The Most Valuable Lesson Working at a Yoga Retreat Taught Me

Yoga retreats are becoming more popular around the globe. Even if a retreat is not centered around yoga, wellness programs will often include classes for guests. This can be a great opportunity for yoga teachers to find jobs and complete work exchanges anywhere. 

But as I’ve talked and observed teachers at retreats, I have noticed a pattern. Retreats can be isolating, and teachers often live on-site and spend most of the day interacting with guests and students. This can be a wonderful opportunity for teachers to meet new people that they normally wouldn’t meet in a studio. (A lot of these guests are quite new to yoga, but this will vary depending on the retreat itself.) This also opens the doors for guests to disclose personal information and overstep typical student-teacher boundaries. 

If you are new to teaching at a retreat, you may find yourself getting exhausted and worn down easily. This can have an impact on your work-life balance and overall job performance, so it’s important to be prepared for moments when you may be tempted to expend more energy than you can give.

Yoga Teachers: What We Are, and What We Are Not 

As yoga teachers, we are trained in anatomy, the history of yoga, and other varied facets of the industry and practice. Unless your specific training included specialized instruction, we are not trained in medicine or counseling. This is an important lesson that stuck with me throughout my teacher training. Teachers often ask students if they have past injuries or pains as a manner of changing and adjusting their flows to the needs of the group. They do not ask students for that information in order to make a diagnosis or give medical advice.

The same principle applies to physical and mental health. Retreat guests often book their stay in response to stress or recovery. The general rules of the retreat (no cell phone usages, silent mornings or days, etc.) can bring up a lot of intense emotions or the memory of past trauma. Teachers address these issues through workshops and classes, but there is a lot of time in-between for casual (or not-so-casual) conversation.

It’s important to remember that while you are a yoga teacher, you are also an employee and a person. Keep the following tips in mind to balance your job with your own mental health while you are working at a retreat. 

Preserving Your Energy to Prevent Exhaustion

When a student comes to you with a personal problem, you may feel obliged to help, discuss the issue, or simply listen. This is often all the person may need to feel better and move forward, but it can be exhausting. Teaching at a retreat can be a full-time job that offers little downtime to gather your energy and prepare yourself for the next class. 

It’s important to remember that while you are a yoga teacher, you are also an employee and a person. Keep the following tips in mind to balance your job with your own mental health while you are working at a retreat. These tips will also come in handy if you are teaching at a studio, teaching private lessons, or just have an energy that attracts people who need a helping hand. 

Set Boundaries

As yoga teachers, we want to hold space and give our students what they need to feel comfortable and happy at the retreat. If you do not set boundaries, you will find yourself exhausting your energy over and over again. Set boundaries at the first moment when they are tested. Even if you feel guilty for saying no, trust your intuition. Let your students know when you are available for private sessions and when you must cater to the needs of the group. 

Prepare Resources

You may not feel capable to provide the right help for your students, but you can direct them to a person who is an expert in their field and has trained to address specific conditions or issues. Keep a list of local counselors, chiropractors, and other medical professionals close by. When you are interacting with a client who should seek outside help, give them these resources. This is an easy way to set a boundary: “Unfortunately, I am not trained to help you in this area, but I have a friend/colleague/recommendation for someone who is an expert. They can help you with this issue.”

Share These Experiences With Your Team 

By this, I am not saying that you should disclose private information with the staff at the retreat. But if you start to notice patterns (your guests have dealt with similar traumas, overstep boundaries in a similar way, need the same sort of assistance, etc.,) bring these issues up with your team. Brainstorm ideas for ways that your retreat can address these concerns through workshops or online resources. This allows you to provide a more fulfilling experience for your customers and bring in professionals who are better equipped at handling certain issues. Students can focus their energy on an expert who is available and able to help them in a more appropriate manner. 

In the end, it is important to do what is most comfortable for you. When you practice self-care, you invest in a healthy mind and body that can go on to teach wonderful classes and hold relaxing retreats for many guests to come.  



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Megan Okonsky
Megan Okonsky is a writer, yogi, and traveler originally from Philadelphia, PA. Earned her 200hr certification in the Live Music Capital of the World (Austin, Texas). She currently lives in Australia.

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