In this month’s edition, Women’s Health Magazine addressed the surprising issue of a yoga burnout. It seemed ironic, that the activity, indeed; lifestyle that has become the pinnacle of healthy, stress-free living has resulted in fatigue and injury. Yet, as I read descriptions of women pushing themselves into unrealistic poses as they squeezed in back-to-back classes, I could understand the problem. I definitely have been at risk of pushing myself, always trying to reach near perfection in a pose, and to be the last to fall out of a balance. Luckily, I didn’t go as far as some of the yogi’s in the article, but it got me thinking.
So what is a yoga burnout? Whilst this is hardly a medical condition, it essentially drives down to not listening to your body or mind. Stressing yourself out by trying to get to a yoga class -and your preferred front of class spot -as soon as you finish work across town; back bending your way into strains and slipped disks; measuring your worth by the likes on your latest tree pose Instagram post… all these could be described as a yoga burnout. It ultimately defeats the purpose of yoga and ahimsa and can even put you at risk of injury or illness.
You can blame this occurrence on many things -the “alpha” personality type, a pitta ayurvedic constitution, or simply the Western world’s drive for competitiveness. But all require a step back. Where calories are counted, and protein measured, it can be all to easy to jump in to a yoga class that promises sweat or calls itself “power” (not that we should knock a class for that… my sun power classes are one of the highlights of my week!). But it is important to find a balance and look after all aspects of our physical and mental wellbeing!
I first noticed that I was possibly at risk of becoming a yoga burnout when I followed a class aimed at the Pitta dosha. The teacher, Rebecca Snowball, explained how people with Pitta characteristics are prone to competitiveness and so she created a playful practice with lots of slow, steady holding of postures. This resonated with me and I have started to mix up flowing vinyasa-style classes with yin yoga and balances.
I think Women’s Health really highlighted the importance of being awareness of injury and stress when trying to cram yoga practice. Listening to your intuition once you are aware of this is vital, I feel -whether to step back from practice, change your practice, or change your lifestyle for your practice.
Have you ever felt more stressed and sore from yoga than energised?