Many yoga teachers and students suffer burnout: the 21st century stress-related phenomenon that is becoming more and more common in our often hectic and demanding lifestyles.
Burnout is that feeling of mental, physical and emotional exhaustion that comes from continually pushing yourself to the limits — it could be work, yoga, friends, commitments, studying, partying, social media…or a combination of everything. It leaves you feeling drained and zapped of energy with nothing left to give. Everything seems like a struggle and you feel like your head is about to explode.
The initial thrill of qualifying as a teacher after months of hard work, coupled with an eager desire to share yoga with the world can easily result in taking on too many classes. Combine this with trying to balance your new vocation with existing commitments and it is easy to see why many yoga teachers are exhausted and live beyond what is a healthy balance.
Having burnt out numerous times myself over the past few years, I’ve become much more aware of my energy levels, how to recognise the warning signs early and how to look after myself.
The Energetics of Burning Out
Burnout is essentially an overload of masculine, or yang, energy: the doing, the achieving, the forcing, the striving, the chasing. In order to bring this back into balance, try introducing some more feminine, or yin, practices that allow you step back, slow down and nurture yourself. Below are six strategies that I’ve found to work, that when done regularly, make the chances of burnout much less likely:
1. Make Time for Self-Love
Making a commitment to look after yourself and honouring how you feel is not selfish. If you’re feeling frazzled, then the people around you will be feeling it too, likewise when you are feeling happy and energised your students, partners, friends, family and colleagues will all benefit too.
Take an honest look at your weekly schedule. Is there anything that isn’t necessary and that drains your energy? There’s no need to feel guilty about saying no to things that don’t inspire you – it’s another act of self love!
2. Prioritise Sleep
Sleep is a precious time when your body heals and rejuvenates. Try to go to bed an hour earlier than normal for a week and notice the difference in how you feel! If you’re having trouble drifting off, use some powerful natural soothers such as lavender oil on the pillow, chamomile tea or valerian extract to help you drift off.
Most importantly avoid screens in the last few hours before bed — they overstimulate our nervous system and make it hard to transition smoothly into sleep mode.
3. Nourish Your Body
You can’t be at your best if you are running on empty. Nourish your self properly by fuelling your body with high-vibrational foods throughout the day to keep your energy topped up and allow your body to support itself.
Avoid processed foods that are high in ama — or toxicity — that drain your body of energy. Instead, choose foods with high prana (life force) – such as freshly prepared organic fruit and vegetables. Too much sugar and caffeine can cause intense highs and lows for your body and disrupt hormones.
4. Nourish the Mind
Meditation is proven to increase calmness, relaxation and heal the damage caused by the consistent activation of the body’s stress response that fuels burnout. A regular meditation practice needn’t be complicated — even five minutes in the morning of consciously observing your breath can positively impact your day. Many people find that with a consistent practice they create the mental space needed to be at their best.
5. Nourish Your Soul
Write down five things that you LOVE doing. How often do you actually do them? Whatever it may be, from a relaxing bath with Epsom salts and oils, to a massage, a restorative yoga class, a dinner with friends, gardening, reading a book, taking a long walk – whatever it is that makes your feel alive and gets the prana flowing – do that!
6. Switch Up Your Routine
A change of scenery can be so powerful for shifting perspective, creating the space you need to recharge your batteries and leave you feeling inspired. If you’re not able to take a short trip somewhere, then even just going for a walk breaks you from your normal routine and shifts your energy.
Avoid Burnout and Shine Your Light
Preventing and managing burnout all comes down to maintaining a balance. If you have been over-doing it, make sure that you keep your self-love levels topped up, slow down and create space in your day just for you. Different methods will work for different teachers — it’s about what works for you that matters. Once you have worked out what helps you to feel good and keep your energy levels in balance, not only will you benefit enormously, but it will have a halo effect on everyone around you.