graph from the survey

(Not) Moving on from yoga teaching

On 14th July, I am due to teach the last yoga class in my schedule. This isn’t an end, but it does mark a certain evolution that has been happening for the last couple of years. I’ve been teaching actual yoga classes for a long time, but recently, as you probably know, I’ve been doing more training, research, writing and academic work.

The issues that excite me now are bigger than a general yoga class. I work with yoga teacher trainings across the world, talking mostly about what might be called the yoga ‘humanities\’: ethics and history, philosophy and pedagogical practice. That work is a virtuous circle: the more I teach in those settings, the more I understand and the more I have to share.

I kept one or two classes of my own just to keep my hand in, if you like. But in the past two years, I’ve been dealing with multiple health issues. I’m coping well, but gaining three diagnoses has been a wild ride, and now not only am I disabled, I’m dealing with the menopause too. I’m changing, and I need to focus all my somatic attention on learning what it means to be healthy for the long term, as I age with these conditions.

So I’ve decided for at least a year I will not be teaching bodily practice on a regular basis and secondly, I am leaving behind a regular ‘yoga’ practice to see where my body wants to take me. I’m swimming a lot, and walking even more. I\’m going to miss the students who have shared this journey all the way to this point: the young people at Fairfield College who kept practicing with me through the pandemic, and the small and intimate Rowde yoga class who laughed through the whole PhD with me. Storm will miss you too.

But again, I talk to a lot of yoga teachers, and I realised how common my situation is, and how little talked about.

“One week after studios reopened and about a month after COVID, I had a collapsed lung.” – Pamela W., Paris, France

Teachers who are well respected thought leaders have told me they are burnt out and have nothing more to give. Teachers who have taught for decades have said they haven’t wanted to keep up with an ever-changing profession. And more than one post-menopausal teacher has told me that during the most intense part of the change, they stopped practicing for a year or more.

“Having invested so much time, effort and money in this path I loathe the thought of letting it go.” – Anonymous

I think ambivalence is part of the yoga teaching condition. I also know how difficult it is to research people who no longer do a thing. But I think I might be uniquely placed to try, in this case.

So I am trying to see something. I don’t think there has been a mass exodus from the profession of teaching yoga, but I do think that a number of long term teachers have moved on, and I think understanding the reasons why is useful and interesting. The past couple of years have been exceptionally tough for a lot of people, and yoga teachers are no exception.

“I could not see how “reforming yoga culture” could be an efficient or honest use of my time.” – Anonymous

If you are/were a yoga teacher who has taken a temporary or permanent break from yoga teaching in the past few years, please complete this survey:

The questions are designed to help you to be reflective about your journey, motivations and experiences. As such, it may take 10-30 minutes to complete, but it is my hope that the process will be of benefit to you. This data will be used to inform future research and training by myself and trusted partners. It may also be used in publications. Your words may be quoted.

“I move when I need to. I sit quietly when I need to. But the daily practice of movement and meditation is gone.” – Kimma Stark

But with that in mind, if you fit the profile, please consider taking the time to complete the survey. And if not, please share with others? I think this might be important. It’s certainly getting a lot of interesting responses already.

“It felt like a relief to not teach and have more time for self care. I do miss teaching and maybe I’ll go back but it’s fine.” – Anonymous

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