VYP teachers talk about their Rituals of Self-care to combat Compassion Fatigue
By: Kristine Ringler, VYP BOD
Veterans Yoga Project’s Mindful Resilience Training helps teachers better understand the symptoms of post-traumatic stress and other trauma-related disorders, how those symptoms are related to underlying neurobiology, and how to use this understanding to most effectively teach individuals recovering from trauma.
How teachers take care of themselves is one of the topics that is discussed during the trainings as well. Rituals and self-care methods are explored and teachers are asked to recognize their own rituals in order to protect against vicarious trauma or compassion fatigue.
Compassion Fatigue is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion and a profound decrease in the ability to empathize. It is a form of secondary traumatic stress, as the stress occurs as a result of helping or wanting to help those who are in need. 
Teachers shared that they perform a number of rituals to better care for themselves so that they may better serve others. “As I am leaving the room after class I look back to be sure I haven’t forgotten anything. As the door closes automatically I consciously leave all the pain and anxiety inside.”
Alicia Brill explained, “Before teaching, I set an intention for the practice—how I wanted to show up that day. I also listened in before arriving in the teaching space and even feeling into the energy present in the room. I also made it a practice to do some deep breathing outdoors, even just in the parking lot before I went inside to teach. After the practice, it always felt like I was in a better space than when we’d arrived, so inevitably sharing the practice became a form of self-care and letting go together.”
Compassion Fatigue is often referred to as “the cost of caring” for others who are in physical or emotional pain. If left untreated, compassion fatigue not only can affect mental and physical health, but it can also have serious legal and ethical implications when providing therapeutic services to people. 
“As I walk into the State Veterans Hospital I walk mindfully observant. I know that there is a set of supports for the roof that are lined up precisely – I use this sign of stability to focus on the class ahead.”
Performing self-care practices is a way to maintain boundaries as a yoga teacher. We show up to serve, but serving ourselves through awareness and mindful rituals of self-care is the best form of service. What are your methods to protect yourself from Compassion Fatigue?
Bio: Kristine is a 200-hour RYT, Veteran, Mother, VYP BOD Vice President and Compassion Fatigue Course Project Manager.