Avoiding Burnout as a Yoga Instructor
Today, I want to talk about new teacher/yoga teacher burnout and how new or seasoned instructors can avoid it. This also isn’t just for yoga instructors. It could be for fitness professionals as well! I could also title this: DO NOT DO WHAT I DID: The Becca Thomas Edition :) But let’s paint a nice little picture for you.
You’re a newly minted yoga instructor, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed… ready for the world and to teach anyone/everyone yoga. You’re going to SAVE lives one chaturanga at a time. Eager to teach at the drop of a hat, you agree to teach 3-6 classes each week.
Some of them are paid, others were pitched to you as fundraisers or teaching opportunities to grow as a new instructor. Some you’re getting paid $10/hour after you calculate the transportation, prep and class time. But you’re still working your full-time job during the week and of course, you gotta get into your favorite classes.
Soon, you find yourself wondering why you said YES so enthusiastically & kind of dreading to go teach. Or, you find yourself so drained, emotionally (and physically — even if you’re not demoing a ton!) that you have no time for yourself and kind of want to sleep forever but you gotta do it all again the following week.
Then, you find yourself NOT practicing yoga or curating all your time into making perfect yoga playlists. One day, you finally burst into tears when someone asks you how you’re doing or why you seem ‘so stressed’ even though you teach and take yoga….
I’m definitely not talking about myself.
I will say that everyone has their own ‘breaking point’ or threshold in which they can handle juggling work, life and side hustle. For some, it means they are only teaching 1-3 classes a week. Others, it could be upwards from 5-7 classes a week. Personally, it was important for me to teach as much as I could in order to gain experience and I felt grounded in many ways by teaching, even if I wasn’t practicing. But alas, that can only last for so long, as soon I found myself teaching as many as 10-12 classes per week and I was tired. Emotionally. Mentally. Physically. My full-time job really required me to be “on” most of the day, and it was energetically draining (while it also filled me up). My day-to-day at work was not predictable because I worked in a school environment so I couldn’t bank on zoning out at my desk to do work each day like I had in the past. Add in injuries anytime I tried to find myself back onto my mat or exercise and I was pretty miserable.
Below are some tips that I have for new or even seasoned teachers to stay sane and avoid burnout:
Carve out at least one day that isn’t about teaching yoga. For me, that’s Sunday. I don’t teach late afternoons on Saturday, so I love being able to hang out with friends on Saturday night if we make plans. On Sunday morning, I go to the Farmer’s Market with my squad, not think about yoga unless I truly want to go to a class, hang out with friends or make an intricate recipe for dinner or lunch.
Say yes to opportunities that fill you up and create joy. Even if the class time isn’t great or you don’t have 30+ students in each class, you still leave feeling joy and inspired! Keep these classes because building these meaningful relationships with students is so very important!
Say no to opportunities that drain you. Maybe the class just doesn’t jive with you or you’re leaving wondering what just happened over the last 30,45,60 minutes? Feelings of dread or doom and gloom before teaching that one class over and over again is a sign that maybe you need to re-think the class.
What is your tipping point? Trust me, you’ll know when you hit your tipping point. You can always add more classes, but if you plan your day hour by hour, do you still have time to be a person outside of the yoga/gym/studio?
Find a self-care routine that supports you to be the best teacher, person, etc. Face masks, baths, eating well, journaling, sitting alone and in silence, enough sleep, taking a training or class with a favorite teacher… what brings you back when your cup is running low?
Continue to practice yoga. Better yet, find teachers that push your teaching, learning, and self-inquiry. Find your teachers and keep practicing! This was one of my biggest (if not biggest) mistakes as a new teacher (still am). Not carving enough time out for my own practice was detrimental. Not just physically, but my mental capacity for yoga and everything else was tough without something to come back to!
Create a support network to lean on in case you do need a reprieve. If you do find yourself feeling burnt out, can you reach out to anyone to cover some classes for you while you recover for a day? Are there friends or family you can chat with? Or some yoga friends?
And here is some great advice from other instructors/fitness professionals when I polled folks on Instagram:
Jess G. - 1. Start your day for you (meditate, read, slow coffee sips, etc). 2. Schedule self care into your calendar and keep your promise to yourself. 3. Work the 80/20 Principle - focus on jobs that pay you well because your effort and work is valuable and should be compensated accordingly.
Julie M. - I know I’ve done too much physically when my body needs more than eight (8) hours of sleep which is my norm.
Rachel R. - It’s important to take some time to yourself to regenerate so you don’t burn out. You can’t give 100% if you don’t feel 100%.
Brendan S. - I always try to incorporate something new in class that I’ve been working on. It’s really important to practice for yourself and with your community. Above all - have fun!
Now it’s your turn! Yoga teachers or fitness instructors, what are some ways that you avoid burnout or share your story! I’d love to hear from you.
PS: This week, I will be creating a short (2-3 page) FREE e-book for instructors to find/create yoga teaching opportunities for themselves! Add your email to the list to get notified FIRST when this hits mailboxes via my contact page!