Causes Of {and Solutions For} Yoga Teacher Burnout

Today I want to address an all-too common problem in our yoga world. Yoga Teacher Burnout. Do you have it? 

Here are the signs to look for:

  • You don’t have time to do your own practice and your body feels yucky.
  • You feel resentful of your students because they get to move their bodies in a way that feels good.
  • You’re sick of teaching the same old stuff, and are bored by your own classes.
  • Your self doubt is worse than ever. You’re sure you are teaching terrible classes and no one will come back to your class ever again.
  • When you look at your teaching schedule for the week you feel immediately overwhelmed.
  • You show up to teach and realize you feel frazzled and ungrounded.
  • You don’t make time to plan, and when you do, coming up with new, creative things to teach feels like a chore.

Here are some of the reasons I think teachers get burned out:

  • We are not making time for their own practice.
  • We think “our practice” has to be an hour of asana. {My opinion: It DEFINITELY DOES NOT.}
  • We are not staying firm in our own boundaries. IE: We let clients late cancel without paying.
  • We keep classes on our schedule that aren’t good for us anymore. We let schedule drama get the best of us. {More on this in a minute.}
  • We don’t know what fills or inspires us or we aren’t making time for it.
  • We think we have to constantly come up with brand new things to teach. {Spoiler alert: We don’t.}
  • We are in a conflicted relationship with ourselves and are being too hard on ourselves.
  • We are teaching at studios that don’t respect us, or pay us well.
    • IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: This is an overwhelming, systemic problem. As is the prevalence of Groupon Yoga, and the devaluing of our work as yoga teachers. As my friend Jennifer O’Sullivan wisely said, “Yoga teachers should be treated more like resources, and less like commodities”.  We need to have more conversations about the widespread issues with the current yoga studio model, but today I just want to focus on the little places that we as teachers have some personal control over this issue. This is not to victim blame, or to sweep the systemic issues our yoga world has under the rug, but I hope it inspires you to take more control of your life, right now, in small but meaningful ways.

Some ideas about how to prevent or heal from burnout…

  1. Good Boundaries:

  • Teach at places that treat you with respect. {Easier said than done I know, but it is possible to teach at places that value you. Unless you’re a brand new teacher, please consider giving up that class that pays you $15 an hour and asks you to be there 30 minutes early to check people in and stay 30 minutes after to sweep the floor.}
  • Charge appropriately. More on how to do that right here.
  • Say “no” to teaching opportunities or let go of classes that aren’t a good fit anymore. Keep a class if you can say a resounding YES to four of the below statements:
    • This class is incredibly challenging to teach and I am learning so much.
    • I LOVE the students in this class.
    • This class pays really well.
    • I LOVE the material I get to teach in this class.
    • I am making great contacts for private clients or workshop participants in this class.
    • I LOVE the studio space and studio owners that run this class.
    • Teaching this class is a seva offering that  fills my heart.
  • Keep boundaries of time and money super clear:
  • Establish healthy energetic boundaries with your student.
    • If you’re teaching a 60 minute session, don’t allow chatting to go on for more than seven minutes. {Come over here, I’ll show you how to do that, and tell you why it is important!}
    • Don’t overshare about yourself with your students. You must be acutely aware of the way your information sharing affects the energy in the room and whether or not it supports your student in their practice.
    • Before you open your mouth, ask yourself these questions:
      • How is what I am about to say going to teach them something?
      • How is it going to support them in their practice?
  • Create a cleansing practice for after you finish teaching. {I like to wash my hands, and then use my commute or 20 minute break to come back into my own body. {I’ll share more on this another time if you want, let me know!}
  1. Smart Scheduling:

  • Good teaching requires us to be generative and creative. Worrying that classes and students will dry up will keep us stuck teaching classes that aren’t good for us. Here is how you should know if you should keep or get rid of a class. Don’t keep classes you shouldn’t.
  • Get creative about other ways and other places you can teach.
  • Make sure to say yes to social engagements are are filling, but not ones that are draining.
  • Schedule one whole day off each week. Work towards having two whole days off. Bonus points if they are back to back.
  • Get more sleep if you can. Put it in the calendar if you have to.
  1. Well Digging AND Refilling:

  • Get support. Ask your studio owner to come take your class and give you feedback about your teaching. {They should want your teaching to continue to improve!} Ask other teacher friends to come take your class and give you feedback. Work with a mentor. {Hint: I’m going to have LOCAL IN-PERSON mentoring spots open for the first time in a few weeks! Stay tuned!}
  • Keep studying: not because you don’t know enough and aren’t good enough, but because learning is fun. {That is key you guys.} Study whatever you’re into right now, and let that excitement and inspiration lead the way! You can study essential oils, meditation, fascia, or anything else that you want!!.  If you are always learning new things, you will always be excited to teach your students what is inspiring you in your practice.
  • Keep it Simple. AND…You don’t always have to teach brand new things. More than anything what your students need is a teacher that is present and grounded. Simple practices can be incredibly powerful when they are offered by a teacher who is a calm and loving witness. I wish you could come to my group classes…I teach super simple sequences and practices! I think people respond to my classes because of the way I hold the space, not the circus tricks I teach them. {I don’t teach circus tricks!}
  • Create a sustainable morning routine that encompasses all the things that fill you, not everything you THINK you SHOULD do. {Want me to share mine with you?} I don’t think there is any reason your practice needs to be 60 minutes of asana. What movements and practices help you feel grounded and awake? You get to do that, whatever it is! You also get to teach that, by the way, even if it isn’t traditional asana. The way you move your body should always be regenerative, interesting and supportive. I want you to feel drawn to move your body in a way that is balancing. If you let yourself be drawn to your practice by desire, rather than by a SHOULD, I think you are much more likely to get to your mat and actually enjoy your time there.
  1. Dig Your Well and Keep It Full:

    There are activities that Dig the Well Deeper and activities that Fill the Already Deep Well.

  • Make a list of which activities help you deepen your well. That could be studying anatomy, working 1×1 with a mentor, meditation or journaling.
  • Make a list of which activities help you refill your already deep well. That could be sleeping for an extra hour, restorative yoga, reading a novel or quality time with girlfriends.

The same practice could fall into the Dig or Refill category at different times in your life. Your lists could be totally different from mine.

Make your own lists about what feeds you right now.

What feeds your desire for learning and inspiration and helps you dig your well? And what practices help you rest and restore and refill your well?

The best way to refill your well, my dear, is to refill your well.  🙂

The truth is, in order to be a skillful, successful and happy teacher you need both  time + space. You need time to rest and practice, and you need mental space to devote to deepening your studies.

This summer I am teaching a very special retreat just for yoga teachers that combines all of this into a few beautiful days in the mountains.

Each day will include one active asana practice, one mellow movement + meditation practice as well as lectures and workshops taught by myself and my friend Diana Zotos Florio.

Topics covered in lectures and workshops will include:

  • The Support Challenge Matrix: A Structure for Private Lessons {with Francesca}
  • From the Ground Up {with Diana}
  • How To Set and Hold Clear Boundaries {with Francesca}
  • The Core Cannister Model {with Diana}
  • The Yoga of Discernment: What It Is and How To Teach It {with Francesca}
  • Navigating the Nervous System {with Diana}

Click here to see a sample of our daily schedule and read all about the beautiful retreat center in the mountains! Early bird pricing {$100 off!} ends on May 15th!

So tell me, do you feel burned out on teaching? And, how can I support you?

6 Responses to “Causes Of {and Solutions For} Yoga Teacher Burnout”

  1. Gloria Lopez

    I love your blog and all the information you share. Thank you for your kindness. I would love to go and be with you all, but this July is a wedding. I hope you have another type of weekend event close by. I live in Texas and I am limited to Friday through Sunday. My husband is sickly and three days is my limit for being away from him. Still, that is totally my “cross”, so to speak. Please keep sharing and blessing to you and yours.

    • Francesca Cervero

      Thanks for being here Gloria. I am so happy this message resonated with you. I would love to connect with you in-person sometime; I know it will work out when the time is right. Sending you love. <3

  2. Betsy Paul

    I love your blog – you always provide such great information!! I do not feel burned out currently, but I have in the past. I feel burned out when I take corporate yoga teaching jobs that require that I travel 45 minutes each way and get paid little for all of the time it takes to plan the class, get to the class, teach the class and drive home from the class. I am doing less of that now. I have raised my corporate rates so that I don’t feel resentful or annoyed about all the time this takes. I also have taught enough that I do not have to plan as much; it is coming more naturally. I still feel a little annoyed when people cancel even if they do give me 24 hours notice. It is a fine line that I walk so that I do not let these feelings get in the way of teaching.

    • Francesca Cervero

      Oh, thanks so much Betsy! And thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. Yes, pricing your classes so that you don’t feel resentful is an important piece of this whole thing. What comes along with the feeling of annoyance when a client cancels in advance? It is a fine line because if you aren’t able to fill that slot with something productive it can feel like lost time. Is there a way you could fill that time that would feel meaningful?

  3. Gracy

    There are so many wonderful gems in this article but I particularly love the distinction between digging my well and filling my well. That makes so much sense and helps me to differentiate my self-care needs more specifically. Thanks for that and more Francesca!

    • Francesca Cervero

      Ah, yes, thank you Gracy!! That distinction really helps me clarify what I need and when I need it. It’s just another framework that helps me know myself, because it is always changing. <3


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