and re-evaluate.

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When was the last time you took a class or workshop?

Teaching yoga isn’t just a job; it’s a passion for most.  Despite our best intentions as teachers to keep learning and growing, we sometimes end up forgetting to be students.  No matter where we are on our yoga journey there is never a time when we cease to be students.  When we forget this simple idea, we begin placing too much burden on ourselves; the burden to “get it right”, to be innovative, to keep being “better”, to be inspiring.

If all the information was there to begin with we wouldn’t have needed yoga teacher training in the first place.  Remind yourself of your roots and how you started your yoga journey.  Find a teacher you admire, whether it be online or in the area.  Take their classes and workshops, read their articles, find out who they learned from and who they love learning from.  There is never a bad time to learn something new.  Going back to the part of yoga that lights you up inside can be a perfect starting point.  Remember what you love about yoga and why it is important that you, as a teacher, are here to spread that message that so fully resonates within your being.

Incorporate your growing base of knowledge into your classes by adding new poses, breath techniques, and meditations.  Branch outside of yoga and incorporate new elements that resonate with your body and mind.  Maybe your friend took a great workout class that has new core-strength building elements that you had not thought of before.  Learn it.  Use it.

It is not always up to you to come up with exciting new things to keep your teachings relevant and inspiring.  Rely on your community and the network of yogis worldwide to keep your inner yoga fire roaring.

Change It Up.

Another roadblock that teachers may face is that of boredom or stagnation.  Humans are creatures of habit with up to 90% of our daily lives, including decision-making and speech, run on autopilot.  Keeping that in mind, it does not seem so odd that teachers would eventually grow bored with their patterns or styles of teaching.  So, my advice to you is to change it up a little bit.

If you teach primarily on the mat, challenge yourself to start taking more steps off the mat and around the room.  Spend more time practicing adjusting and engaging with students during a class.  The opposite also works.  If you find yourself always walking around and never practicing with your students, then try staying on your mat and focusing on your verbal cueing to work in those valuable adjustments.

Whatever you are doing, try doing it differently next time.  Growing minds need constant challenges to keep them happy and engaged, otherwise they tend to check out.  There are a variety of ways to spice up your yoga class and create something new, whether it is using new music, getting off the mat, or challenging yourself to teach a specific kind of class.  My favorite way to keep myself sharp is to challenge myself.  For instance, it might be fun to try teaching an entire class without a single downward-facing dog.  Choose a peak pose, a group of muscles, certain types of movement, or another fundamental aspect to teach in your class that you wouldn’t normally think of.  Step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.

These are the top three strategies that I use in my teaching practice to help deal with burnout.  Give these strategies a try before throwing in the towel.  It may take a couple burnouts before you discover the method that works best for you.  Just remember to honor your Self and listen to your body’s needs.

Below are links to other resources that may be helpful in dealing with burnout:

https://www.yogaalliance.org/Learn/Article_Archive/How_to_Avoid_Teacher_Burnout

http://www.yogajournal.com/teach/7-strategies-recovering-yoga-teacher-burnout/