Public Service Announcement: How to Beat Yoga Burnout

Yoga burnout is a serious condition affecting millions of Americans. Initial signs of the disease occurred in the early 2000s, following modern yoga’s propagation into mainstream society. Before this time, cases of yoga burnout may have occurred, likely in regions of southern India or northern California, but were not documented in scientific studies or cheeky gift cards like the one below.

Photo: Thumb is mine. Card found at Paper Source, Boston, MA

More pervasive outbreaks of yoga burnout (also known as yoga fatigue and I’m-Over-Yoga) continue to surface, evidenced by people rolling their eyes almost as much as their mats upon hearing the word namaste, the advent of yoga recovery blogs, like this one written by my friends Joslyn Hamilton and Vanessa Fiola for the “spiritually disenfranchised,” and the possibility of flipping open a magazine, on the elliptical machine at the gym the other night, to a Tampax advertisement, in which a woman (belonging to the coveted 25-34 year-old demographic) pictured in yoga class performing bakasana (crow pose) thinks to herself, “Gee, I’m glad I use Tampax.”  Or something like that.

If you haven’t seen the schilling-yoga-on-behalf-of-tampons ad, consider yourself lucky. Ditto if you’ve never experienced yoga burnout. In all likelihood, you will…if you practice long enough. Some of its symptoms include:

  • Waning desire to attend yoga class.
  • Lack of once glowing enthusiasm while in yoga class.
  • Frustration with those who glow endlessly in yoga class.
  • Growing suspicion that no one cares if yoga is spiritual; they just want to look sweet in yoga pants.
  • Falling asleep in class, way before sivasana. (My personal record is dozing off upon arriving on the floor in a prone position during a Baptiste Power Vinyasa class and waking up when everyone was in half pigeon. Yup: true story).
  • Nausea upon overexposure to certain words common in the yoga lexicon, including but not limited to references to feeling blissed out and things that are delicious or juicy but do not pertain to food.
  • Physical discomfort in wearing yoga clothes for extended periods including sensations of tightness, constriction, lack of tailoring, and an overwhelming desire to wear “real clothes” and (shockingly) shoes for a change.

As someone who occasionally suffers from yoga burnout, I’m happy to share my tips for recovery. Psst, all teachers suffer from yoga burnout, and if they tell you they don’t, they are likely lying or became certified less than three years ago. (This is my own estimate, but I would test it under the same stringent specifications as the people who test knives on infomercials and the absorbency of paper towels against the leading brand).

Remedies for yoga burnout:

  • Step away from the yoga mat. Do something else for physical exercise, mental clarity, or spiritual inspiration. Go running; take a boxing lesson; hire a personal trainer to kick your caboose; rekindle your love for ballet. Go to a meditation class in which you sit still rather than chaturanga yourself half to death; read a good book, or make some art. Go to church, read poetry, say a prayer, or go for a walk in nature. Yoga cannot solve all your problems, including yoga burnout, so if it becomes a burden, chore, or snore, take a legitimate breather.
  • Shake up your routine. I did this recently by attending a class with my BFF Chanel Luck at Sports Club/LA in Boston. Since we both teach and juggle a variety of work projects, it’s very rare that we can attend each other’s classes. Hers was like salve to my yoga burnout, and it brought the love back. If you find yourself heading into auto-pilot or auto-critic in yoga, try a new teacher, style, or studio.  This will engage your brain and body differently and, by extension, your spirit, too.
  • Enrich your non-yoga life. Doing yoga is one of the most life-affirming, transformative, and healthy things you can do for yourself, but it’s not the only thing. It usually provides exercise, perspective, and peace. Do it enough, and your life will include more people who do yoga. You’ll talk about it (often). You’ll read about it (like, right now!). You’ll buy stuff to make it better, easier, and cooler, such as clothes, props, and accessories. All of this is fantastic, but it can grow tiresome, too, so be sure to seek balance—yes, even from yoga. Hang out with people who don’t care to discuss your latest revelation regarding the rotation of your shoulders in downward dog or wax poetic about your new Vitamix. Maybe watch football. Wear something without a trace of Lycra. Go outside. Walk past the yoga studio. Take in a rock concert. Ride a bike.

Do whatever it takes until you find a cure for the burnout. Because yoga will be right there waiting for you when you get back, and, yes, you will love in all over again.

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