Teaching Yoga for Stress, Burnout and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

with Charlotte Watts & Leah Barnett


The themes in these days will be woven throughout the course, both in discussion and experientially.

The physiology of stress:

  • Explanations of psycho-social stress; the different levels of stress – ‘normal’ stress through to burnout and adrenal fatigue
  • Physical effects of stress, how this affects asana – and how to gauge levels
  • Emotional and psychological effects of stress and how this affects attention, reactions, control issues etc.

Stress within yoga therapy:

  • The yoga model of healing with an overview of prana and how practices can help energy flow freely
  • Guidance for teachers on how to direct students in understanding the spiritual relevance of yoga and their illness
  • Where the latest neuro-scientific research fits in with the ‘stilling the mind’ effects of yoga, mindfulness and meditation
  • What ‘resilience’ means in relation to yoga and compassion; how mindfulness within our practice helps to cultivate this equanimity and ‘grace under pressure’ in those reactive to stress

The experience of the student with chronic stress, adrenal fatigue and burnout:

  • How it feels to move and experience asana and attention with pain, intense emotional reactions.
  • 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 importance of identity – how the teacher can help the student not attach to the identity of suffering in chronic illnesses.

Considerations of teaching to students with mind-body stress:

  • 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.
  • Working with the yamas and the gunas as guides for working with chronically heightened energy and mind-sets.
  • Unhelpful samskaras in stress and the modern world; examination of personality types, how this can work against recovery and how yoga can help.
  • 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!

Stress in the physical body:

  • How the stressed and fatigued body feels; helping the teacher to understand the particular sensations, reactions and barriers that arise.
  • Mindfulness (and within physical practice) to help ‘anchor in the moment’, ‘pacing’ and the ‘doing less-is-more’ approach. Why we need to ‘be’ and not ‘do’; right effort, effortless effort and aparigraha, asteya and santosha over ambition and achieving. Treating the body as a friend.
  • Common stress-induced breath patterns and how to allow change without creating further stress; observing key stress breath signs and how to respond
  • Belly connection; centring and moving from the hara for reconnecting. Body fluidity and neuroplasticity and how stress can create hardening, viscosity and lack of adaptation
  • Skull-sacrum polarity to free mind-body flow, open the yin cooling base of the brain and encourage easy communication between cranium and pelvis for nervous system regulation and self-soothing abilities.

Specific therapeutic yoga tools:

  • Recognising that our culture continually consumes and ‘fills up.’ Understanding how yoga can provide a space for emptying out, releasing and letting go.
  • The role of sound and vibration within a healing practice, how this can be simply woven within asana to allow the breath to release – and as a formal part of teaching.
  • Exploration of counting own breath pace, mantra etc 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!


The themes of the first three days will be followed throughout, with focus on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (M.E.) and teaching practices for this state, that are also relevant for those with any burnout, fatigue states or in recovery from serious illness.

  • Specific considerations for those withCFSand Burnout conditions.
  • How it feels to for the person with these conditions to move, open and stretch.
  • Considerations for the mind-set of those withCFSand Burnout; how habits as samskaras can affect the very practice that could help with observing and unravelling these unhelpful habits. Guidance for teachers on how to direct students in understanding the energetic balance of their yoga practice and their illness. How to manage energy within yoga to learn to increase resilience without relapse.
  • The relevance of trauma within fatigue and stress states and how this can manifest in practice and ‘rebound’. How trauma and inflammation create fatigue and chronic pain and how to work with these.
  • The recent research and implications of relapse in ME/CFS.
  • The need for both restoration and movement and finding the balance within fascia, body fluids and structural needs.

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