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Self-care strategies for yoga teachers in light of Covid-19 – part 2

10 June 2020 | By Eleonora Ramsby Herrera

Research shows that caregivers are at risk of experiencing caregiving burdens – therefore is important for the yoga teacher to reflect on what they consider their professional role to be. Doing so could help to confirm what their current job description is and to act accordingly. What is the duty of care within your role?


This blog article is part two of three about self-care for yoga teachers in light of Covid-19. Read the first part about Recognition here!

Introduction

The stress that yoga teachers are facing in light of Covid-19, both personally and professionally, is high. Despite this, yoga teachers continue to show up to do their job by providing a (mostly virtual) space to support the wellbeing in others. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that yoga teachers apply sustainable coping strategies to ensure they can maintain their workload while also caring for the upkeep of their own wellbeing.

This blog article is part two of three, of Self-Care for Yoga Teachers in Light of Covid-19. The last two articles in this series will suggest some basic coping strategies that aim to support yoga teachers’ wellbeing while they continue to provide their services to students. Rather than presenting yoga teachers with a “how to list”, these two articles invites the yoga teacher to take a more in-depth and reflective approach to inspire them towards developing their own sustainable coping strategies.

Teaching yoga is a caring profession
An important factor to consider when developing coping strategies, is that the yoga teaching profession, in the broadest sense, can be considered a form of “caring profession” that aim to serve others. It is important to make the distinction that teaching yoga is certainly not a caregiving profession in the sense where one provides care to someone who would not be able to function without the care, like in the case of a dementia caregiver or a medical doctor. Nevertheless, the profession offers a significant degree of care to students of yoga whenever yoga is taught in a manner which supports the yoga student’s wellbeing in some way or form. It is safe to say that no yoga teacher wants their student to finish class feeling worse that what they did before class started!

One may argue that the responsibility of care lies solely in the hands of the student as they are “caring for themselves” by showing up to your class (in person or online). Nevertheless, the teacher is still providing a space in which the student can do so, thus the teacher is contributing directly and/or indirectly towards their student’s care. Whether this care is on the lower- or higher end of the scale is another question, but regardless of that, the so called “caring space” created by the teacher is still of significant importance. This is why teaching yoga can and should be acknowledged as a moderate form of caring profession.

Now why is that important? Research demonstrates that professional- and informal caregivers are at risk of experiencing caregiving burdens such as stress, fatigue, pressure to perform. These burdens can have a negative impact on a caregiver’s psychological health. Although these caregiving responsibilities far exceed that of a yoga teacher, one can still assume that a certain level of burden may emerge for the full-time yoga teacher that risks putting their wellbeing at stake. This is especially the case if both the professional- and personal world of the yoga teacher is under great strain.

To shed some light on this, it can be helpful to reflect on the following questions:

  • Can you identify any caregiving burdens within your profession? What are they?
  • How do these caregiving burdens affect you?
  • How do you respond to them?

What is the role of the yoga teacher?
With the aforementioned in mind, it is important for the yoga teacher to take inventory and reflect on what they consider their professional role to be. Especially since the yoga teacher’s job most likely include various tasks. One’s professional role is something that can easily be taken for granted which risks one to bypass the more subtle aspects that make up one’s profession. Any yoga teacher, no matter their experience, would benefit from regularly reflecting on what their professional role is and what it entails. This can help clarify their job description and then act according to that.

  • What is the duty of care within that role?

Once you have a clearer picture of what your role as a yoga teacher entails, you can begin to identify areas within your professional role which include elements of care towards the students. Doing so can clarify how you express care for others within your profession. As you acknowledge your current picture, do your best to keep an open mind towards any questions or concerns that may appear.

  • What degree of care, and what kind of care, do I wish to provide to students?

Write down short and precise answers in a bullet point format. Limit your answers to 3-6 points. The more specific you are, the more useful it can be. This brings you to the next question, which is key in putting things in action:

  • How do I choose to provide care towards yoga students in my class?

You can then use these points as a framework which you operate within to help you maintain clear boundaries within your own personally designed “duty of care protocol”. These professional boundaries become an important navigation tool when managing your time and energy.

Holding space for students and oneself
Once you have reflected about what your duty of care is for your students, place yourself in relation to that and consider what your duty of care is towards yourself.

Let us assume that one central aspect of a yoga teacher’s role is to hold space for others in the context of a yoga class setting. In a yoga class the space is shared between teacher and student, yet it is still the teacher that serves as the anchor in the room. The teacher provides a space where each student can have their own experience and then guides them through a class from beginning to end. What is important is that once the teacher have finished teaching the yoga class, they step back into their own personal space and hold this space for themselves. This is an opportunity to recharge your batteries and nourish yourself in ways you know best. With this in mind, what can be worth asking is:

  • What can you do to hold space for yourself?

One option could be to write up a duty of care document for yourself, and another one for your students. Oscillate between refining the two until you feel that they are both in harmony with each other.

Why is reflection important?
The purpose of developing and conducting coping strategies, is to re-learn certain actions and behaviours in order to live life in a more constructive, fulfilling and sustainable way. However, our learning will bear little fruit if we do not apply reflection into the equation. Learning does not solely happen by doing. In fact, we learn best when we reflect on our own experiences. Without reflection, a coping strategy risk to become just another superficial list of “how to’s” which does little in creating a deeper change of longevity and substance. Additionally, having a strong sense about who we are within our profession and what our role entails, can help us to approach and develop strategies with greater integrity, wisdom and depth.

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Photo: Carla Rey Christen

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Eleonora Ramsby Herrera

Eleonora teaches Hatha Yoga, Meditation & Trauma adapted Yoga. She has taught yoga since 2008. She is a Senior Yoga Teacher with Yoga Alliance Professionals (UK) and registered as an E-RYT 500 through Yoga Alliance.

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