We yoga teachers cherish the work we do, but teaching yoga takes energy, compassion and heart. And this can be hard to sustain on a daily basis, especially if we have our own issues going on. Teaching yoga doesn’t give us immunity from personal difficulties. In fact, yoga and meditation practices are self-enquiry practices. They serve to highlight the work we need to do on ourselves, and give us tools to deal with the issues that arise.
Yoga teachers take note: taking care of yourself is not an optional extra – it’s a non-negotiable act of self-love. Because if you don’t nurture yourself, you’ll deplete your energy and your ability to nurture others will suffer, which will be reflected in your teaching. Self-love, as demonstrated through acts of self-care, makes you a better teacher, which makes your work more sustainable and joyful.
So now you know why you need to practise self-care, here are a few ‘how tos’ to help you nurture yourself.
1. Make taking a break a habit
It’s ironic that when you need self-care the most, you believe you don’t have time for it. Make time. ‘Show up’ and embrace small rituals for a few minutes each day. Generally we work odd, unsociable hours, so refuel with a quick meditation, yoga nidra or somatic movement to help sustain your energy. When you’re comfortable with your daily self-care habit, add in a monthly self-care commitment, such as a massage or spa treatment. And stick to it.
2. Food is fuel so fill up with the good stuff
When your body feels nourished, healthy and recharged, so does your mind. Preserve and maintain your energy levels by planning food shopping and healthy meal preparation into your weekly schedule. Always take time to eat your food mindfully, without distractions. Slow, calm eating helps you appreciate flavour and aids the digestion process, allowing your body to better absorb nutrients.
3. Maintain your personal yoga practice
Many of us live in a whirlwind of classes, and it can be easy to let our personal practice slide. But it’s so important to practise what we teach. If you’re touting yoga every day, then live it. If you’re preaching that it’s important to mix dynamic yoga classes with yin practice, make sure you’re doing it. Through your personal practice, you’ll reconnect to the reasons you teach and be able to give your students your best.
4. Make time to step off the mat
Although maintaining your personal practice is important, activities or interactions outside of yoga keep your perspective broad and engage other parts of your brain. Figure out what floats your boat and sparks your creativity. Other forms of fitness? Dance? Music? A weekly book club? Refilling your cup with other activities can inspire your yoga teaching just as much as hitting the mat for practice. Which leads me to my next point…
5. Notice when devotion becomes an unhealthy obsession
At times, us teachers can become unhealthily obsessed with yoga. Whether it’s trawling social media for the latest yoga trend or rushing through back-to-back workshops to try and stay ‘ahead of the game’, having your yoga blinkers on means you’ll fail to stay grounded and rounded. It’s easy to compare yourself to the perceived success of others, but far more important to put yourself back in the shoes of the student (because we’re all students of yoga). Give yourself permission to unfold slowly as a grounded teacher, embedding and embodying your practice. This might mean a taking a part-time job to sustain yourself financially and maintain a healthy overall balance. Reduce the feeling of being a ‘fraud’ (and the stress this can cause) by being an embodied example to your students.
Until next time fellow yoga teachers, take care. You owe it to your students, and to yourself.
I’ll be discussing the importance of being an embodied example to your students in my upcoming 50-hour Yin yoga teacher training module. Early bird pricing now available. Click here to learn more.