As a yoga teacher, you will start to suck if you do not have a regular at-home practice. It’s important, probably the most important tool you can keep in your pocket, and that’s why I’m not sugar-coating it.
If you don’t have some type of practice daily at home, you’ll start getting into ruts. Teaching the same sequence over and over. Teaching the sequences that you’ve seen other teachers teach. Teaching what you think your students want and not paying attention to bodies. The best way to pay attention to bodies is to notice: how does this feel in my body?
Also, rest is essential.
I am about 75% complete with my 300-hour certification which means in about 3-4 months I’ll hopefully have completed my 500-hour yoga training. This has been an incredibly long 12 months so far, and I am not lying when I say I am ready for it to be over.
Not because it hasn’t been wonderful. It has. Not because there’s anything wrong with the training. It’s awesome, truly.
What happens to me when I am in the middle of these type of intensive trainings is this: I lose my practice, and I lose my love of yoga.
I finally got it back, over Christmas break.
In the middle of my yoga training this year, my work tripled in scale. I was not ready for that, and at the same time, thank everything in the world that it did. So my sweet work schedule turned into round-the-clock 7-days-a-week work, and I didn’t know how to breathe. At the same time, my mom was hospitalized, and then placed into skilled nursing, and if you know me, you know my family is my world. I was in Dallas for 6 solid weeks straight, driving back and forth in traffic and exhausted and trying to balance work and yoga and family. We had a lot of other things happen that’s not worth mentioning, but I’ll say, 2018 was not an easy year. The training was the icing on the cake: I couldn’t deal with anything else.
I slowly quit every single yoga studio gig I had in 2018: that’s from 3 different yoga studios and 1 pilates studio. I then turned down the opportunity to be the lead yoga teacher at a gym. And finally, I turned down the opportunity to teach at another studio in town.
And I’m back, dammit.
I had time to breathe, that’s all. My work slowed down for 3 days, and I had time to breathe. And I finally, finally got back on my mat.
My body is so sore. I’m a beginner. Downdog aches. Side plank really aches. Pigeon is almost unbearable. No way am I balancing or going upside down anytime soon. My body needs time to re-acclimate.
I have had a lot of time to think, though. In my car drives between Fort Worth and Dallas. When I’m up at night unable to sleep. When I’m walking through my neighborhood, trying to find some sort of a routine.
These past few mornings, I did yoga – like, the active part of yoga. The meditation part I got down, no problems there. The working through the other aspects of yoga, the yamas and niyamas, the 8 limbs, that’s always a work in progress. But the active part, I gave up on it, at home at least.
And that’s when I got to thinking: if you don’t have a regular home yoga practice, please, please do not teach. Give yourself a break from teaching. You will be no good to your students.
You’ll start saying the same shit in each class. You’ll plan the same transition from Downdog to Warrior 1 to Warrior 3 (or whatever your go-to string of poses is) without trying something new or adding anything to your sequence. If you’re not practicing at home, you’ll no longer be a creative teacher. You’ll forget what poses feel like in your body and you’ll not have the time and space to creatively and intuitively plan your sequences.
That works for some. I get it. It absolutely does not work for me, and I can guarantee you that it doesn’t work for the top teachers out there. No one wants to be in a stale yoga class, and no one wants to be led by someone who can’t understand what it feels like to transition from one pose to the next.
I went to a workshop last month held at Indra’s Grace, my current favorite place to practice here in Fort Worth, and another yoga teacher came in and sat next to me. We know each other, as we’ve ran into each other at other trainings in the past, but we’ve never worked at the same studio before. She asked what I was up to and without getting all into it, I just said: I’m taking a break from teaching at studios. She was thrilled, and said it’s a great idea, and she thinks all teachers should take sabbaticals.
I could not agree more.
As yoga teachers, there is massive burnout for every single thing that I’ve written on this blog 100 times before: money, time, creativity, taking on your students’ issues, working with multiple studios, marketing your classes, etc., etc., etc. Breaks are absolutely necessary in order to get stronger and become more aware as teachers. I didn’t know how much I needed the break, and many times throughout last year I had been extremely hard on myself for quitting all my studio gigs. And right now, after a week of incredible home practices, I can honestly say: I’m glad I did. I’m a better student right now, I’m a better listener, and when I get back out there, I’ll be an even better teacher.
Falling Down, and Getting Back Up - A Home Yoga Practice + Vegan Cinnamon Apples
- 5-6 apples I normally use Fiji but Envy and Honeycrisp also are great
- 2 tbsp. vegan butter
- 2 tbsp. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- Peel and slice the apples. In a large frying pan, heat the butter, then add the apples, sugar and ginger.
- Stir often so they don't burn, turning every minute or so. They'll cook up in about 10 minutes. Remove from heat when apples are soft, serve immediately.