Teaching Clinic: Bikram Burn-Out

For all the eager trainees coming into the last weeks of teacher training, it is nearly impossible to imagine feeling stagnant and uninspired by Bikram Yoga. But for even the most devout teachers, after teaching for a few years (or months) burn-out is hard reality.

Joseph Encinia teaching photo: Bennie Shapiro

In a community that embraces, promotes, and rewards daily practice, doubles and a full immersion into all that is yoga, not feeling love for the practice becomes a burden that many carry in silence.

Vesna Jarcevic, owner of Bikram Yoga Red Tree thinks it is important to consider how burn-out effects us as teachers. “How are we going to explain to our students how to stay in the yoga room, or with Bikram Yoga for years, if we as teachers are having the same problem?” she asks.

For many, the answer is not always simple. In the Fall 2005 Teacher Training, Craig Villani said that most Bikram Yoga teachers burn-out after two years. Many leave teaching for other pursuits, scale back their classes or begin teaching other forms of yoga.  Still, there are those push to persevere through their doubts and seek ways to regain their inspiration.

Senior Bikram Yoga Teacher Diane Ducharme, recently identified three causes of burn-out on her “Bikram Yoga For You” Facebook forum :

  1. Teaching too many classes per week, sometimes out of necessity. Everyone has a number of classes they can COMFORTABLY and JOYFULLY teach. Stick to that if possible. You can always do more on a TEMPORARY basis, but take care of yourself first.
  2. Not maintaining a personal practice OR practicing too much like these 100 day challenges. First, take care of yourself.
  3. The most important one I’ve found is not teaching with the dialogue. This by far is the biggest reason teachers burn out. They go in there every day and “make it up.” That requires a tremendous amount of energy. Saying the dialogue is not only a meditation for the student, but also for the teacher. When you are not feeling your best physically, you can, with little effort, get in there for 90 minutes and say the dialogue and teach a very safe and good class.

A fourth reason why many teachers get burnt out is professional conflict. Spending a lot of time at the studio surrounded by co-workers often blurs lines of professionalism, making it difficult not to take things personally. This, coupled with low job security can make it personally challenging to deal with certain situations. If at all possible, it is important to communicate clearly with co-workers and owners and teach in studios with a positive work environment (often easier said than done).

For different reasons, falling back in love with the yoga can take time, patience and perseverance. Here are some tips from Toronto’s senior teachers about overcoming burn-out.

“Practice, practice, practice. The more I practice the more I love it. It helps the teacher/student connection while teaching, making it more meaningful for everyone involved.”Jocelyn Doyle, Bikram Yoga Toronto

When you get bored looking at the canvas,  it is often from focusing on the canvas as a whole.

In that moment step in, examine at a micro level, and find the one brush stroke that really grabs you. One that seems brand new- though you know you’ve seen it a million times. With this new-found clarity and understanding something seemingly small but exciting, you can start from scratch. And once again, you can behold something grand unfold on canvas before you.

What may seem daunting is the search of finding that first stroke.

But it is there; perhaps to be found in a word, sentence, or idea in the dialogue, a change within your own practice, or inspiration justly drawn from a student’s growth or accomplishments.

When you do find this new bud, growth begins again, and behind it may lie a whole new field of flowers …or as my pal Sting always tries to ram down my throat, perhaps even “Fields of GOLD.”Damien Smith, Co-Owner Bikram Yoga Toronto

Read Books.
Attend Seminars.
There is never enough time to say it all in 90 minutes!!
If you get “burnt out” or Bored..
Then YOU are BORING!!!!

Janice Guertin, Owner Bikram Yoga Forest Hill

I’m gonna sound like a Bikram broken record but….GO BAAAACK. Seriously, hitting up TT, a seminar or anytime with Boss has been the #1 revitalization in my teaching career. – Dana Moore, Co-Owner Bikram Yoga Toronto

Add a little GIN to your water bottle lie down at the front of the room in savasana and start teaching… Just kidding!

Some times we feel burnt out, but you have to remember why you are there: to help all the cranky, burnt out, lazy students that walk in that room. No matter how bunt out we are, our students are normally more burnt out than us!

As a teacher it’s always a good idea to tell your self you’re awesome because some one will always have something bitchy to say about your class. No matter what, love yourself and do the best you can that day! David Mook, Teacher: Bikram Yoga Toronto, Bikram Yoga Forest Hill, Bikram Yoga Centre

Visit Bikram studios other than the one(s) you’re usually at and take a variety of other teachers’ classes not only in the city where you live, but especially whenever you travel.
You’ll keep in good shape on vacations and gain many valuable insights from the variety of teachers’ experiences and knowledge you encounter all over the world! You’ll also be able to steal many many great jokes and pawn them off as your own.
Andrea Blakey, Teacher: Bikram Yoga Toronto, Bikram Yoga Forest Hill, Bikram Yoga Centre

My advice:

Accept that we are bored and have nothing anything against it.

To stay teaching (like to stay in the room when it is hot) and still be useful to those who need us

To get entertained by how bored we are and not to judge ourselves for it until the boredom disappears, and it will!

It will go the same way as it came.

-Vesna Jarcevic, Co-Owner Bikram Yoga Red Tree



Filed under Bikram Yoga Centre, Bikram Yoga Forest Hill, Bikram Yoga Red Tree, Bikram Yoga Toronto, Daily Feature, For Teachers, Senior Teachers, Tips and Tricks

9 responses to “Teaching Clinic: Bikram Burn-Out

  1. Hayley Wells

    I love this! very helpful

  2. BikramTeacher

    The core of the problem with teaching too many classes “out of necessity” is trainees just spent, let’s say somewhere around $10,000+ for the teacher training (some of them admit this was their life savings). Although it is a yoga we all believe in, it is very hard to stomach the ugly fact that coming out of training you will be asked to: teach classes for FREE – some studios still demand upwards of 10 classes without pay – YES, this actually STILL happens. Or, $25 for the first 10 or 20 classes. And then 3, 4, 5 years into your teaching career you will still be offered $45 at a studio you’ve never taught at before, simply because you’ve not taught there before. And if you’re lucky $50, maybe even $55 dollars a class. And even at an established studios there are answers like “Well, that’s what everyone gets paid.” Think of any other job, the opportunity for reviews and the potential for raises comes sometimes every 6 months to a year, as your performance and job knowledge increases, so does the potential for you pay. 8 classes a week at $50 a class is 20,000 a year.

    Oh, and let’s not forget, yoga teacher wages come without benefits/health insurance.

    What’s the solution?

    Getting a return on your investment is not without the risk of blood, sweat and BURN-OUT. The sad reality and solution to the problem is that teachers MUST hold down another job to survive in the real world (read: rent, auto payments, gas, food, heat, electricity).

    Having another career inevitably removes you from 100% dedication to teaching, without fail. Because you also have to answer to another boss, other stresses, deadlines, overtime, etc and be expected to be fully present there as well. It is very challenging to do both. It’s exactly the same as teaching too many classes, the burn out is unavoidable and certain to happen. Trying to keep up a personal practice as well through all of it? Phew.

    And yet, we still do it, out of pure love for this yoga.

    I truly believe that teachers can get burn-out from giving so much of themselves and their own spirit, and while the satisfaction of the joyous faces and lives changed is wonderful and gratifying for the soul, it just doesn’t speak as loudly as the “PAST DUE” stamp on the electricity bill.

    (4th year Bikram Yoga Teacher)

    • hank

      excellent point – why aren’t teacher’s part of a union? – as they are often being exploited by the studio owners

      • MissP

        Totally agree with you there BikramTeacher AND Hank. Why has no union been set up yet? Were is the rules set out to take care of our teachers. Its a yoga were teaching, it should be yoga thats involved in everything we do, karma yoga baby.

  3. TeacherLover

    Rock on BikramTeacher! So well put! Everything you said is true and is what keeps me away from TT, and ultimately Bikram as a whole. Bikram needs to spread the wealth a little (charge less) and change the studio operation culture(encourage studio owners to pay appropriate wages).

    How frustrating is it to pay 10k$ for a professionaly training program that almost invariably means you will live below the poverty line… AND be surround by yogis that drink 2 X 3$ coconut waters a class and obssess about every overpriced health food craze that comes around (Açaï juice anyone?)

  4. Great article and very important issue to address not only in yoga but in many fields. Love the pic too.

  5. R

    I own a school in northern europe. we pay our teachers between 45 (just back from training) and 65 (after a couple of years) euros per class, this equates to approximately 55-80 dollars per class. we pay for a portion of national health insurance (required by gov’t), give 20 paid vacation days, and pay for a ’13 month’ which means an extra month of pay per calendar year. we offer 100-300 euros per year per teacher for ‘further education’, which means seminars and such, take them out to a nice dinner twice a year, give them a bonus at christmas, we pay value added tax of 6%, income tax of >50%, yet we still make enough to have a very decent life and have fun. we do expect more from our teachers (sign in students, practice 5 times a week, etc).

    just thought you would like to hear one actual situation

  6. Marta Ruiz

    Anyone interested in teaching in trieste Italy?…

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