How I Recovered from Yoga Burnout

How I Recovered from Yoga Burnout

How’s your practice recently? Keeping a consistent practice on the days you don’t feel like it is a discipline many of us dedicated yogi’s have adopted. The natural order of the universe is ebb and flow. Sleeping and waking, inhaling and exhaling, hungry and full. As yogi’s we are always seeking balance between the extremes. Last year, I threw balance to the wind and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.


For the past four years I have taught between 8 and 20 classes per week, never going more than a week without teaching at least one class, even on vacations. To be honest, I almost never felt like practicing after all that teaching was over. When I did feel like it I only wanted to practice gentle yoga, not the power vinyasa I taught. I forced myself to attend class about twice a week but my home practice became only to rehearse a new sequence. When I did have energy to practice I didn’t feel like going to my place of “work ” to relax my mind.


My body suffered. I began getting more aches and pains, I put on weight. My teaching suffered, I had nothing new to offer. I began turning to surfing more and more to find that same sense of connection to self through physical movement. The more I surfed, the more I wanted to surf and the less important yoga became to me. After time I grew to dread teaching and couldn’t wait to get in the water. I wasn’t drawing as many new students and the passion I once had just wasn’t there anymore. So I told myself I had to try harder. I put myself on surfing restriction. I was only allowed to go in the water as many days a week as I practiced yoga. I bribed myself to practice pranayama and meditation by making the connection to how much it would help my surfing. I kept this up for months, forcing the practice. I grew to like it even less than before. In fact, I started to dread it. It got so bad that just attending a yoga class made me physically nauseous.


So one day I gave myself permission to stop. I wanted to surf. I didn’t want to do yoga, I didn’t want to teach yoga, I didn’t want to study yoga. I wanted to surf. And so I quit. I quit everything. I quit teaching, I quit running a yoga studio, I quit organizing yoga events. I handed over my students to new qualified instructors full of passion who could do a better job. I packed three surfboards and 14 bikinis. I put everything else in storage. I traded my little car for a 4×4 and I started driving south into Mexico on a solo mission to find great waves, and maybe find myself as well.


Surfing requires more balance than most sports. The field on which the sport is played is an ever changing, patternless area of motion. To try to force your way to success by picking one way to ride the waves and trying to ride every wave in this manner would never work. You have to adapt to the wave. Even while riding it you are constantly changing your body in response to its motion. Your body cannot be rigid or stiff, you cannot fight it. You can only let your body absorb the energy of the wave and conform the body to the demands of the wave. When the waves are big and powerful you learn very quickly not to fight the natural order of things. You also discover how rewarding it feels when you allow yourself to flow with the energy.


It has been seven months since I crossed the border and I am still in Mexico. I surf an average of four hours a day. I haven’t earned a dime from yoga in months…and it has amazing to see how my practice has grown! I almost never go a day without at least thirty minutes of yoga and many days I spend upwards of two hours practicing. I can get into poses that I have never been able to get into in my life, I’m more flexible than ever before. I never feel like I should do yoga, rather I crave it. I can’t live without it. And if by some chance I don’t feel like practicing for a day, I don’t. Some days I do gentle yoga some days I kick my own butt with a power flow. I do what feels right in the moment. I’m accessing information from my physical body at an accelerated rate right now.  It’s as if synapses are connecting more quickly. I’m more clear than I ever thought possible. My practices are deep, occasionally finding myself in savasana for over 30 minutes when it seemed like five. I’m exploding with yoga love and can’t wait to start teaching again. But maybe just twice a week this time!


I once heard a beautiful metaphor that the universe is like a river flowing toward the divine. We are like corks floating in the river. The only thing that keeps us from experience harmony with the divine is when we reach out and cling to something. All we have to do is release resistance and watch all goodness flow into our lives.


Ultimately for me balance does not mean finding the midpoint between two extremes, but rather riding the waves with grace and complete surrender to the divine plan.