Years ago, when people would ask me if I wanted to be a yoga teacher, I would adamantly tell them, “no.”
As the reason for this sentiment, I cited the fact that a market over saturated with yoga teachers, all churned out by yoga teacher training programs and lax certification standards, have created a hyper-competitive marketplace with minimal financial viability for individual teachers or independent studios. That’s right, I played the “business 101” card.
And while absolutely valid, this rationale was not actually the reason I didn’t want to teach yoga. I have an enjoyable career in the insurance industry for which I am incredibly grateful and I have no intention of leaving it–unless of course, they make me. This “day job” also pays the bills quite nicely; therefore, I have the luxury of practicing and teaching yoga without the dark cloud of financial return on investment. This makes it a hobby not a job.
Nor is fear of failure a reason not to teach. I’m much too driven, and in some ways obtuse, to even register fear in many situations. This has proven to be both a blessing and a curse in my 41 years.
The honest to God reason I haven’t wanted to become a yoga teacher is the fear of burnout.
My yoga practice is the antidote for burnout in other areas of my life; namely family and that insurance career I love so much. Corrupting yoga by turning it into another job with more responsibilities, where I am expected to serve as a teacher rather than be served as a student is a risk I haven’t been willing to take–until now.
Remember that thing I said about my being too stupid to be worried; that applies here. I only worry about things for so long before I either do the thing to see what happens or I just forget it and move on.
In this case, I’ll just do that thing I’m worried about and see what happens.
Thankfully, once I’ve decided to take the risk and do the thing, I never move forward without a plan. Because burnout during teacher training is my main concern, I have developed a plan for avoiding burnout and I’m going to share it with you all here.
Avoid Burnout During Yoga Teacher Training
1. Know why you are doing it & have a plan
Believe me when I tell you that the first thing you will ask yourself when you are two days in to a five day power vinyasa teacher training is, “what the hell am I doing this for?” You will then continue to ask yourself that for the entirety of your yoga teacher training program, and then well into the future. So, you had better have a solid answer; one that will convince your hungry, brutally sore, sweat-soaked self to hang in there.
You will likely also need to have an articulate reason to present to your significant other as they will be “picking up the slack around here while you are off doing your yoga thing.” You might even feel guilty about the time you are away from your family and the financial investment you are making in this venture.
For me personally, I came around very slowly to the idea of teacher training because I didn’t want to make the time and financial commitment if I wasn’t going to use the knowledge and experience. I also wasn’t confident that I would have enough opportunity to teach after I received my certification to maintain what I had learned and improve. In short, I was worried it would all be for nothing.
Eventually (it took me 5 years to decide) I pulled together a solid cost benefit analysis around the training investment and a plan for how I would leverage the skills I had so painstakingly acquired. After that, it was an easy conversation to have with my husband and myself.
2. Do less yoga
Yoga teacher training programs are ONLY for people who want to do a lot of yoga. If that’s not you, I’m sorry, you’re out.
Here is a list of the requirements for the Yoga Alliance teacher training certifications. As you can see, even the entry level yoga teacher registration requires 200 hours of yoga philosophy and practicum education. It doesn’t require any actual teacher hours, which is unfortunate in my humble opinion. Once you get into the 300 and 500 hour certifications, your life is pretty much yoga until your trainings are complete.
So since you are spending so much time on the mat, make sure you take every opportunity to get off of it. If you don’t have to go to a practice don’t. Stay home with your family or go do something productive like running those errands you haven’t been able to get to because you’ve been at the studio, away on a retreat, or too tired.
3. Explore different forms of exercise
To save you body from the risks inherent in too much yoga, adopt a different workout or physical activity during your training.
My training program requires me to maintain my regular in-studio yoga practice while I’m in training. I have a regular Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday studio practice with a few extra days thrown in here and there.
On the days I’m not at the studio I do a 3 mile run/walk; nothing spectacular, but it’s not yoga and that’s all that matters. Weight lifting, OrangeTheory, and CrossFit are popular among my friends at the studio. This may depend on the type of yoga you are studying and the nature of your studio practice.
The point is, let your body do something else so it doesn’t revolt during your 1000th chataranga.
4. Read non-yoga books
Teachers and teacher trainees need to be plowing through the yoga literature. If that’s not your thing, fear not. Most of the more popular yoga books are in audio format and youtube has endless yoga education content to choose from.
Yoga literature and research are my favorite parts of the practice because one resource leads to another and another and another. In the end, you see that everything is connected to a few main sources and that individuals have applied their own perspectives and creativity to develop endless variation in the practice.
And much like my recommendation that you vary your physical activity during teacher training and beyond, I recommend you give your brain something else to look at as well. Personally, I prefer fiction and comic memoirs as my mental break, but you do you. Here is a list of great fiction I recommend for your yoga reading breaks:
Shantaram: A Novel by Gregory David Roberts
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
5. Switch up your yoga practice
It seems to me that most people choose to certify through the yoga teacher training offered at the studio where they regularly practice.
In the past 5 years, yoga teacher trainings have become a staple in the studio business model because they theoretically offer more profit margin than regular class schedules. What that means for beginners or even intermediate yogis is that they may have a limited view of the different types of practice and teaching styles out there. Case in point, I practiced at my yoga studio with my current teacher exclusively for 6 years before I noticed there were other styles of practice and instruction.
Use this time to explore a wide variety of practice types and teaching styles. You may stumble onto something completely new that works better for you or you may just reaffirm your commitment to the practice you have come to know and love.
Either way, it’s important for yoga instructors to have a broad view of yoga practice and that can’t happen unless they get out there and experience and explore.
6. Give something else up
Adding a yoga teacher training program to your already busy life may seem like you are trying to pack 10 pounds of sugar into a 5 pound sack. You are and it won’t work unless you have less sugar or a bigger sack.
Recognize that yoga teacher training programs run for a finite duration. So determine what you can give up or stop doing during that time to make a comfortable amount of room for yoga. The best way to ruin a potentially amazing experience is to cram it in where it won’t fit.
This move is entirely dependent upon your personal financial situation and home life. If you are single and rich, you are all set. Otherwise, scheduling extra childcare, outsourcing your errands, or hiring a cleaning service so you can be at the studio more might put extra pressure on an already tight budget. It is still important to find a way to cut things out. I wish you luck with that.
7. Meditate more
Meditation practice in included in most teacher training programs and much like exploring other practice styles and studios during yoga teacher training, try to find time to expand your knowledge and practice of meditation.
They say a good meditation session is better rest for your brain than sleep. Your brain will need the rest as it absorbs new information and experiences stress related to real life and a yoga teacher training program.
Just because your yoga teacher is a great yoga asana instructor doesn’t mean he or she is all that great at teaching meditation. So get out there and expand your horizons.
8. Get more sleep
If it has been a long time since high school or college, you may have forgotten how important sleep is when it comes to your brain’s ability to process and retain information. Not to mention it’s ability to handles stress.
American’s currently get 40% less sleep than is clinically recommended for optimum health and wellness. Work toward 7-8 hours of good rest nightly. I’m not joking. This could be the most important change you make and be the difference between you having a pleasurable and product teacher training experience and a hellish breakdown. But you do you.
9. Learn from the burn
Explore the burnout and consider that YTT may not be for you. The experience of a student is different from that of a teacher.
If your endgame is to make money teaching yoga, then you will be in the business of creating an experience and delivering value that students want to pay for. If you plan to teach in a volunteer capacity or as a substitute, your yoga still needs to be legit or you will have trouble attracting and maintaining students.
A teacher’s role is to create and hold a space and experience for a student. A student’s role is to experience and enjoy that space. Being responsible for the maintenance of a student’s yoga experience might take the love right out of the yoga for you. If you experience burnout during a yoga teacher training program, it’s a good indicator that you may be better suited for the student side of the mat.