Self-care strategies for yoga teachers in light of Covid-19 – part 1

06 June 2020 | By Eleonora Ramsby Herrera

Many yoga teachers are now experiencing high stress levels and financial pressure – yet are still showing up to teach (virtual) classes in support of other people’s well-being and to maintain some income. In this first part of a blog series about self-care strategies for yoga teachers, I write about recognition. The industry is not perfect, and one yoga teacher cannot change it alone. Recognition is an important step in moving towards constructive solutions.

Introduction: Self-care for yoga teachers

Research and personal experience show us the positive influence that yoga can have on people’s general wellbeing. Therefore, it is understandable that many people are now leaning on yoga as a way to cope and care for themselves in the light of the stressful circumstances brought by government measures due to Covid-19.

While we know the positive affect that yoga can have on the practitioner’s wellbeing, there is little inquiry into how the wellbeing of yoga teachers is affected by their profession, especially when being under a lot of stress themselves. The implications due to Covid-19 has impacted on peoples’ lives in multiple ways and it has fundamentally changed the way in which everybody live their lives. In the context of yoga teachers, they have had to face a period of adjustment as they are continuously adapting to these changes in both their personal- and professional life. Many yoga teachers are now experiencing high stress levels and financial pressure, yet they continue to show up to teach (mostly virtual) classes in support of other people’s well-being,

This blog series seeks to address this issue in three articles.

  1. The first article aims to place the individual yoga teacher into a larger social context by recognising some of the professional challenges that yoga teachers are faced with.
  2. The second article invites the yoga teachers to reflect on their own role within their professional context and how it may affect their personal life.
  3. The final article of this series offers suggestions for constructive solutions that aim to support yoga teachers’ overall health both in their personal- and professional life.

This blog series is rich in content. Take your time to go over the material and to re-visit it. It is not meant to be a quick fix, instead it serves to encourage the cultivation of a process, and processes take time.

It is both personal and business

Teaching yoga as a profession is, to a high degree, tied in with the personal. Most (if not all!) yoga teachers are, through their yoga teaching, sharing a practice that is both personal and meaningful to them. The challenges that the yoga teacher is faced with professionally can easily pour over into their personal life. This is the case in many professions, but perhaps it is extra prevalent within a profession where one more personally invested in one’s work. The personal attachment that yoga teachers have to their profession, may also be a reason for why it can be difficult to know when to draw a boundary between; where one’s various professional responsibilities begins and ends; and, what those responsibilities should and should not include. When one is so passionate and personally embedded into one’s own work, it can be difficult to know when to stop and when to draw the line between personal and business.

It is much more than just teaching
The job title “yoga teacher” does not encompass the multiple aspects that come with the profession. In fact, the teaching plays a substantial small part in comparison to the hours spent on other job tasks. Some of these tasks may include marketing their work on social media; producing content for digital marketing; the upkeep of websites and newsletters; filming- editing and publishing yoga movies; writing blog posts; being an administrative- and project manager; keep track on bookkeeping; all while trying to maintain a self-practice and showing up in good form for when to teach a class. Not to mention, the added competitive pressure that the small-scale, local yoga teacher is facing against the large dominating yoga businesses and “yoga celebrities”. As a consequence, many yoga teachers are at risk of becoming overworked and burned out. In a wellbeing industry where the yoga teacher is expected to lead by example and model a healthy lifestyle, this can become a heavy burden to carry. This is especially the case during the Covid-19 pandemic, where the pressure for yoga teachers to perform and produce is perhaps higher than it has ever been before.

Constructive resources for coping is needed
This is a testing time for many yoga teachers whose income has been reduced next to zero and being self-employed does not provide the same financial safety nets that an employment does. In this moment, yoga teachers are eager to step in and offer their services, from a desire to support others as well as a need to find new ways to continue earning an income as quickly as possible.

Yoga teachers have been exceptionally creative in adapting their services and transferring them online as a way to maintain their professional activity, their visibility and a degree of income. They deserve to be recognised for their hard work and creative problem-solving. Yet what is even more important, is to offer yoga teachers professional coping strategies that can support their wellbeing in a work environment where the stress to perform and produce; and, the anxiety that comes with online exposure, can risk leading them to burnout. Never has it been more important than during these vulnerable and testing times. Thus, yoga teachers need to be provided with resources to care for themselves, both on a professional- and a personal level, in order to continue with their job in a way that is sustainable.

The yoga industry is not perfect
It is okay to recognise that the yoga teaching profession is one that comes with flaws and pressure. Recognising the reality of the industry is not the same as dwelling in negativity. Recognition is an important step in moving towards constructive solutions and it can further support the yoga teacher in feeling less alone and less helpless in their situation.

Burnout is often caused by the social- and organisational structures in which someone works, most of the time it is not solely down to the individual themselves. It is therefore important to put one’s experience into a larger context and view it with a broader perspective. This can alleviate the burdens and pressure and invite hope, agency and compassion towards oneself and one’s professional activity and development. The industry is not perfect, and one yoga teacher cannot change it alone. However, it is still useful to control what one can control, while making an active contribution towards changing the work culture that one is part of. Small ripples can travel far.

Continue reading in part 2 & 3 

The next two articles will invite the yoga teacher to reflect on their own role within their professional context and offer some practical suggestions that aim to support yoga teachers in establishing long-term self-care and coping strategies:

Inspiration for yoga teachers

Online yoga classes for self-care

15 min

Meditate with

Opening to loving kindness through a meditation of affirmation.

15 min

Meditate with

A guided meditation that supports you to connect with the ability to feel trust and patience.

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Photo: Stu Bishop

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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