As yoga teachers, a huge part of our job is to show up fully for our students. But what do you do when your metaphorical “cup” is empty? You’re stressed or upset; maybe something in your life is creating sadness or depression. But you still need to show up for your classes and be there for the class.
As your teaching experience grows, you’ll have many times like these in your career. That’s the way life is; it has its ups and downs. This experience can really affect anyone, but for yoga teachers, it’s a unique challenge because we’re in the business of supporting others which can be hard when you’re feeling tapped out. (this is in other professions too).
So, here are a few tips to help you when life’s a bit challenging but you still need to teach:
- Remember that this too shall pass. Oh, god, this is such a tired phrase but it’s true. When you’re in the throes of a tough time, it can seem like the whole world is crashing around you. Have faith that with time, things will get better.
- Lean on your yoga practice. We teach the people that come to class about the value of practicing yoga from a physical and mental perspective. It’s time to take your own advice. If you’re finding it hard to make time for practice, take a close look at your schedule and book yourself time to take class at least 3 times a week.
- Look for the global lessons in your challenge. Teaching from personal experience is what makes your classes have depth, individuality, warmth and compassion. The key though, is to avoid talking about the details of your personal experience and instead, look for the global lessons and share those.
- Pull out some of your old books from teacher training. When I started learning how to teach, I had a number of books that fueled my training. Things like Deepak Chopra’s “The 7 Spiritual Laws of Success”, Eckart Tolle’s “The Power Of Now” and Marianne Williamson’s “Return to Love.” While these weren’t necessarily about yoga poses, they taught me so much about the spiritual side of my own life, how to stay present and gave me specific tools to help when things are tough. Re-connecting to these books will give you content for your teaching and help you heal.
- Stick with the basics. I have a general sequence that I have used for years. I vary it every now and again mixing in some different postures but the essence of it remains consistent (it’s true to the Baptiste Power Yoga standard sequence). I’ve found that when my head is swimming, it’s helpful to stay true to a standard sequence.
- Be respectful of your personal boundaries. As a yoga teacher, you’re there to guide and support people through their personal practice. This isn’t the time for you to share your personal stories about the challenges you face in detail. While you might be tempted to share your story in detail with someone in your class, resist. It will keep you focused on the task at hand and help you see that you can be a strong leader even if in your head, you feel like you’re falling apart.
- Take your own advice. Sometimes when you’re in the middle of a personal challenge, your experience colors what you say to your class. I had an experience a while back where I heard myself say something and I got choked up because it was exactly what I needed to hear. My friend said it was “spirit speaking through me.”
- Learn to appreciate the commitment you have. When you’re in a slump, you might feel like sitting in your house with the shades drawn. But the responsibilities you have will keep you up and moving. This will aid in your healing.
- Pick a mantra. Find something inspirational that’s a short saying. Something like, “Stay present” or “have faith in the universe.” Keep saying it over and over and it will literally bathe your heart and mind in good feelings.
- Pretend everything is all right. You might feel like a total fake, but so what. Part of starting to feel better is to act better, even when you feel awful. You may have heard the term, “Act as If.” This is a perfect illustration of this idea. Pretend things are ok, smile, interact with the people in your classes as much as you can and slowly you’ll start to trick your mind and body into feeling better.