The fine art and practice of yoga gets us in tune with our bodies, minds, and spirits. As a yoga teacher, it may be easy to push past your own body’s limits, as you may sometimes center your focus more on your students than yourself. This is part of a teacher’s path: learning how to balance your needs and desires against the needs and desires of those who come to you seeking guidance.
Because you also have commitments you want to keep beyond the studio, you may also have a variety of other concerns—family, relationships, finances—that may challenge you mentally and emotionally to stay focused on your own physical well-being.
Whether your professional and personal lives are thriving or not, you may be tempted to teach more often than your body wants, or you may not take the time out of the classroom to fully unwind and be in balance with other aspects of your life. Try the following activities when you feel like you may be getting too caught up in external expectations at the sacrifice of your inner balance.
If you haven’t meditated lately, today is a good day to start. Through quieting your mind, you’ll be best able to feel if your body is in balance with the external demands upon you. Check in with yourself through meditation. If you find you’ve been pushing yourself too hard, make sure you allow yourself time to slow down, just as you would encourage your students to do.
To paraphrase a popular zen saying, “Meditate for a half hour. If you’re too busy, meditate for an hour.” It’s those times in our lives when we are feeling most pressured that we really need to step away from everything and go within. From this removed perspective, you can get fresh insight on the issues you face, whether new or old. Without taking a step back, it’s much harder to determine what your real priorities are. Slow down, step back, and return to your daily life reinvigorated.
Remember that what you tell yourself about yourself is important. Treat yourself the way you would love to be treated. While negative self-talk may flare up when we get challenged, use kind words of affirmations during times of higher stress.
If your body is telling you it’s tired and sore from overwork, give yourself the permission and self-kindness to be nurturing to yourself, and slow down. Let go of self-criticism and self-doubt, and allow yourself the sweetness of Child’s pose—or take comfort in your other favorite postures—when you are feeling off-kilter.
We can often be our own worst enemies, rather than our own best friends. By remembering that you deserve good treatment and compassion like everyone else, you’re more likely to stay in better balance as a yoga teacher, and as the wonderful person you are, on a daily basis. Be gentle with the body that is such an integral part of your life-long passion so it can continue being a wellspring of strength for you.
Each time you show up to the mat, you’ll show up in a new space. No two days are the same, nor are any two practices. It’s easy to become so engrained in routines that we forget each day is distinct from the day before. Instead of falling into your habits with a posture or a class, allow yourself to meet yourself from a fresh place each time you step on the mat.
Be open to what your body is telling you now. Don’t think about yesterday or even 10 minutes ago. Your moods, attitudes, and needs from each day will range over time. Don’t let yoga become mundane. Meet your breath and the moment anew.
Give your attention to what your body is saying in this moment without comparing it to any other. Just because you were able to hold a certain posture, or go deeper within a posture yesterday, doesn’t mean it will be the right thing for you to do today. With an open mind and an open heart, you’ll be able to tune right into what your body, mind, and spirit needs right now, and become a better teacher through your willingness to really be in the moment.