Burn out: we all experience this at some point in life whatever our profession. For yoga teachers, I guess you could say its a burn out that bites pretty hard because we don't make a whole load of money, or rather, to meet the requirements of living in London, we have to teach a hell of a lot. So you see the problem that arises. A lot of yoga teachers teach around 15-20 classes a week. I remember when I first heard someone say this was a lot, I scoffed, but that's because I was thinking of those hours as regular office hours, not factoring in the travel, starting before 6am and finishing after 9pm, the energy you have to give etc. It requires a lot, there's no doubt about that, however in this piece I am not going to add to the argument that we as teachers are overworked and underpaid, rather I am going to look into what it means to live as a yoga teacher in London.
Lately, my Instagram feed has been awash with adverts telling me how I as a yoga teacher am tired, poor and therefore sad, and need to sign up for their *free* seminar immediately to discover my true 'potential' i.e. how I can earn money whilst wearing pyjamas. Thing is, I actually want to be a yoga teacher. However tiring my job becomes, I do truly feel that because it is my calling in life, I am where I need to be and therefore, whilst I do have further ambitions within this calling, I don't feel that I am hard done by and I certainly don't feel lacking. I don't think other teachers do either, in fact I think the danger comes in our the prescribed culture today of doing less and achieving more, something that is heavily promoted on social media. Im ok with feeling a bit tired sometimes, its often the travel between classes that is tiring, but I know as soon as I get on my mat to teach my thoroughly dedicated students, I am lifted. Energy is so infectious, and as a teacher, you really do get what you give.
The flip side of this of course, is that you find yourself chronically tired and unable to give away any energy at all. That is ok. You have your own boundary and it is important to respect that, but it is also important to respect that of others too. I am often met with what can, at times, feel like micro aggressions; comments made with regards to my teaching schedule and how it's 'too much'. There was a time when that was true, when I was teaching in excess of 30 classes a week and given that it was in winter and I am exceptionally sensitive to the seasons, it was indeed, too much. But then I know teachers who teach more than this, and are single parents, or who hold down a full time job and teach early mornings and evenings. Everyone has their own limit, and it's important to be aware that not all teachers can afford the luxury of 'teaching less'.
I try to weave yoga philosophy into my classes, and since the honest message of yoga very often gets lost in this every expanding online community, I feel it is important to do the same with these posts. When I think of what it means to me to teach, I think of the concept of Seva. 'Seva' is the Sanskrit word that means 'service'. Not only does this inspire the way in which I teach my students, but I believe it to be the core of what yoga is about, selfless action free from attachment to the outcome. The honour of being able to do this and make a living from it makes me lighter and richer at the same time. Not rich financially, not in terms of how many followers you have (bought), but rich in spirit because I am truly doing what I love without concern with an outcome that benefits only me. Teaching yoga will feel like the short straw if you don't truly love it, it's going to feel like an immense effort if you're not prepared to give selflessly from the heart.