Teaching Yoga for Stress, Burnout and Fatigue

Join Charlotte Watts and Leah Barnett, specialists in Yoga for Stress, Burnout and Fatigue Conditions. The course takes a scientific, philosophical and experiential look at how yogic practices can support us within our culture of psychosocial stress, high expectations and stimulus, as well as these more recent times of fear, challenge and overwhelm within the pandemic. It explores specific practices that can offer us a lifeline when social engagement is less available and energy and coping resources are either compromised or on the floor.

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Course Description

Join Charlotte Watts and Leah Barnett, specialists in Yoga for Stress, Burnout and Fatigue Conditions. The course takes a scientific, philosophical and experiential look at how yogic practices can support us within our culture of psychosocial stress, high expectations and stimulus, as well as these more recent times of fear, challenge and overwhelm within the pandemic. It explores specific practices that can offer us a lifeline when social contact is less available and energy and coping resources are either compromised or on the floor.

[NB: This course combines the previously two separate, but intimately connected courses Yoga for Stress and Burnout, and Yoga for ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome to open out the material for more current relevance].

Stress, burnout and fatigue are states that are intrinsically linked via the nervous and immune systems, which can become disordered from psychosocial stress, overwhelm, fear, anxiety, trauma and the high expectations of modern living. These body systems are greatly affected by social isolation and lack of healthy social engagement, where practices of kind attention, self-compassion and attuning to our deeper needs become even more important.


What is Stress?

Stress is a major part of 21st century living, with the World Health Organisation previously estimating that by this year stress-related disorders will be the second leading cause of disabilities in the world. This epidemic is an underlying cause of most non-communicable and chronic degenerative health conditions expressed in the Western body including fatigue, anxiety, digestive issues (including Irritable bowel syndrome IBS), insomnia, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease.

The Covid pandemic has added another layer of fear, anxiety and trauma via social isolation and financial insecurity that for many has fed into these already present pressures. On this course we explore how the stress response is a healthy survival mechanism, but how depleting it can be on all body systems when we become stuck in these states. We present how yoga research has shown how the different facets of the 8-limbed path have shown to actively bring down stress hormones and support immunity via lowering inflammatory responses (that are such a key part of more severe Covid symptoms).

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a term used to describe the emotional and physical collapse that can occur after long-term or chronic stress. It describes a state of ‘constant alert’ having lost the ability to regulate and self-soothe. As teachers we need to be able to guide students into a sense of safety and stillness so that they can develop holding strategies and the ability to be with intense sensations with understanding and equanimity. With persistent of the pandemic and lockdown measures, many of now feeling these effects and are in great need of such support and resources within their lives.

Chronic stress and burnout are fatiguing by their excitory and reactive nature. The prevalence of fatigue as a chronic condition is hugely on the increase, especially Post Viral Fatigue (PVF) and its Syndrome – resulting from viral infections such as glandular fever and of course now Covid-19 and long Covid. An individual may also have a diagnosis of deeper Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS also known as ME) or fatigue that can commonly be related to post-illness or medication regimes (such as cancer, digestive and cardiovascular diseases), or autoimmune and inflammatory conditions. We bring these considerations back to relationship with the nervous system, stress and trauma, where the Yoga Model of Wellness seeks to restore equilibrium.

Yoga and meditation practices offer very real (and well-researched) methods to quieten over-activated and fatigued body systems and to support individuals with tools to self-soothe and regulate. The key aim of yoga is to ‘still the mind’ through body awareness and connection to the breath, thereby intercepting the chattering monkey mind (analytical left brain) so dominant in Western cultures and Western bodies.

Course Structure

The course comprises pre-recorded lectures and practices (that will be released prior to the live online sessions) and live online interaction. The following topics will be woven into the entire course, both in discussion and experientially.

  • An overview of definitions, contributing factors and the latest scientific understanding of stress and fatigue conditions.
  • Specific physical and emotional considerations for those with Burnt-out and fatigue conditions and how this might affect a person’s ability to be present, process guidance, access the postures etc.
  • Recognising that our culture continually consumes and ‘fills up.’ Understanding how yoga can provide a space for emptying out, releasing and letting go.
  • Acknowledging the very present and current challenges in relation to Covid-19, lockdown and long Covid.
  • How it feels to move, open and stretch for someone who is highly activated and/or exhausted possibly with pain (physical and/or emotional) and intense emotional reactions.
  • Specific considerations for teaching remotely and on-screen.
  • Considerations for the mind-set of those in highly activated and/or exhaustive states; how habits – samskaras – may affect the very practice that could help by observing and unravelling these unhelpful habits.
  • Exploration of the ‘Relaxation Response’ (using breath practices and relaxation practices) as a direct means of improving vagal tone and activating the ‘rest and digest’ tone of the central nervous system.
  • Working with the yamas and the gunas as guides for working with chronically heightened energy and mind-sets.Guidance on how to direct students understanding of the energetic impact of their yoga practice and how to best support their own health/recovery.
  • An introduction to Polyvagal theory and how this can be used as a way of understanding hyper-arousal and de-activation of the nervous system in relation to stress, burn-out and fatigue conditions.
  • The effects of trauma (shock and developmental) on the primal body, how this can manifest and how it needs to be approached to prevent relapse.
  • The relevance of trauma within fatigue and stress states and how this can manifest in practice as ‘rebound’.
  • How trauma and inflammation create fatigue and chronic pain and how to work with these.
  • The need for both restoration and movement and finding the balance within fascia, body fluids and structural/psycho-emotional needs.The importance of identity – how the teacher can help the student loosen their attachment to the identity of suffering in chronic illnesses.
  • The necessity of compassion (ahimsa and karuna) and deep listening within our practice, our own bodies and our world, to be able to work with people’s needs on an individual level.
  • What ‘resilience’ means in relation to yoga and compassion; how mindfulness within our practice helps to cultivate this equanimity and ‘grace under pressure’.
  • Unhelpful samskaras in stress and the modern world; examination of personality types, how this can work against recovery and how yoga can help.
  • The role of sound and vibration within a healing practice, how this can be simply woven within asana to allow the breath to extend and release – the use of mantra to still the chatter of the left brain.
  • The difficulties of meditation for the stressed and how to hold, guide and facilitate; the internally critical tendencies of those with heightened stress responses – thanking the negative voices!
  • Teaching language; using mindfulness, creativity and compassion to encourage practice with a soft mind and body – with humour to release and create a positive sensory experience.
  • Where the latest neuro-scientific research fits in with the ‘stilling the mind’ effects of yoga, mindfulness and meditation.

What Will I Learn?

This course will explore how psycho-social stress – the ‘neck-up’, ruminating stress we tend to get stuck in in ‘modern’ societies – can affect people and how the modern body needs special consideration for the way the average student lives their lives. By understanding the common symptoms of Stress, Burnout, PVFS, CFS, long-Covid and other fatigue states, you will learn how energy is affected in terms of its creation and usage in those affected.

From there, we will explore many tools and consider how to best help students regain strength, find new ways of coping with these symptoms and live life in a way that supports recovery.

This course offers a well-rounded and in-depth experiential understanding of how it feels to move and live from a burnt-out, ‘tired but wired’ exhausted state. It will explore how to teach holding space for the habit patterns – samskaras– of pushing, doing, over-doing, striving etc to be seen clearly in a non-judgemental environment so that they become less and less binding. Crucially we will explore how to encourage students’ agency and development of their tuning inward, so they can begin to hear the body’s whispers of ‘enough’. Grounding, mindful and somatic work will be offered to help promote healing, conserve and restore energy and transform unhelpful habits of the body/mind system.

Who is this Course For?

This course is for yoga teachers, yoga therapists and trainee teachers. It is also suitable for health professionals who have an interest in these conditions, such as occupational therapists, doctors, physiotherapists and nurses.

Hours

50 Hours (10 hours pre recorded lectures, 22.5 hours live contact, 8 hours practice and self reflection, 10 hours final assessment). Hours available for CEC through Yoga Alliance.


Replay

We record the practice sessions within the weekends, but not the live discussions as these need to remain a space where students can speak freely and openly without any censoring that can occur when they are being recorded. The practice sessions are sent out after each weekend as links with unlimited access.

Final Assessment

At the end of the course, there is an optional final assessment to demonstrate knowledge of the course content that will be marked with teacher feedback. The assessment will include designing a class and reflecting on practice and teaching.

Certification

Please note, a Certificate of Completion can only be issued to those who decide to do the optional final assessment and who successfully complete all elements of the course.

The final assessment carries a marking fee of £40. You will be given the option to sign up for the final assessment during the final part if the course and so you will not need to make the decision about whether to do it until you have completed the majority of the course.

A maximum of one half-day can be missed for energy or health reasons only, students must demonstrate the equivalent of 80% attendance to achieve certification.

Meet the Teachers

Charlotte Watts attended her first yoga class in 1996 and immediately knew that it would be a large part of the route to overcoming her stress-related issues. She trained at the Vajrasati Yoga School in Brighton (500 hour Yoga Alliance training) founded by Jim Tarran who is influenced by Buddhism and brought a natural mindfulness aspect to practising yoga. This was the beginning of a relationship with yoga focusing on taking time and finding space to feel subtleties of the experience, energetics and responses within the practice and create full body awareness within postures.

Charlotte then went on to train in teaching yoga for people with ME and Chronic Fatigue with Fiona Agombar and teaching for chronic pain with Heather Mason, continuing her interest in yoga as therapy for anxiety, depression and stress states. She deepened her mindfulness practice as a result of a specific mindfulness course for yoga teachers with Cathy-Mae Karelse. She continues to study with teachers Tias Little and Joanne Avison as they combine her love of mindful, somatic practice, yoga as meditation, the contemporary anatomy of biotensegrity and an explorative and compassionate attitude – alongside attention to alignment with respect to the individual needs of students.

Charlotte is an author with many published books, including Yoga Therapy for Digestive Health (Singing Dragon 2018), Good Mood Food (Nourish 2018) and The De-Stress Effect (2015). She is also an award-winning nutritionist, practising since 2000 and specialising in stress-related and fatigue conditions and burnout, and digestive issues.

Charlotte Watts Portrait

Leah Barnett has been teaching yoga for over 10 years, since qualifying with the Inner Yoga Trust in 2002. She then specialised in teaching children with special needs after taking the ‘Yoga for the Special Child’ training with Jo Manuel in 2007. She recently completed the KHYF (BWY) advanced yoga teaching qualification and now works mainly on a one to one basis with adults affected by chronic illness including ME/chronic fatigue. She has assisted Fiona Agombar on a number of retreats for those with energy related problems and has also taught a number of Fiona’s retreats for those with ME/chronic fatigue. Prior to qualifying as a yoga teacher, Leah was a human rights lawyer representing clients in the lower courts and delivering training for new recruits on relevant law and procedure.

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