As teachers and caregivers, we need to nourish ourselves. Because we give to others all day, our well can easily dry up. Although the Tantra tells us that we are always connected to an infinite stream of ever-flowing, abundant life force, our capacity to access this is limited.
Our access is determined by our openness to grace and our alignment with nature. In the philosophy of Ashaya, these limitations are natural. In fact, it is true we are limited beings – we get tired and at times feel depleted. Out of its own delight, the great universal energy chooses to limit itself, to self-conceal (sva prachodana), in order to have the joy of revelation again, to self-reveal (sva prakasa). This is the pendulum swing of life.
Nevertheless, as a teacher, I still get depleted.
I know I’m getting close to burnout when I start doing asanas with the students during class. This happened recently in Collingwood, Ontario during a weekend workshop. I didn’t sleep well the night before and I had been running on fumes the week before working intense hours in the office. I just needed to feel alive again (which is always okay). When I recognize this pattern, I ask myself, “What do I need right now?” The answer is almost always, “I need to become a student again. I need to do my practice.”
Teaching yoga on a daily basis can be so overwhelming and draining that we forget to nourish ourselves. But this nourishment is vital to our longevity and our capacity to be inspiring day after day. One of the ways I regain my energy is by studying with the Tantric scholars. I have a whole library of inspirational recordings of my teachers. One of my earliest teachers once said, “Teaching is not practicing. It doesn’t count.” You can’t really be a student when you are in the teacher role. As a student, you cultivate the skill of being receptive. I find it very relaxing to be told what to do and what to focus on. I can really let go. As relaxed as I can be most of the time when I teach, I still hold a subtle pressure of being responsible. This pressure is completely released when I allow myself to be a student.
To be able to be a student again, take a deep breath in nature, eat healthy meals, and establish authentic relationships is all that’s needed to find your way back to the wellspring of pure, positive energy.