Might Yoga Help Prevent Teacher Burnout?

The pandemic caught most of us off guard and added significant stress to our lives, asking us at times to think out of the box to come up with creative ways to do what we did in the past differently.  In a flash, life went virtual!  Teachers, in particular, who, as a profession rank high amongst those helping professions that are predisposed to mental health challenges due to stress on the job, were asked to convert in-person curriculums to remote learning overnight.  Teachers were already at risk of burnout before the pandemic, with a significant percentage of teachers leaving the profession within the first 5 years.  The pandemic has simply added salt to an already open wound.

Past research has looked at the benefits of bringing yoga into the schools for the students.  This research has shown the positive effects on the developing minds of children, including but not limited to reducing stress and anxiety, improving memory and attention span, enhancing coping skills, and increasing self-confidence and self-esteem.  By building yoga into the students’ curriculum, it was accessible to everyone and was not designated as an optional, after-school activity.  By supporting students in this way, it certainly indirectly helps the teachers.  However, with such a high burnout rate in this profession, it is just as important to look at what might prevent such teacher burnout more directly.

More recent research is now looking at bringing yoga to the teachers at school.  One such recent quasi-experimental study looked at the connection between improving the mental and emotional well-being of teachers through a twice-a-week yoga class, including gentle meditation exercises, and a reduction in burnout.  Yoga, and is contemplative practices, was considered for this research because it is a discipline that has been shown to enhance body awareness and encourages equanimity in the mind.  The design of this research included concern for the need to adapt to the working environment, so that no particular setting would be required, making it easy to replicate.

The research was able to identify a significant, positive effect of yoga on the psycho-physical well-being and resilience response on the job of the teachers.  The program was short, only 8 weeks, and did not identify any risks.  The conclusion suggests that schools would benefit by offering yoga to the teachers to reduce burnout.

If you are interested in reading the full article, click the link below.  If you are a teacher or know a teacher, consider sharing this article with those that might benefit, including the principal of your school.