I had my first acupuncture session the other day. Truth be told, the first one was many years ago and my experience was uncomfortable so it took me that amount of time to try another. When a friend of mine offered to help, I decided to take her up on it.
One of the things she noticed was that the quality of my pulse was “wiry.” In Chinese Medicine terms, a wiry pulse can also be described as “hard” or “taut,” like a guitar string. In reading a bit about it in Total Health the Chinese Way by Esther Ting, PhD and Marianne Jas, MA, she describes a patient with this as one that she viewed as extremely healthy but under the surface was overworked and one who pushed herself hard in both athletic activities and lifestyle. I read it and realized this made perfect sense to me. I could relate!
Anyone reading this who is teaching yoga as a full time endeavor can relate to the idea of feeling overworked and stressed. All this flies in the face of the work we do, of course, which is to cultivate balance and health in our students. This makes it all the more critical that when we have a sense that our health is in jeopardy, that we take immediate steps to remedy it.
The additional challenge for any yoga teacher is that we are not only in the business of teaching yoga but of “being of service.” What does this mean? It means that we are there for our students, not only physically to teach but emotionally to support. And, while we always want to keep healthy boundaries in place, being “of service” means that we are in a position of giving OUT our energy. It means our needs take a back seat to our students needs. For instance, if we’ve had a stressful day, we still need to show up and teach. We need to put our thoughts and feelings aside in order to teach the class and be there for our students.
Over time, this energetic dynamic will wear on even the most balanced individual unless steps are taken to restore the “withdrawals” that are made from this “energetic” bank account. How we do that is often an individual choice but there are some things you can try that might help.
These things include:
- Massage or acupuncture
- Time in nature
- Time with friends
- Time away from yoga
- Eating healthy, nourishing foods
- Watching a funny movie
- Reading a good book
- Taking a day off
- Getting to bed early
- Asking someone for help
The most important thing to be on the watch for are warning signs that you’re headed for burnout. These can include:
- Requesting multiple substitutes for your classes instead of teaching
- Expressing frustration around students
- Gossiping to other teachers about work
- Showing up at the last minute to begin class
- Constant worrying
- Trouble sleeping
As teachers, it’s important for us to be our own healers. We have to be diligent about our own health otherwise we can’t teach and help others. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is take time off. Taking time away from teaching and practice can be the best way to restore energy. Also, taking time to be a student by investing in training is also a great way to re-energize and re-inspire yourself. No matter what form of self care you choose, make a commitment to practice it often so you can show up to each class the best version of yourself—that energy will rub off on your students and it will spread like wildfire. You owe it to yourself and all of those you hope to serve.
Photo by Evan Forester, used with Creative Commons license
Karen Fabian is the founder of Bare Bones Yoga. She is an author and host of her own TV Show, “Living Well” on the Boston Neighborhood Network. She’s a registered yoga teacher and has been teaching since 2002. Her first book, Stretched: Build Your Yoga Business, Grow Your Teaching Techniques was published in July 2014, and is available on Amazon. She is also a regular contributor to several online publications, including MindBodyGreen.com and DoYouYoga.com. Her academic background is in Physical Therapy, Rehabilitation Counseling and she has her Master’s in Health Care Administration. She teaches classes in Boston as well as children and athletes in training centers.