Teaching Yoga for Stress, Burnout and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with Fiona Agombar, Leah Barnett and Charlotte Watts
Fiona is currently on sabbatical. Please contact Yoga Campus direct for details of training with Leah Barnett and Charlotte Watts.
Stress is a major part of 21st century living, with the World Health Organization estimating that by 2020, stress-related disorders will be the second leading cause of disabilities in the world. This epidemic is an underlying cause of low energy, anxiety, Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), loss of sex drive, insomnia, depression, tooth-grinding, high blood pressure, skin problems, infertility, weight gain and heart disease. Yoga and meditation practices offer a very real (and well-researched) method to allowing heightened body systems to calm back down and teach individuals tools to self-soothe. The aim of yoga to ‘still the mind’ through body awareness and connection, can intercept the chattering monkeys of the analytical left brain, so dominant in Western cultures.
Burnout is a term used to describe the emotional and physical collapse that can occur after long-term or chronic stress. At this point where the mind-body is on ‘constant alert’, teachers need to be able to guide and hold a sense of safety and stillness so that the student can be with intense sensations without exacerbating reactive tendencies.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS aka ‘ME’) is an exhaustive condition known to have stress and its immune effects as key contributing factors. By understanding its common symptoms and possible ‘rebound’ of creating and using energy, you will learn how to help students safely regain strength and find new ways of coping with life.
This course will explore how psycho-social stress – the ‘neck-up’, ruminating stress we tend to in modern societies – can affect all students and how the modern body needs special consideration for the way the average student lives their lives. You will understand how to teach yoga in a way which is effective, gentle and appropriate to the individual with stressed body systems, their particular responses, energetics, mind-sets and postural considerations. Grounding, mindful and somatic work will be explored to help you promote healing, energy and positive change in your teaching.
Themes that will be woven throughout the course, both in discussion and experientially:
The following subjects will be covered and in-depth notes provided, so that much time can be spent practicing the applications and felt sense of the yoga teaching work. Many aspects will be covered within practice itself, with time allowed to makes notes and for reflection.
The physiology of stress:
- Explanations of psycho-social stress; the different levels of stress (‘normal’ stress through to burnout) and 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 stress, burnout and CFS:
- 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.
- The last afternoon will feature a practice with Fiona Agombar from her upcoming book Yoga Therapy for Stress, Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (2016) with full notes provided, so students can fully experience and benefit from the practice.
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 after stress, this 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 considerations for those with CFS and Burnout conditions.
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.
- Cyclic meditation – a ten minute sequence to combine movement and focussed attention.
- 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!
Related videos: Watch a clip from Fiona Agombar’s DVD ‘Beat Fatigue with Yoga’ and Charlotte Watts’ ‘Short Chair Sequence’.
Leah 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. Read Leah Barnett’s full biography.
Charlotte Watts trained at the Vajrasati Yoga School in Brighton (RYT500) after an exploration into yoga with her teacher Jim Tarran helped her heal from Chronic Fatigue and Burnout. She then trained in teaching yoga for people with ME and Chronic Fatigue with Fiona Agombar and also with Heather Mason for chronic pain and for yoga teachers with Cathy-Mae Karelse. She continues to study with teachers Tias Little, Judith Lasater and Donna Farhi as they combine her love of mindful, compassionate and somatic practice. Charlotte is also an award-winning nutritionist, specialising in stress-related conditions and Burnout; melding nutrition, yoga and mindfulness in her book The De-Stress Effect (2015, Hay House). Read Charlotte Watts’ full biography.
Fiona Agombar had ME for 15 years but recovered thanks to following the path of yoga. She originally trained under Bill Feeney with the Yoga for Health Foundation then went on to study in the Krishnamacharya tradition. She is accredited as an Advanced Teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga. She has studied both Yoga Sutras and pranayama with TKV Desikachar. She has also studied Vedanta in the Chinmayananda Tradition. Her teacher is Gill Lloyd. Fiona is author of Beat Fatigue with Yoga. Her new book Yoga Therapy for Stress, Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome will be published in 2016. Read Fiona Agombar‘s full biography.
You will receive a Yogacampus certificate of completion on attendance of all course hours and on satisfactory completion of all course work.
Are you eligible?
This course is for yoga teachers 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. It is also an approved elective for those on the Yogacampus Yoga Therapy Diploma Course.