In most health care and social service professions, there is the named experience and notion of compassion fatigue: the tiredness and burnout that sets in when one exhausts his/her limitations of what he/she can give to another without ensuring a balanced output of compassion and care for the self. Prevention of this compassion fatigue is important for all helping professionals, parents, caregivers, and teachers/educators. As a yoga teacher, if you aren’t mindful of your own practice of yoga, self-compassion and self-nourishment, your Tadasana (mountain pose) may end up looking like a rounded lumpy bag of potatoes and your mind may end up getting cluttered, compounding the very obstacles that are getting in the way of your ability to truly be present, loving, and kind.
As I observe my own patterns and listen to the challenges experienced by many yoga teachers, I notice how the very obstacles that stand in the way of us humans cultivating a state of Yoga (stillness of the agitations of the mind) show up in many of our teaching styles, studio cultures, as well as in the way we respond/our ability to truly listen to the challenges that students are requesting support for.
According to The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, the 9 obstacles that interrupt mental clarity and the cultivation of continued growth are: illness, inertia/ depression, doubt/ self-doubt, impatience/ haste, laziness, greed/ overindulgence, delusion/ arrogance, lack of perseverance, and regression/ difficulty sustaining effort through challenges.
Our human minds do what they do best. Our minds will attach, experience aversion, let the ego get in the way, fear, and ignore objective reality.
Our best tool to preventing compassion fatigue is yoga: both the practice yoga and the practice of letting go/ relinquishing control, paired with the ability to discriminate between reality and what we interpret from our reality.
Someone reminded me the other day that a yogi is a yogi 24 hours per day. Part of the practice of preventing compassion fatigue involves:
– Being happy for someone who is happy (Love/ Happiness: Maitri – Sukham)
– Having compassion for others who are suffering ( Compassion: Karuna – Dukham)
– Rejoycing in another’s good deed (Joy: Mudita – Punya)
– Seeing someone’s inappropriate actions for what they are: just a part of the whole (Equanimity: Upeksa – Apunga)
When the above named obstacles get in the way of practicing love, compassion, joy, and equanimity, we always have the practice and our inner wisdom to come back to. When we practice what we preach, our life and our teachings become so much more impactful for ourselves and others.