5 Things Learned from Teaching Yoga While Managing a Depression

Yoga teachers fall into a cliché. From the layman’s perspective, we’re seen as solitary, nature-loving, and in zen state 24/7. If only that were true. What most don’t realise is that serious practitioners of yoga are so because they are trying to correct something within them. That could be physical or mental most likely both. Unfortunately, I am not an exception. For the past 8 months I went down a rabbit hole of doubt, regret, and hopelessness. According to professionals, I have moderate depression. This means that my unhappiness is leading to lack of sleep, digestive problems, struggles with maintaining and/or expressing ideas, but not leading to suicidal ideation. In a nutshell, I need help but not treatment.

In this article you will read my story and some of the pointers I gave to myself in order to manage my state.

1. Recognise the signs before they become symptoms

If I were to look back and pinpoint how it all started, I would say that my depression started with an idea. A seed that implanted in my consciousness; nurtured by my thoughts. It was doubt. I was 37 and starting a new career. I thought that I wasn’t as marketable as younger teachers. My body or abilities were “impressive” as other instructors that have their future ahead of them. What was I doing with my career? These thoughts started to plague my mind on a daily basis. From there the signs followed. Insecurities rose, concentration became more difficult, my decision making was affected until finally holding meaningful conversations became a difficult task. Then came physical effects I would have episodes of insomnia followed by oversleeping every week. Afterwhich I would get over it and get some work done. A very vicious cycle. It was only when I started researching and looking inward that i recognised it as depression. If you are experiencing 5 or more of the signs above, consider the possibility, plant THAT seed in your head so that you could think of a way out of it.

2. Talk to a friend

Moderate depression is easy to hide. It’s a grey area which means it’s not obvious to other people. Including your inner circle. I became very good at compartmentalising my feelings to my students, even to my husband. Professionally I thought of it as playing a part in a play. Personally, I only allowed him to see that I was tired. It eventually became a game. The objective was: How far I could keep this going until they notice? I was good at it.

Moderate depression is easy to hide. It’s a grey area which means it’s not obvious to other people. Including your inner circle.

One day I came to terms with the fact that I was living a lie. So I told a friend. I chose carefully. One that was close to me but had his own life. I figured that he would check on me from time-to-time but not transform into a backseat driver for my own journey. It was enough. After a long talk It felt good to let that out. After that first step, talking to my husband became easier. It wasn’t an easy conversation because he expected to be the first to know but understood my way of doing things. Eventually he understood that I had to open up in my own time. Slowly, I started seeing some improvements. I gained my mental clarity followed by meaningful conversations without the mental blackouts.

3. Do something for you

Being a yoga teacher is a freelance job. You are your own boss. This holds much responsibility. You encourage and protect your students, promote the studio, your career, etc. Still before anything else, Your mind and your body are literally your business. We are bound to bring our work home every night. This inability to escape our environment can be very stifling. Which is why many yoga teachers suffer burnout. After coming clean to my family my first action was to find something to do away from work. A hobby. I looked into the circus arts because it was a different way to work the body, I knew the benefits of an inversion practice on the brain making it a main attraction for my choices. Most importantly, I would be a student again. That weight on my shoulders would be gone for at least 2 hours a day. It was the best decision I had ever made. It was like a director handing me a new role. As time passed I reaped the benefits of physical strength while learning new teaching techniques first-hand.

4. Clean a part of your house and make it your own

My husband is the king of organisation. This was his advice. Take a space in the house and make it yours. Clean it well, make it a sanctuary. I decided to make a home office space so I have a place to write, organise my classes, keep a diary, etc. a place that’s mine in the house. In doing so, I started writing for myself as well as for Momoyoga. It was a small area but I felt safe. I was able to gather my thoughts. I worked out my problems after I got home. From here I started creating routines; a very good sign that you are managing your state.

5. Forgive yourself for the bad days

As I describe the process I went through these months, you should know that this was anything but linear. I didn’t go from point to point. Life is much messier than that. I had many dark days. There were moments when I felt like sabotaging my progress because I didn’t see the point in taking action. My advantage was that as a yoga teacher, self- pardon is a credo we adhere to. Whenever I lacked the drive to do anything or self- destructed a part of my progress, I faced the regret and let it go because that’s really all you can do at that point. Forgive yourself. Be kind to your soul after you made a mistake. Acknowledge that it happened and then let it go. It was difficult at first, consequently each time I went through the process it took less time to get over things. This cycle is very important as it will carry you from one step up to the next.

Forgive yourself. Be kind to your soul after you made a mistake. Acknowledge that it happened and then let it go.

If you are going through anything like this don’t forget to recognise the signs. Open up. I know this its hard because its one a first step. Tell someone a bit distant from your first-degree network. After this do something away from your work. Whether it’s a spa day, taking up a new hobby, or a simple walk in the park, treating yourself to something is a physical act that represents you deserve happiness. To help this along you should create a space for yourself at home. Free from judgement, a place to relax to set your mind free. Last but not least, forgive yourself for the bad days.

These days I still can’t say that I’m fully healed. I probably never will be. The thing is I’m ok with that now that I know I’ll keep working on it. Good Luck and namasté.

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Jennifer Yusi
My name is Jennifer Yusi. Vinyasa/Aerial yoga instructor, writer for Momoyoga, founder of misfityoga.co. I believe in the fusion of yoga with different forms of movement. In my downtime, I like hiking, painting and karaoke.

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