Seven Ways to Prevent Yoga Teacher Burnout

Thirteen years ago, burnout brought me to the mat. I had no idea then the immense impact that yoga would have on my life—to the extent that I left my high-profile, high-intensity job of being an international peacekeeper traveling to dodgy locations, in order to become a yoga teacher.  

Many of you reading this article are likely already engaged in a regular practice of yoga. And chances are that it was some calamity—mental, physical, emotional, or otherwise—that initially brought you to the mat. Or perhaps it was mere curiosity. Whichever way, here we are!

Since my commitment to share the invaluable gifts that yoga has bestowed upon me with others, my teaching has taken me from at-risk communities into orphanages and prisons, from spectacular international yoga festivals to the living rooms of the affluent. Earlier on in my yoga instruction career, there were days when, in addition to at least one studio class daily, I was teaching up to five private clients.

As fellow teachers will appreciate and agree, by the time we come to stand before our students, inviting them to bring their toes and heels together, inhale, exhale and soften their shoulders, we’ve already put in several hours’ worth of prep time. For me, the actual instruction is the simplest part—though simple is not synonymous with easy. A student choosing to enter a yoga studio and step on a mat brings great vulnerability, and one never knows how this may reveal itself. It takes courage, faith, determination, discernment, humility, intuition, wisdom, and, above all else, love to show up, be present, and hold space for up to 90 minutes, regardless of whether you’re teaching one person or a thousand people.  

To me, teaching yoga is so much more than a job—it’s an immense blessing and a deep privilege. And, as such, it requires large doses of accountability and responsibility. The power of yoga extends way beyond the limits of physical exercise. 

One of the other things I’ve noticed, over the past few years of being a full-time yoga teacher, is that when your passion is also your livelihood, you just keep on keepin’ on, like an Energizer Bunny. And that can lead to the kind of burnout that first led us to the mat.

Because the offering of yoga demands that we tap into every facet of our being, we need to be especially mindful that we are taking exceptional care of our mind, body, and spirit. In other words, we need to practice what we teach. Given the nature of our business; i.e., self-awareness and self-regulation, we can be confident that we already equipped to prevent our burnout.

Here are a few gems from my self-care toolkit.

Manage your time: This is especially important if your teachings take you across town, across the country, or traipsing the planet. As much as possible, schedule time for decompression between major gigs to let your body and soul recharge.

Fly healthy: If traveling by air, make yourself as comfortable as you possibly can, drink copious quantities of water, and bring along your favorite healthy snacks and essential oils. Amp up your vitamin intake—Bs, C, and zinc in particular.

Rest: If time differences or sleep deprivation throw off your biorhythms, try yoga nidra. It works!

Stay committed to your own practice: Carve out your “hour of power,” at least 60 minutes in which you get to delve into any aspect of your practice that calls to you, preferably in solitude.

Get bodywork treatments: Make this a regular part of your maintenance; a massage, Reiki, facials, steam baths, saunas—whatever helps you to unwind.

Spend quality time with those who are important in your life—your partner, family, friends, pets, etc. And non-yoga friends—they’ll stop you from taking your yogic self too seriously!

Finally, laugh out loud: A lot!

Find out about upcoming programs with Nadine McNeil at Kripalu.

This post was originally published on Nadine’s blog.