Yoga and Burnout

close up shot of scrabble tiles on a white surface
Photo by Anna Tarazevich on

“If you feel burnout setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best for the sake of everyone to withdraw and restore yourself.”

Dalai Lama

I strained my back while I was teaching a yoga class this week. To say I am upset about it is an absolute understatement. The last two days have been riddled with emotional outbursts, and thank God I have such an incredible support system to help me navigate this experience. I have been teaching extra classes to support my fellow colleagues, I am planning my first retreat to Costa Rica, and I am deep into my 300 hour teacher training. I’m stressed.

I’ve never been great at letting myself relax but as of lately, I spend so much time thinking about how I can maximize my time to research, learn, network, market and outreach because my thinking drives me to believe I don’t have time to waste on leisure or recovery. I’m hitting a wall, and I think I’m moving toward burnout. As a healer and a helper – in my light, I am so available, receptive and responsive to the needs of others, while the overextension or shadow of that trait is hypocrisy by ignorance and avoidance of self.

Burnout is an emotional exhaustion that surpasses physical fatigue, felt anxiety or a stress response. It is a result of living in a state of chronic stress that begins to drive a doubt of self efficacy. Burnout sounds like cynicism mixed with apathy or defeatism. It’s way too common, and completely avoidable, with discipline, self reflection and a solid boundary system.

What does yoga philosophy say about burnout?

We have to begin from a state of “Svadyaya” (from the second limb of yoga, the Niyamas), which invites us into self study. We cannot improve upon that which we are unaware of. The Yoga Sutras (1.3) offer that humans experience a variety of interruptions that prevent the mental clarity which allows us to live free from suffering. There are nine interruptions mentioned by Patanjali: illness, fatigues, doubt, carelessness, laziness, overindulgence, overconfidence, inability to concentrate and instability. Sutra 1.31 goes on to say that these interruptions symptomize in four ways: pain, negative thinking, anxiety, and irregular breathing.

So we can see that suffering is a part of being human, it has been experienced by all of us, and we are currently experiencing it. Patanjali goes on to offer a means to relief when he shares that “future suffering is to be avoided” in Sutra 2.16 and cites many tools as means for a resolution to chronic stress. He says the key is to utilize the tool that is most helpful to restore a steady mind.

What does Patanjali suggest?

“In relationships, the mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and indifference or neutrality towards those we perceive as wicked or evil.” Yoga Sutra 1.33

Just breathe – Utilize breathing which engages a longer exhale than inhale. Longer exhales regulate the nervous system through parasympathetic activation. 1.34

Engage your senses. Literally stop and smell the roses. 1.35

Get right sized: consider yourself as part of a greater whole, inextricably connected to everything around you at all times. 1.36

Ask for help. Plain as that. Simple in theory, but difficult to practice and make proper use of (this is the HARDEST one for me). 1.37

Feeling off? Might be something in the stars…

I would never consider myself an expert on astrology, but I am an expert about my own experience. In this age of influencers, it seems like there is an expert on anything and everything you could possibly think of – but I don’t think it’s necessary to be doctorate to have something to say. Call me a skeptic, but I think most of the self-proclaimed experts are really just being generous with the title.

The last couple of months have been really challenging for me, and these days, I tend to look at my own environment (internal and external) and take note if others around me are also experiencing “feeling off”, before I start to dig in on what might be going on energetically.

Ironically, yesterday happens to be the birth of a new moon, which is when the moon, sun and earth are positioned in such a way that the moon becomes almost entirely invisible (or just barely visible) to human eye. Right now, there is also a retrograde for the planet of Mercury – which means that it appears to be moving backwards from the perspective we see other planets, here on Earth. Each planet moves in its own orbit, all at varying speeds in a variety of distances from the sun. We do know that positions of other planets affects human significantly, given we (typically) rise and work during sunlit hours and sleep while it’s out of our view. Energy and nature highlight direct connections to our atmosphere, examples being changing seasons, climate and weather.

Astrology is commonly dismissed as “woo-woo”, but for the sake of new information and perhaps some fun table talk, you’re welcome to keep reading to learn about this new moon in the sign of Libra, and how the mercury retrograde might affect you. Mercury retrogrades are most commonly buzzed about because of the types of effects this particular planet is known to have in the realms of communication and technology. Server crashes and texts from ex’s are just a couple of the significant events that might happen during a retrograde (hello to MY last week!)

The sign of Libra is governed by the planet, Venus, which symbolizes love, relationships and harmony, while one of the planet that is in retrograde (Mercury) is a symbol of communication, intelligence, reason and language. New moons can be a time for beginnings, new changes or the start of a chapter. However, during a planet’s retrograde it is often suggested to not take on anything new, at least to the extent that this planet symbolizes. As if a mercury retrograde weren’t significant enough – there are 4 other planets also in retrograde as of today. Let’s take a look at what those other planets are said to symbolize… take a look at the dates when each retrograde started and cross check for any of your own recent significant events:

Neptune: (June 25- December 1) Imagination, Dreams, Delusions, Spirituality

Uranus: (Aug 19- January 18) Rebellion, Eccentricity, Individualism, Liberation, Upheaval

Jupiter: (June 20- October 18) Luck, Growth, Optimism, Achievement, Success, Expansion

Saturn: (May 23- Oct 10) Structure, Law, Reason, Discipline, Responsibility

AND… Pluto just came out of retrograde: (April 27- October 6) Transformation, Death, Rebirth, Power, Evolution

Perhaps nothing sticks out or speaks to you – but I do think there is truth to the saying, “You will find what you are looking for.”

Take good care,


Overcoming Perspective Dis-ease

I am daily talking to other women who are on a similar journey as I am in some capacity. I am a yoga instructor, but I am also an advocate and mentor in my the communities of sobriety and eating disorder recovery.

Yoga is a vehicle for integrating and communicating some of the values and “ways of living” that are not just meaningful to me… I live the way I do because it brought me back to life. Walking hand in hand with others who are on their own journey of sobriety or disordered eating, it never ceases to amaze me how yoga has application to literally anything that life could throw at us. Lately the conversations I’ve been having are coming back to this theme of hypercritical self reflection. Perfectionism was formerly a deadly roadmap I used to navigate my day to day. I could not win, no matter what I did, and I tried everything to please the inner critic that ruled my mind.

It breaks my heart to hear others deal with similar internal harassment. And, at least for me, it was harassment. I was berated day in and day out by a chronically discontent, self parenting voice. When I got into recovery, it was very clear to me that if I was going to be sober and aim to take care of myself, I was going to have to make friends with my head. Picture trying to befriend a sadistic tyrant, my task of self reconciliation was going to be the undertaking of epic proportions.

Initially, I tried anything that was suggested to me. I stuck post it notes with affirmations and quotes all over my mirrors and in my cars. I said mantras, prayed, tapped, and meditated. I didn’t find anything that helped me to instantly or permanently eradicate the angry voice inside my head.

What does yoga say about the inner critic?

“Yoga is the process of cleaning the mind and whatever is blocking the inner light – the part of you that doesn’t need to be fixed, controlled or perfected.” (Yoga Journal, 2011). Yoga believes that within each of us is an eternal divine (capital “S”) “Self” and a temporary human (lowercase “s”) “self”. Our “Self” is not subject to criticism, it sits above and transcends that which can be judged, but our impermanent “self” is the part of us where judgment, fear, shame and resistance would come from.

When I am able to recognize which part of me, my thoughts are coming from, I am able to differentiate whether my thoughts are better saved for further contemplation or better left to drift along out of my consciousness. Yoga shares that we have something like clouds in our minds that can make our true understanding of ourself difficult. Two of these clouds (or “kleshas” in Sanskrit) are “avidya” (false understanding) and “asmita” (false identification). In order to connect to our divinity, our God-conscious “Self”, we must continue to practice filtering and sifting through the mental clouds that can keep us stuck in “self.”

This awareness has made a huge difference for me and how I pay attention and validate my own thinking. Knowing that thousands of years ago a philosophical outline was created to assist me in navigating the way towards awareness of my connectivity to the eternal brings me comfort and resolve that I am not alone in this sacred journey.

How have you handled your inner critic? Any tips, readings, or exercises that have helped you on your way?

Take good care,


Stretch Routine for Back Pain Relief!

Hands down BIGGEST request I get in my classes ( I ask at the beginning what my students would like help with during our hour (or two)) is help with low back pain. At least one student will mention tension in that area, but there is usually more than one sufferer in each class I guide.   Tight hips is the next area of mention, followed by core strengthening.  I personally carry a great deal of tension in my neck and shoulders, and that is a fairly common request as well.

Luckily, we are physically one interconnected body – so a few consistently used stretches and strengthening poses can bring relief fairly quickly.  Chronic pain tends to come from engaging in physical activities repeatedly, sometimes for extended periods of time where we ask certain muscle groups to engage to the point of overuse or inflammation. Our body starts to call upon our weaker muscle groups, joints, tendons and ligaments – which is where our nerves start to fire off, saying “STOP! I need a gosh darn break, already!”

When we are having low back pain, I can almost guarantee that we’ve spent too much time sitting.  Not sitting in a park and enjoying nature, I’m talking about sitting while engaged in mental stress, so the body clenches – like when we are in traffic and we’d rather be home with our pets or a bubble bath. Or sitting while we are firing off emails all day with “unread” still at 479 and getting responses like “per my last email”, “any updates on this?” and “please advise”.

I’m just going to pause to say, thank God, Mother Nature and all of creation that I’m no longer in corporate America. Everyone earning their living in that capacity has a special place in my heart and I have great respect for you. And if you write emails with those phrases, I’m sure the recipient has good reason to have received it 😉

Back to our backs…..

To sit we use a contraction of the hip flexors, creating a prolonged anterior tilt of the pelvis that pulls on our low back erector muscles, and weakens major stabilizing muscle groups like the abdominals and the gluteals.

For these stretches, the image mentions to hold for 30 seconds, but you are more than welcome to hold for 5 minutes at a time if you are breathing mindfully and the sensation is manageable.

  1. Childs Pose – also called Balasana in Sanskrit, is a fantastic counter stretch to the posture we hold of flaring out our tail bone and rounding/slouching into the upper body. This stretches the chest and triceps out, while providing soft support for the abdominals and low back.
  2. Supine/Figure 4 – great for outer hips, glutes, knees and hamstrings. Keep a firm flex in both feet to protect knees and I love a gentle side to side sway in this stretch.
  3. Supine twists can be done a number of ways, try the one that feels good to you! Options: thighs crossed (pictured), knees stacked/touchings, knees staggered, one leg bent & one straight, or twisting with both legs straight.  KEY: keep shoulder blades flush against the ground while twisting
  4. Runners Lunge or Lizard lunge – very important here to keep the front knee above the front ankle, and feel free to move side to side and notice sensations across different areas of the hips
  5. Adductor opener – I like to use this stretch for my waist by dropping one shoulder forward and twisting toward the opposite shoulder while pressing my knees in opposition from each other
  6. Wide legged forward fold – I can’t promote the benefits of this stretch enough. Try to make sure the hips and ankles line up vertically to reduce weight-bearing on the lower back
  7. Cow-faced legs – this stretch requires hip mobility, so if the range of motion isn’t there yet, use a standard cross-legged seat and move toward cow-faced
  8. Seated twist – be sure that you are sitting tall in the spine, and watch for weight-bearing into the hands. This stretch is more effective when the core muscles are engaged in the twisting
  9. Happy Baby pose – ensure that your shoulders and tailbone stay connected to the ground. Let the hands remain at the back of the thighs and inch toward the calves and feet as mobility increases.

Of course, there are many other options for stretching low back and hips. What are some of your favorites?? Leave some comments!!

Take good care,




How COVID-19 can actually be a good thing for us…

The past several weeks have been some really unusual ones, I’ve experienced a lot of emotion, and at times I’ve felt baffled by human behavior. We’ve been in isolation, instructed to leave only for essentials, and weeks in the grocery stores still have empty shelves by 10am. People are sleeping more, watching the news and stock market closely, and doing their best to keep up their jobs through telecommunication. 3.3 million people have applied for unemployment, and wait to see if they can receive compensation while the world fights to stay healthy and protected from this infamous virus.

Some of you know that I run yoga and meditation groups at local drug and alcohol rehabs in the area. It is one of the most rewarding and heartbreaking areas of my work. I was guided to allow clients to complain, I allotted the first five minutes of our group to let them vent freely. I was surprised to hear them chime in for thirty to sixty seconds, and then naturally start to shift to the positive. They wanted to focus on the good, and it’s the same for all of us. As important as it is for us to feel heard, there is a drive within us that magnetically pulls us toward what lightens our heart and spirit. Our group began to think of what we feel grateful for, what we are glad to have in our life, relieving our minds of feeling burdened down.

I actually got married the very last day that the courts were open here in Orange County. It was planned that we would elope, but we definitely pushed the process forward when we heard the news that the county recording offices would be closed until further notice. I was ready for anything when it came to posting about my sudden nuptials on social media, especially because I still legally had someone else’s last name as mine less than two years ago.

I was shocked that my photos gathered more interest than anything I have ever posted. Not just a little bit more but three times more than the typical commotion my notable posts make. Amidst the unprecedented scare of the coronavirus, which, as I write this has had my county inside for the last two weeks and expectedly should remain so for the next at least four more, people WANTED to see something pure and good and loving. People wanted good news, they wanted to see love, they wanted something to celebrate. It struck me by surprise. It was the most inexpensive wedding announcement one could ever use.

I’m not going to deny that COVID-19 has been the scariest thing that our world has faced in decades. I have found myself wondering in moments, “God, is this going to be the end of my time here? Am I going to be meeting you soon?”, and it alarmed me at how much that scared me. I’m sure there is something biological and chemical that makes death a formidable event, even in the most fit spiritual condition – but it begged the question for me, how well do I understand this God of my own understanding? If I am certain of his benevolent love, would my faith and trust in His plan for my life abolish all hesitation about my earthly passing.

I’m proud of the way most of us have made the best of this situation. There seems to be less whining, and while I anticipate that the world will need time to rebound from this tremendous attack we have all been faced with, I see more gratitude, a deeper appreciation for the simple pleasure we had been taking for granted and a consideration for each other as a community and society like I have never seen in this lifetime. My own mental health has its own predictable ups and downs, but I, like many of us, have adjusted to this circumstance with a recognizable amount of strength and grace.