We believe that happy healthy teachers = happy healthy students. That’s why so much of what we do here at Yoga Ed. is built around YOU, the educators. We know the job does not end with the school day, which makes it even more difficult to find the time to take care of yourself, and hone in on your own wellness. That can take a toll, and in fact, the annual teacher attrition rate is 17% nationwide, meaning that nearly 1 in 5 teachers leave the classroom every single year. Negative emotions and feelings of inefficacy are two of the leading causes of teacher burnout. The remedy? Prioritizing teacher wellness.
With the new year, we’re starting out with a resolution to cultivate a culture of teacher wellness, which is why this month we’re sharing simple, easy to use tools that can boost not only your personal wellness, but also enhance your teaching experience and your students’ performance. Here’s how yoga can support your health and wellness as a teacher.
1. Develop a Stronger Sense of Self-Awareness
Yoga cultivates self-awareness, which is the ability to recognize who and how you are being in any given moment. Although it may sound simple, most of the time we navigate the ups and downs of our days on autopilot, not really tuned into the precise emotions, thoughts, and situations that shape our feelings and actions. When we tap into our self-awareness, it can be a powerful tool to grant us more control, confidence, and calm in our day. Just think about it: have you ever had a really tough morning—with spilled coffee, traffic jams, and the works—only to come into the classroom to find that each and everyone of your students is irritating you? Without self-awareness, you may be inclined to simply lash out, and live the whole day in irritation. To think you could step out of the situation and shift your frame of mind, moving from habit to choice in any given moment, is truly a liberating feeling.
2. Decrease Your Stress and Anxiety
Being a classroom teacher is stressful…really stressful. We absolutely understand and empathize with your stress and anxiety, and also know that all of that tension and pressure that you feel as you try to adhere to deadlines, check off standards, and meet benchmarks also manifests in very real ways in your body. This could mean sleepless nights, tight shoulders, a sore back, headaches and a less than ideal mental state for teaching. That’s where yoga can be hugely beneficial for your own health. With a powerful and quick mindfulness practice through yoga (we’re talking under 10 minutes quick!) you not only feel better in your body, but in your mind too.
3. Increase Your Compassion for Yourself
As educators, we know that you often spend so much of our time caring for your students that you may forget to acknowledge your own efforts and simply be kind to yourself. To prevent yourself from burning out, you must learn to practice self-compassion. Self-compassion enhances happiness, satisfaction, and well-being by shifting your inner voice from criticism to support and understanding. It encourages you to practice self-care and to give yourself credit for the work you do, so that you can better get through tough situations and build resilience in face of difficulty. Whether you’re facing a really tough class, or maybe just a rut in your own teaching, cutting yourself a break can make all the difference in cultivating understanding and carrying on to be successful, rather than getting down on yourself and throwing in the towel.
4. Turn Up Your Empathy
When you learn to be more kind to yourself, you naturally develop compassion and kindness for those around you. As human beings, we all flourish when we care for others and when we feel cared for. At the root of this care lies empathy, and empathy is an intrinsic part of bringing yoga into the classroom. Empathy is the act of understanding and sharing the feelings of others, or as the saying goes, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Teaching from a place of empathy can dramatically change your classroom environment. When you practice empathy in your classroom, you connect to your students’ experiences and care for their well-being. And by practicing empathy in your teaching, you help model positive behavior for your students to take with them beyond the classroom. Not only does this give meaning to your work, but it also supports the development of empathy in your students, for a kinder classroom as a whole.
5. Simple Easy to Use Tools. Anytime, Anywhere.
We get it. You wake up before the sun rises and get home after it has set, and even when you close your work for the day, the constant pressure you feel from your job never entirely leaves your mind. Setting aside quality time in the day for you to take care of yourself is nearly impossible, but the beautiful thing about yoga is that it works with you, and with whatever moments of time you do have. By taking tiny moments in your day and turning them into mindful breaks, you will be able to reap big benefits for your physical, mental, and emotional health. Maybe you’ll stop to take a deep breath in and sigh it all out the next time you feel your frustration rising, or you’ll work in some shoulder rolls as a way to ease a stressful moment. Even simply by starting to become more aware of how you’re feeling, you’ll be better equipped to make the adjustments and take the time to get yourself in a more supportive state of mind, so you can keep on doing the work that you love.