Dr. Sage Rountree: Sustainable Yoga Teaching
“Practice becomes firmly grounded when well attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.” – Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, trans. Swami Satchidananda
As a yoga teacher, you’ll serve your students best by developing and maintaining a sustainable teaching schedule that you can continue not just for months, but for years, and in classes where you can bring your full devotion and earnestness without interruption. This sets the conditions for your students to develop a yoga practice that can have a profound effect on their lives.
But new teachers, or teachers making the transition to a full-time career in the field, can be tempted to over-commit to teaching too many classes in too many places, winding up with a schedule that ultimately depletes their energy resources and leaves them less than enthusiastic to teach. This is a shame for the students, as they suffer from having a teacher who’s not as present and energetic as she or he might be.
As a teacher trainer and studio owner, I see teachers fall into this trap of over-extension too frequently. I encourage our staff to develop habits that will allow them to bring their full energy to each class for years to come. Here’s some advice on developing a sustainable schedule.
Sustaining Your Schedule: Space
Traveling all over town to teach at several different studios can quickly deplete your resources. (It’s also not the best behavior for the environment.) Make a map of your teaching locations, and take a hard, honest look at your schedule. Of these classes and locations, which feed your soul, either because you can tell you’re making a big difference in students’ lives or because they give you joy and teach you more about the practice of yoga? Which pay you best? How can you condense your schedule so that your more reasonably limited travel delivers maximum impact for your students?
Sustaining Your Schedule: Time
To develop a schedule that will be sustainable over time, think in terms of prongs. Slot classes not on consecutive days, like Monday/Tuesday, but on alternate days, like Monday/Wednesday, or Tuesday/Friday. This allows students to come twice in one week while protecting their energies so they can rest between sessions, and it does the same for you. Most importantly, schedule yourself two non-teaching days each week. Better still, have them be consecutive days. They may not be a traditional Saturday/Sunday weekend, but having a five-on, two-off schedule will give you time for deep recovery between efforts. If you have someone you care for at home, try to coordinate with your partner and family so that you have at least one of these non-teaching days when you all can be together.
Sustaining Your Schedule: Energy
If you can’t remember the last time you went to another teacher’s class, it’s been far too long. Part of sustaining your enthusiasm and skills for yoga teaching involves continual study in the field. When you don’t take in teaching and continue your development, your teaching can become like the stale recirculated air in a stuffy room. Studying with other teachers, then filtering what you learn through your own home practice, introduces fresh air into your teaching—and your students win.
As you adjust your schedule to something that will be more maintainable in the future, include some time to take classes that encourage you to grow, to rest, and to develop your own practice. This attention to self-care will give you the energy to continue to teach for a long time, without break, and in all earnestness.
~ Dr. Sage Rountree, prAna Ambassador
Dr. Sage Rountree is an internationally recognized authority in yoga for athletes and an endurance sports coach specializing in athletic recovery. Her classes, training plans, videos, books, and articles make yoga and endurance exercise accessible to everyone. Her goal is to help people find the right balance between work and rest for peak performance in sports and in life. An Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher at the highest level (E-RYT 500) with the Yoga Alliance, Sage is on the faculty at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. Her nationwide workshops include weekends on yoga for athletes; trainings for yoga teachers on working with athletes; and running and yoga retreats. Her students include casual athletes, Olympians, NBA and NFL players, and many University of North Carolina athletes and coaches. Sage competes in running races from the 400m to the ultramarathon and triathlons from the super sprint to the Ironman. She holds coaching certifications from USA Triathlon and the Road Runners Club of America, and she writes for publications including Runner’s World, Yoga Journal, and USA Triathlon Life. She lives with her husband and daughters in Chapel Hill, NC, and co-owns the Carrboro Yoga Company and the Durham Yoga Company.